This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

April 29, 2002

DOE Funds Research to Increase Geothermal Production

DOE announced Monday its award of $4.5 million over the next five years to two firms that will investigate ways to increase the production of energy from geothermal reservoirs. These reservoirs consist of water or steam that permeates the pores and fissures of rock deep underground. That rock, in turn, is heated by magma that has swelled up far below Earth's surface. The extent of the pores or fissures in the rock will limit how much energy can extracted through a geothermal well.

To increase the amount of energy that can be extracted, the DOE-funded project will pump water at high pressure into an existing reservoir, fracturing the subsurface rocks and creating new channels for the flow of the hot water. The process, known as "hydrofracing," will be applied to the Coso geothermal field, located about 25 miles north of Ridgecrest, California, on the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station. The University of Utah's Energy and Geoscience Institute and Caithness Energy, LLC will perform the test at a total cost of about $12 million. See the DOE press release.