DOE Awards $20M for Geothermal Programs

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"Projects could begin impacting energy supplies in short order."

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced two sets of funding initiatives with an impact on the geothermal industry. The first directs a full $20 million to seven projects that "research, develop and demonstrate cutting-edge geothermal technologies."

The second turns out to be a $1.9 million funding from DOE's Small Business Phase III Xlerator program, a small piece of a $57 million allotment announced in the same week.

All eight of the projects offer real and tangible benefits to energy production in general and geothermal energy production in particular. They may begin to impact energy supplies in short order, and at $22 million, they are a relative bargain in today's world.

That award goes to Colorado's Composite Technology Development, Inc. The money is intended to support the company's ceramic composite electrical insulation system, which provides superior long-term electrical performance at temperatures up to 850°C (1,560°F). Called NANUQ®, it is also non-hygroscopic and may find application in oil recovery from shale and oil sands, petrochemical manufacturing and heat tracing, as well as geothermal.

Seven projects will share the $20 million award targeting geothermal specifically and are intended to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of non-conventional geothermal energy technologies in three research areas: low temperature fluids, geothermal fluids recovered from oil and gas wells, and highly pressurized geothermal fluids.

Low temperature resources are widely available across the country and offer an opportunity to significantly expand the national geothermal portfolio. Geothermal coproduction with oil and gas wells also has significant potential to produce electricity, as an average of 10 barrels of water is produced with every barrel of oil in the U.S. Highly pressurized or geopressured fluid reservoirs often contain dissolved natural gas that may not be economical to produce alone, but can be economically developed in combination with geothermal energy production.

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