Scientists from the Energy Geosciences Division will collaborate with European partners on three new geothermal research projects through the Department of Energy’s membership in GEOTHERMICA, a transnational consortium that combines the in-country financial resources and research expertise of 15 participating countries to demonstrate and validate novel concepts in geothermal energy use. This marks the first time that the United States will participate in the consortium founded by 13 European nations in 2018.
One of the projects will be led by Berkeley Lab under the direction of staff scientist Yves Guglielmi, and EGD researchers will participate in two other GEOTHERMICA projects, one led by Reykjavik Energy and another by ETH Zurich, also known as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
Pat Dobson, Berkeley Lab staff scientist and Geothermal Systems Program Lead, is overseeing the laboratory’s participation in GEOTHERMICA.
“With our partners in Switzerland, Germany, France, Iceland, Norway, Ireland, and the Netherlands, these three projects collectively give us the opportunity to develop new tools and innovative approaches to optimize geothermal direct-use and power generation for a wide range of resource types,” Dobson said. “One of the challenges of international research collaboration is the question of funding for project participants in individual countries. The GEOTHERMICA model makes it possible for each country to fund their own researchers’ participation in a uniquely collaborative international research process.”
In spring 2019, DOE announced that the United States had joined GEOTHERMICA and its founding partners Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Germany, France, Turkey, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Italy, and Slovenia. Norway also joined the consortium last year.
The SPINE project focuses on the extended development of the SIMFIP (Step-Rate Injection Method for Fracture In-Situ Properties) borehole probe technology so that it can be used at depths and temperatures relevant to geothermal energy extraction–2 kilometers and 200-250 degrees C, respectively. This innovative downhole instrument allows researchers to quantify 3-D borehole deformation related to hydraulic stimulation of fractures in real time. The tool was developed and built by Guglielmi with the support of engineers at Berkeley Lab’s Geosciences Measurement Facility. National lab scientists representing the DOE’s Enhanced Geothermal Systems Collab project team debuted SIMFIP at the Sanford Underground Research Laboratory in South Dakota in May 2018. Last summer, Dobson, Guglielmi, and Berkeley Lab engineer Paul Cook visited Sweden where they partnered with Swedish collaborators to deploy the probe 500 meters below ground for a research project funded by DOE and the Swedish Geological Survey. That experience showed the team the value of simplifying putting the probe downhole by combining the numerous cables and hoses that must be attached to it into a single, unified cord. This modification is one of multiple objectives of SPINE, the GEOTHERMICA project Guglielmi will lead which involves participation by Berkeley Lab; ETHZ, UniNe, and Geo-Energie Suisse of Switzerland; and RWTH and Solexperts of Germany.
Berkeley Lab will participate in a second project, called DEEP, led by ETH Zurich and focused on developing new approaches for dealing with induced seismicity associated with geothermal systems. Berkeley Lab staff scientist Eric Sonnenthal will lead the laboratory’s participation in a third project called DEEPEN. Led by Reykjavik Energy out of Iceland, these researchers will look at ways to implement Play Fairway Analysis methodology in addressing supercritical geothermal systems.
The research for all three projects will begin in September.