The FORGE subsurface laboratory will yield a fully instrumented research site to enable a commercial pathway for EGS technologies.

Our flagship effort over the next five years is the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) initiative — the first dedicated field site of its kind for testing targeted enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) R&D. The intent is to use this collaborative site for transformative science that will create a commercial pathway for large-scale, economically viable EGS. In collaboration with the National Energy Technology Laboratory, the EGS team worked tirelessly to set up the scope and schedule of this revolutionary undertaking. In April 2015, the Under Secretary for Science & Energy announced selections of applicants and their candidate sites to compete for locating the new federal observatory.



EGS are engineered reservoirs, created beneath the surface, where there is hot rock but limited pathways through which fluid can flow. During EGS development, the injection of fluid into the hot rock enhances the size and connectivity of fluid pathways by re-opening fractures. Once completed, EGS function just as natural geothermal systems do: fluids circulating through the hot rock carry energy to the surface through wells, driving turbines and generating electricity. EGS could provide up to 100+ GWe of economically viable capacity in the United States. This potential could supply green electricity to over 100,000,000 American homes, and represents a domestic energy source that is clean, reliable, flexible and renewable.

The FORGE initiative is comprised of three phases. The first two phases focus on selecting both a site and operations team, and preparing and fully characterizing the FORGE site. In Phase 1, $2 million will be available over one year for teams to perform analysis on the potential of their proposed site and to develop plans for Phase 2. Subject to appropriations, up to $29 million in funding is planned for Phase 2, during which recipients will work to fully instrument, characterize, and permit candidate sites. Phase 3 will fund full implementation of FORGE at a single site guided by a collaborative research strategy and executed via annual research and development solicitations designed to improve, optimize, and drive down the costs of deploying EGS. In this phase, partners from industry, academia, and the national laboratories will have ongoing opportunities to conduct research and development projects at the site enabling testing and evaluation of new and innovative EGS science, technology, tools, and techniques in critical research areas such as reservoir characterization, creation, and sustainability.

Click here for a colorful infographic to visualize the scope of this initiative.



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What is FORGE

FORGE: The Next Frontier of Renewable Energy

The Energy Department recently announced the teams selected for negotiation for Phase 1 of the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE).

FORGE is a dedicated site where the scientific community can develop and test enhanced geothermal system (EGS) technologies in a permitted and drilled test field, with the end goal of creating market-ready, renewable energy. EGS, unlike natural geothermal systems, are engineered geothermal reservoirs beneath the surface of the Earth, where there is hot rock but limited pathways through which fluid can flow. During EGS development, underground fluid pathways are created and their size and connectivity increased. Through these enhanced pathways, fluid can flow throughout the hot rock, heat up to hundreds of degrees, and channel the abundant heat source to the surface to generate electricity.

As part of Phase 1, the five selectees will complete technical and logistical tasks that determine if their proposed site has ideal geology. The awardees will be required to assess all available site characterization data and compile it into a geologic model of the proposed site. In Phase 2, up to three teams will fully instrument, characterize, and permit candidate sites for drilling and full-scale operations at FORGE for the third and final stage.  Pending appropriations, Phase 3 will fund the implementation of a single FORGE site where partners from industry, academia, and the national laboratories will have a dedicated location to conduct new and innovative R&D in critical EGS research areas that could potentially lead to widespread adoption.

EGS technology currently is not well-known or prevalent in the American energy landscape, yet this technology has the potential to power 100 million homes. To put that in context, that’s 80 percent of current U.S. households. By investing in further R&D toward creating ideal geothermal conditions for EGS with FORGE, the United States can move one step closer to energy security and environmental sustainability.

Once replicable studies identify the best practices for injecting fluids and increasing rock permeability, geothermal energy could be produced in virtually any area where there are hot rocks at depth. EGS technology has the potential to make us wonder how we got along without it.

Learn more about FORGE and the Energy Department’s work related to EGS. Check back to see the progress of the FORGE teams.

Douglas Hollett
Douglas Hollett is former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) in the Office of Fossil Energy (FE). His portfolio includes R&D and programs in Clean Coal and Carbon Management, Oil and Gas systems, international engagements in clean fossil energy, and inter-agency engagements within the US government.
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Top 10 Things You Didn't Know about Enhanced Geothermal Systems

Check out the infographic above to learn how Enhanced Geothermal Systems work. | Graphic by <a href="/node/379579"">Sarah Gerrity</a>.

This article is part of the series highlighting the "Top Things You Didn't Know About..." series. Be sure to check back for more entries soon.

10. Geothermal technologies use the naturally occurring heat located in shallow ground, hot water and rock below the earth’s surface to generate electricity. Geothermal is considered a renewable source of energy because the earth’s core generates nearly unlimited heat.

9. The United States generates more electricity through geothermal energy than any other country in the world. The leading state -- California -- generates 79 percent of the nation’s geothermal electricity.

8. With current geothermal technologies, electricity can be generated only where three key conditions are met: heat, fluid and natural permeability at depth. Small underground pathways conduct fluids through the hot rocks, carrying energy in the form of heat through wells to Earth’s surface, driving turbines and generating electricity.

7.  Breakthrough technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems -- or EGS -- can generate electricity anywhere there is hot rock at depth, greatly expanding the potential for geothermal power in the United States.

6. EGS are man-made reservoirs created by drilling wells thousands of feet below the earth to access hot rock at the earth’s crust. Highly pressurized cold water is pumped through the wells to cause pre-existing fractures of the hot rock to open up, increasing permeability. This enables the water to flow through the cracked rock and pick up heat. The resulting hot water pumps back to the surface where it is depressurized to make steam, which spins a turbine to generate electricity. The water is then cooled and pumped through the wells again, repeating the same process and creating a closed-loop system. Check out this infographic to learn more about how EGS works.

5. The Energy Department supports research and development at five active EGS demonstration projects in Nevada, Idaho, Oregon and California.

4. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that EGS could provide 100 gigawatts of geothermal resource capacity in the United States -- enough to power about 100 million homes.

3.  EGS provides power around the clock and emits little to no greenhouse gases. The technology also allows for geothermal development outside of the western United States, where most hydrothermal resources are located.

2. The Energy Department’s future Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy, called FORGE, will be the first-of-its-kind field laboratory that will enable scientists and researchers to develop, test and accelerate breakthroughs in EGS technologies.

1. When it is fully implemented in 2020, FORGE will also allow researchers to collect and disseminate data in real time and identify low-risk, replicable pathways to commercial EGS development.

Learn more about FORGE and the Energy Department’s work related to EGS. Also, watch this animation to see how EGS works.  

Paul Lester
Paul Lester is a Digital Content Specialist in the Office of Public Affairs. Paul was born in Ohio but spent most of his life in Florida, where he worked as news researcher/archivist and online editor for the Orlando Sentinel.
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