The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) initiative is a dedicated field site where scientists and engineers can develop, test, and accelerate breakthroughs in enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) technologies and techniques. The FORGE effort includes robust instrumentation, data collection, and data dissemination to capture and share information and activities in real time. The site’s cutting-edge research, coupled with an innovative collaboration and management platform, helps scientists identify a replicable, commercial pathway to EGS.
FORGE research and development (R&D) activities focus on strengthening our understanding of the key mechanisms controlling EGS success—specifically, how to initiate and sustain fracture networks in basement rock formations. This critical knowledge will be used to design and test a methodology for developing large-scale, economically sustainable heat exchange systems, paving the way for a rigorous and reproducible approach that will reduce industry development risk and facilitate EGS commercialization.
The R&D activities include:
- Innovative drilling techniques
- Reservoir stimulation techniques
- Well connectivity and flow-testing efforts, and
- Other related activities.
Throughout the life of the FORGE initiative, the R&D priorities will shift to accommodate technology advancements, allowing FORGE to be a dynamic, flexible effort that adjusts to the latest challenges in the energy frontier.
During Phase 3, the FORGE initiative will release annual R&D solicitations, open to the public and subject to a rigorous, transparent merit review process in line with DOE standards. Each solicitation will result in approximately 10 to 20 subcontracts (subject to appropriations) for research and technology testing in the following EGS lifecycle categories:
- Reservoir characterization (coupled imaging, drilling for interrogation and monitoring, high-temperature tools and sensors)
- Reservoir creation (formation access, fracture characterization, zonal isolation, stimulation technologies)
- Reservoir sustainability (long-term testing, monitoring, and operational feedback)
All entities (e.g., industry, universities, federally funded research and development centers, non-profit organizations, government agencies) will be eligible to submit proposals to these solicitations as individual entities or teams.
FORGE News and Highlights
- Drilling Success! In February 2021, GTO announced that FORGE broke ground—literally—in new and exciting ways.
- FORGE FOA 2020-1. Applications are now closed, and projects are underway. On February 24, 2021, DOE announced that the University of Utah selected 17 projects to receive up to $49 million in funding for cutting-edge, domestic, and carbon-free geothermal projects with potential to supply power to homes in the United States. For information on these 17 projects, visit the FORGE R&D webpage.
- FORGE FOA 2022-2. On August 15, 2022, DOE announced up to $44 million for projects to develop and test technology to foster innovation in EGS. This funding opportunity for up to 17 awards will build on FORGE’s existing EGS work and focus on reproducible solutions and dissemination of technical data. Selections notifications are expected in June 2023.
The FORGE initiative contains three phases. Currently in phase three, full size wells are being drilled at the Milford, Utah field site.
Technical Resources and Reports
- Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy: A Roadmap, 2019: The roadmap, funded by GTO and developed by the Institute for Defense Analyses Science and Technology Policy Institute, provides technical research recommendations to GTO, FORGE’s Science and Technology Analysis Team (STAT), and the broader research community for the five years of FORGE’s operation. While the roadmap’s components are focused primarily on FORGE, the roadmap activities also contribute to the knowledge and understanding of how to build future large-scale, economically sustainable EGS systems beyond the FORGE site.
- FORGE Informational Flyer: This flyer provides additional details on FORGE, an EGS laboratory where the subsurface scientific community can test and improve new technologies and techniques for creating and sustaining next-generation geothermal systems.
- FORGE Data: All data collected and generated by the FORGE initiative are publicly available.
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