Oregon: DOE Advances Game-Changing EGS Geothermal Technology at the Newberry Volcano

Project Overview
Positive Impact: To lower costly geothermal development, this first-of-its-kind breakthrough successfully created three separate flow zones from a single well, a critical achievement for dramatically reducing drilling costs.
Locations: Oregon
Partners: AltaRock
EERE Investment: $21.4 million
Clean Energy Sector: Renewable electricity generationPDF

The AltaRock Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) demonstration project, at Newberry Volcano near Bend, Oregon, represents a key step in geothermal energy development, demonstrating that an engineered geothermal reservoir can be developed at a greenfield site. Preliminary results from the AltaRock Energy EGS demonstration suggest that the project successfully created three separate zones of fluid flow from a single well where none existed before—a first-of-its-kind achievement. AltaRock completed reservoir stimulation in January 2013, and data are still being analyzed to confirm this significant technical milestone.

The concept behind heat extraction from EGS is similar to that of a radiator, in which cold water is heated by circulating it through a very hot substrate. In this case, water is circulated through cracks in hot rocks more than 6,000 feet below the surface that are created or extended through fluid injection. Unlike conventional geothermal energy extraction, which relies on locating basins of heated water, EGS’ technology creates reservoirs to tap the energy found in the subsurface. The heated water is brought to the surface, used to power an electric generator, and then re-injected at depth.

The Energy Department invested in the Newberry project—currently EERE’s largest geothermal investment—to offset costly upfront development costs and accelerate innovative strategies like the EGS work at Newberry Volcano, a critical achievement for lowering the cost of geothermal development. As the generation capacity of geothermal wells improves, costly drilling can be minimized, dramatically reducing project costs.

The Geothermal Technologies Office researches, develops, and validates innovative and cost-competitive technologies and tools to locate, access, and develop geothermal resources in the United States.

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