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Geothermal Energy

Hydraulic Stimulation Modeling for Geothermal Energy Resources

Company Name: GreenFire Energy
Program Office: Geothermal
Location: Emeryville, CA
Website: http://www.greenfireenergy.com/
Email: Joseph Scherer,CEO;
joseph.scherer@greenfireenergy.com
Award Amount: $70,000 (no official info at this time)
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

CRITICAL NEED

Today's geothermal energy resources tap into hot fluids relatively close to the Earth's surface. By contrast, conductive geothermal systems could tap into deeper regions of the crust to utilize what is essentially an inexhaustible, but difficult to access, supply of energy. Engineered geothermal systems that use hydraulic stimulation to enhance the permeability of deep crustal rocks have been proposed by developers, entrepreneurs and scientists, but none have reached commercial viability due to challenges associated with the target geology and difficulty in directing the flow of working heat exchange fluids.

GreenFire Energy has proposed a largely contained system in which carbon dioxide is circulated through cased vertical well bores extending to depths greater than five kilometers. To connect the wells at depth, the company proposes creating a fracture network system between the bottoms of the wells. Doing so represents a major technical hurdle due to the changing brittleness of rocks at depth. The SBV Pilot will allow the company to work with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory staff to study the engineering feasibility and costs of subsurface operations. Preliminary computational modeling of fracture evolution under high strain rate conditions will allow the company to compare the full cost of the surface and subsurface installations to the value of energy produced, easing a possible pathway to commercialization.


PROJECT INNOVATION + ADVANTAGES

The technology's utilization of a closed loop system would minimize the uncertainty in subsurface engineering imposed by the characteristics of the target reservoir. Most other engineered geothermal systems depend totally on flow through a stimulated fracture network at depths shallower than proposed through this project The reduction in uncertainty will need to be balanced against the likely higher costs of subsurface operations. The research that goes into studying this particular site would have applications for other engineered geothermal systems.


POTENTIAL IMPACT

Economy:
Reducing the costs associated with geothermal energy can open up new reservoirs for exploration and use, allowing more communities to tap into this power source.

Environment:
Geothermal energy is emissions free. And although its potential for growth is large, it comprises just 0.4 percent of U.S. electricity production. Finding ways to reduce geothermal costs could greatly expand reliance on this source of clean energy.

Security:
Geothermal energy provides steady, baseload power and is easier to manage on the grid than other forms of clean energy, providing greater certainty to utility operators and more grid stability.


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