The Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) has selected ten semifinalists in Phase 1 of the Geothermal Geophone Prize, a three-phase, $3.65 million competition to address the challenges of operating seismic sensors in harsh geothermal environments. Each semifinalist team will receive a $75,000 cash prize plus $75,000 in vouchers to use with an industry expert or national laboratory to advance their solution. 

Downhole sensors collect data about geothermal reservoirs and subsurface conditions, which is essential to develop successful and efficient human-made enhanced geothermal systems. More rugged sensors are needed in the geothermal industry because traditional seismic monitoring tools cannot withstand the high temperatures, high rock strengths, and corrosive working fluids in geothermal wells.  

The Geothermal Geophone Prize will help spur innovation in seismic sensors for use in geothermal environments, which will support the expansion of geothermal deployment, including the goals of GTO’s Enhanced Geothermal Shot. As a firm, flexible renewable energy solution, geothermal can help move the United States towards a net-zero-carbon electric grid by 2035. 

In Phase 1 of the prize, teams identified and developed initial concepts for high-temperature, downhole seismic sensors. In Phase 2, which opens December 3, teams will advance their concepts and demonstrate the promise of their designs. New teams are eligible to join Phase 2 without having competed in Phase 1.  

The Geophone Prize is part of the American-Made Challenges (AMC) program. Other geothermal prizes in the AMC include the Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize, currently in Phase 3, and the recent Geothermal Manufacturing Prize, for which winners were selected in August.