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U.S. Department of Energy Project Sets the Stage for Nearly $10 Million Investment in Enhanced Geothermal Systems Research

EGI’s Geothermal Group spent much of 2015 engaged in the initial phase of the U.S. Department of Energy’s FORGE program for Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS). The innovative and exciting endeavor aims to create a dedicated field site “where scientists and engineers will develop, test, and accelerate breakthroughs in EGS technologies.”

The team of geologists, engineers, and collaborating partner organizations working on the program, led by EGI research professor Dr. Joseph Moore, were selected along with four other teams across the western U.S. to study new techniques for developing geothermal energy. The Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy­– or FORGE– is “designed to facilitate cutting-edge research and drilling and technology testing, as well as to allow scientists to identify a replicable, commercial pathway to EGS.” In other words, to provide the funding and expertise to drive new innovations in domestic, sustainable clean energy development.

FORGE Phase 1 centers on site selection, planning, and conceptual modeling. Teams are required to demonstrate site viability and show the team’s capability of meeting FORGE objectives. Tasks include conceptual geologic modeling and the creation of comprehensive plans for data dissemination, intellectual property, environmental, health and safety information, communications and outreach, stakeholder engagement, R&D implementation, and environmental management.

Contingent on selection for Phase 1, teams selected for Phase 2 will bring the program to life– working to fully instrument, characterize, and permit a site for full-scale operations at FORGE in the third and final phase.

Phase 3 will encompass full implementation of FORGE at a single site under the management of one team. This phase is designed as a collaborative effort, bringing together partners from industry, academia, and national laboratories to ensure optimized, cost-effective strategies for realizing the fullest potential of EGS.

As with EGI’s 43-year history of collaboration and innovation, FORGE will offer ongoing opportunities for partners to conduct original, robust R&D at the site, engaging critical research areas such as reservoir characterization, reservoir creation, and reservoir sustainability.

As a leader in oil and gas development research, EGI, along with our Corporate Associate partners, possesses unparalleled experience and expertise in bringing the most cutting edge technologies to fruition, thus raising the bar on what is possible. Already pushing the envelope in terms of R&D breakthroughs, the remarkable technologies that the oil & gas sector has brought to bear in energy development in the last 15 years will again play a crucial role in meeting U.S. energy needs. Many of the inventive technologies that have served oil and gas companies in producing ever greater quantities of resources from increasingly challenging geologic environments can be effectively and efficiently used for EGS development as well.

Why is FORGE important?

FORGE will be a laboratory and incubator for new geothermal energy technology. The aim is to test novel methods, tools, and engineering technologies in low permeability rocks. The initial tests will be conducted at depths of <3 km. Later, these techniques can be applied to deeper rocks where similar temperatures can be found.

The Site: Milford, UT

The EGI University of Utah site selected for the FORGE project is located roughly 16 km northeast of the city of Milford, in central Utah. The area is part of an active energy corridor and home to two existing geothermal power plants, a 165-turbine wind farm, a solar farm, and a biogas facility.

The Milford energy corridor is uniquely suited to meeting the characteristics of the ideal FORGE site, with well-characterized reservoir rocks (granite and granitic gneiss) at > 175°C, permeability, and depth ranges at 2 to 4 km. The final Utah FORGE site will be located on private property. Existing infrastructure includes a nearby highway, railroad and airport, lodging, food, and services. The sparsely populated area is easy to access 24/7, and the existing infrastructure meets all the requirements for roading, power, telecommunications/data, and water supply to support site facilities, including the drill rig and laboratories.

Initial research into the site area, along with previous evaluation stemming from other development in the area, confirms that there are no environmental impacts. There is no potable water in the area, thus minimizing or eliminating the potential for detrimental impact to agriculture, wildlife, or human communities. There are no endangered species or habitat.

Why a University?

The University of Utah is a powerhouse of curiosity and problem solving talent. As the engine rooms of R&D and higher learning, Universities enable future generations of engineers and scientists to develop the critical skill sets and innovative outlooks required to solve critical problems. For over 43 years, this innovation and collaborative focus has been a hallmark of EGI’s success in supporting academics, emerging professionals, and established experts in advancing the technological breakthroughs in energy research that have helped to propel the U.S. to it’s current global position as an energy leader. The University of Utah is a top-tier research university, supporting over 80 centers and institutes serving academic, research, and community interests and is a recognized leader in technology and venture commercialization, transforming new ideas into practical, commercially viable products and services to benefit the public.

To learn more about FORGE UTAH and EGI’s leadership in developing clean, economic, and viable energy resources for the USA, contact Dr. Joseph Moore at EGI.

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