Geothermal Technologies Office Annual Report

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Hydrothermal Innovative Exploration Technologies Visit the GTO website at geothermal.energy.gov for more information on hydrothermal development, or contact geothermal@ee.doe.gov. Minimizing the risks and costs of discovering and character- izing new geothermal energy sources is vital to realizing geothermal as a significant contributor to the nation’s baseload energy supply. In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimated that 30 gigawatts electric (GWe) of undiscovered geothermal resource exists in the western United States—ten times the current installed capacity. New Potential from Abandoned Wells Foro Energy, Inc. partners with the United States Department of Energy (DOE) to commercialize high power lasers for the oil, natural gas, geothermal, and mining industries. Photo courtesy of Foro Energy New High-Power Laser Technology As part of a geothermal exploration effort to search for geothermal resources nationwide, a $5 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) investment to Calpine Corporation culminated in the confirmation of an initial 11.4 MW of equivalent steam this year—50% more than early estimates—from three previously abandoned wells at the Geysers geothermal field in northern California. Situated in the largest operating geothermal complex in the world, Calpine Corporation’s Caldwell Ranch Exploration Project is a first-ever achievement to reopen an abandoned steam field, validating universally applicable technologies that bear immediate implications for other geothermal-rich regions of California– Coso, Salton Sea, and Medicine Lake– and nationwide. The project overcame barriers to bring commercial increases to unproductive geothermal wells and created 43 full-time temporary jobs and tax revenues to Sonoma County and the state of California. Two technical achievements secured the success at Caldwell Ranch: Calpine’s dramatic improvement of reservoir pressure—enhancing productivity of the wells—and the lowering of carbon dioxide concentrations and other deleterious gases in the steam by more than 65%. This project also took the innovative step of combining data sources, including temperature logs and isotopic measurements, to better define and model the 3-D volume of the geothermal reservoir. These innovative exploration steps could significantly lower the costs of geothermal development by avoiding risks associated with drilling and stranded assets. While modeling is not a new concept to geothermal development, pinpointing the reservoir and accurately measuring volume in this replicable model will better target drilling and prevent overestimating reservoir reserves. Calpine’s reservoir model indicates that the Caldwell Ranch Project area and a portion of the EGS demonstration area are capable of producing between 40 and 45 MWe of new, sustainable electrical generation without any significant decline in the adjacent, existing steam fields. A proposed power plant has been permitted, and construction is dependent upon Calpine’s ability to secure a long-term power purchase agreement. The technology demonstrates that fields can rejuvenate in the proper settings. Letting a portion of a geothermal field lie idle for three or more years, allowing the reservoir to reheat, and then reopening or redrilling previously abandoned wells, provides a successful model at The Geysers, potentially expanding capacity there by 9 MW. In fact, this model can be replicated where conditions are similar— where there are decreases in reservoir pressure resulting from heat stored in the rock mass, like at The Geysers. The Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) strives to partner with cutting- edge technology developers to pioneer applications that accelerate the adoption of geothermal energy. In 2013, Foro Energy, Inc. (Foro) partnered with the GTO, through a 50/50 costshare, to design a high-power laser system and laser-based well completion tool that could enable unique geothermal downhole well applications with the potential for superior thermal contacting between the wellbore and the surrounding geological formation. As a key driver to significantly increase geothermal resource availability and competitively contribute clean, baseload power to the U.S. energy supply, this engineering prototype represents a fundamentally new tool for geothermal reservoir engineers that will allow them to increase fluid circulation and extend the available heat extraction resource per well. In addition to the potential for better access to the geothermal reservoir for heat extraction, the project also matures the core technology platform originally developed with a DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA–E) award that enables the potential to decrease hard-rock drilling costs. The 3-year Foro project will culminate in an onsite downhole field demonstration. Caldwell Ranch has achieved a first-ever replicable strategy to reopen an abandoned steam field at The Geysers in northern California, with implications for development in other regions of California as well. Below, GTO team member Brittany Segneri attended a workshop there in June.hoto courtesy of GRC GEOThERmAl TEChNOlOGIES OffICE 2 3 2013 ANNuAl REpORT

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