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Geothermal Well Construction: A Step Change in Oil and Gas Technologies

Topics: Geothermal HP/HT
Source: Andrew Van Horn, GreenFire Energy.
GreenFire Energy’s field-scale demonstration of closed-loop geothermal energy.

Geothermal energy has been described as an engineering problem that, when solved, provides the clean, reliable, safe, and affordable energy being sought globally. It is ­highly likely that the engineers who play the biggest role in solving that problem, and the technologies they adapt and advance, will come from oil and gas. There is enough energy in the earth’s crust, just a few miles down, to power all of humanity for ages, according to the US Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. The problem is how to tap into it safely, efficiently, and cost effectively.

After many years of failure to launch because of technology or cost limitations, new companies and technologies—and smarter ways of leveraging those that already exist—are bringing geothermal out of its doldrums, to the point that it may finally be ready to scale and become a major player in the transition to cleaner ­energy, according to Jamie Beard, executive director of the Geothermal Entrepreneurship Organization (GEO) at The University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin). “The cutting-edge technological developments in geothermal are devoted to drilling into ever-deeper, hotter, and harder rock,” she said, “and oil and gas holds the key to cost reduction for all of these concepts.”

Eric Van Oort, drilling and well engineering expert, educator, and scientist, agrees. The UT-Austin engineering professor and director of the rig automation and performance improvement in drilling (RAPID) industry consortium, said, “Fifty to seventy-five percent of the cost of geothermal development is tied up in drilling and well construction. To scale it, we have to reduce that cost.”

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Geothermal Well Construction: A Step Change in Oil and Gas Technologies

Judy Feder, Technology Editor

01 January 2021

Volume: 73 | Issue: 1

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