Bill Gates clean energy fund bets on geothermal startup focusing on EGS

Website snapshot of Fervo Energy
Alexander Richter 26 Sep 2018

As part of its first investment round, Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Ventures has announced an investment in geothermal technology startup Fervo Energy. The company is working on making a large leap forward in the development of EGS technology.

The Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund of Bill Gates and other philanthropists has announced its first funding round for technology startups in the clean energy space. Among the companies in grid storage, biofuels and more, there is one geothermal startup.

The company chosen is Fervo Energy, a company working on a proprietary technology that plans to combine directional drilling technologies and technologies for enhanced or engineered geothermal systems (EGS).

An infamous MIT Study released in 2007 reported that technology development for EGS could actually help develop more than 100 GW in geothermal power generation capacity in the U.S. within 50 years. Technology development has continued in this field but not to the extend previously hoped.

Companies like AltaRock Energy have developed technology, but have so far not managed to move the technology to the large scale predicted, while utilising it currently for reviving failed projects. The FORGE program of the U.S. Department of Energy is pushing development and recently announced $140 million funding for a project in Utah. With EGS technology, so the MIT article, aims to “increase underground permeability, generally by pumping water through an artificial well to widen existing fractures.”

Another challenge have been actual cases of seismic events, or small earthquakes, e.g. in Basel/ Switzerland, in Germany and recently in South Korea.

A former drilling engineer for BHP Billiton’s shale gas operations, Tim Latimer is the CEO of Fervo. With the funding from Breakthrough Ventures, the company plans to move forward on field deployment testing and refining its EGS system. The co-founder Jack Norbeck, actually was a geothermal reservoir engineer for Calpine at the operations of the geothermal field at The Geysers in California.

The founders of the company, all fellows at the Cyclotron Road Program at Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory think they can improve performance of these artificially created reservoirs, by isolating multiple zones inside a well with optimizing water flows within.

With additional fiber-optic technology, the company hopes to minimize risks related to seismic events.

For further details see link below.

Source: MIT Review, Quartz