Jack Norbeck and Timothy Latimer, cofounders, of Fervo Energy, a Cyclotron Road company at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

A Cyclotron Road company hosted by EESA was part of a new $4.45 million award from the Department of Energy in support of its work to improve enhanced geothermal systems. Founded in 2017, Fervo Energy set out to overcome the technical challenges keeping geothermal energy from becoming a commercially viable form of clean energy in the United States.

The DOE projects that geothermal energy can make up 100 GW or 15 to 20percent of U.S. electricity capacity by 2050. In enhanced geothermal systems, which are man-made geothermal reservoirs, heat acquired from water circulating in rock fractures deep in the Earth’s subsurface is extracted and converted to electricity.

Right now, geothermal energy makes up less than one half of one percent of the nation’s electricity – largely because researchers working to adapt tools and techniques used in oil and gas production to EGS technologies are challenged to find commercially viable resources and to consistently produce sufficient amounts of energy from geothermal drilling.

DOE’s recent award to Fervo Energy will support the company’s efforts with Schlumberger to upgrade Schlumberger’s proven zonal isolation technology with expanded reservoir capacity and materials capable of withstanding extremely high temperatures. Fervo Energy CEO Tim Latimer said that while initially these techniques would be applied towards increasing production at existing geothermal facilities, they had the potential to transform an industry.

“The mindset that geothermal can only amount to a small player in the energy world needs to change,” Latimer said. “Geothermal environments, like the Geysers in Northern California, are extremely cost-effective energy producers, but they are also extremely uncommon.

“Our goal is to develop enhanced geothermal systems technologies capable of replicating this powerful energy source in a wide variety of geologic settings across the country. The recent support from DOE helps us move closer to realizing that goal.”