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Pacific Northwest National Lab

About Pacific Northwest National Lab

PNNL is focused on DOE's missions in science, energy, environment, and national security. PNNL researchers routinely integrate across fundamental science and applied technology programs, engaging partners across the country to take on big challenges. These efforts also deliver significant economic contributions to Washington State, the Northwest region and the nation. The dedication of our people to push the frontiers of science and engineering in order to solve some of the nation's greatest challenges is a hallmark of PNNL's 50 year history.


The Department of Energy's Office of Science recognizes PNNL as a lead laboratory in the area of subsurface science. This expertise, developed over decades of experience supporting the Hanford Site and its cleanup mission, has been leveraged to address scientific challenges facing geothermal energy production.

PNNL brings knowledge of subsurface geochemistry to develop next generation cements that will be more resistant to weathering while also possessing the ability to self-heal should de-bonding from the casing or the reservoir occur. PNNL is also advancing low-water hydraulic fracturing concepts, regarded as "green" technologies.

The Geothermal Technology Office (GTO) recognizes PNNL as one of the prime laboratories in the area of hybrid systems, where PNNL leads five projects focused on coproduction, with technologies ranging from the recovery of rare earth elements from low-grade geothermal resources to systems integration of combined cycle projects – such as compressed air energy storage with low temperature geothermal – to the development of advanced materials that enhance heat transfer and enable more efficient recovery from low temperature resources.

PNNL leads the code comparison study of behalf of the GTO, which is developing improved tools for the characterization and modeling of the subsurface at EGS project sites and is demonstrating the ability of the scientific community to accurately detect reservoir characteristics including fluid pathways, dynamics, and residence times.


PNNL's geothermal energy capabilities are deployed across multiple laboratories, including:

  • Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory (EMSL): A national scientific user facility that is funded and sponsored by DOE's Office of Biological & Environmental Research. As a user facility, EMSL supports BER's mission to provide innovative solutions to the nation's environmental and energy production challenges in areas such as atmospheric aerosols, feedstocks, global carbon cycling, biogeochemistry, subsurface science, and energy materials.
  • In Situ Supercritical Sequestration Suite (IS3): Through multi-million dollar internal investments via the Carbon Sequestration Initiative, PNNL is uniquely positioned to interrogate key reactions at the mineral:water interface at temperatures and pressures relevant to geothermal reservoirs.
  • High Performance Computing (HBC) Laboratory: Hardware, algorithms, and software (STOMP, VELO, etc.)
Photo of diagram showing subsurface science and how it works.