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University of Utah receives $14.5m in funding for EGS geothermal research

University of Utah, foothills (source: flickr/ Edgar Zuniga Jr., creative commons)
Alexander Richter 7 Sep 2016

Under the latest funding round by the U.S. DOE's FORGE initiative, the University of Utah will receive $14.5m for exploratory research work on EGS geothermal development and still be able to run for additional $130m funding.

The United States Department of Energy has emphasized research on EGS (enhanced/ engineered geothermal systems) ever since the stimulus package set up in 2009. Under the Department’s Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) initiative, it recently announced the two finalists for funding under the program.

One of the groups that won, includes The University of Utah’s Energy & Geoscience Institute (EGI). In a post on its website, it provides now some background to the project.

The project plans to drill two 8,000-ft (2,500 meters) deep wells in an area north of Milford, Beaver County, Utah. “The project will use an innovative well configuration to create the fractures required to extract heat from the subsurface, heat that can ultimately be converted to electricity. Cold water will be heated by the rocks as it is circulated between the two wells. After the heat is extracted at the surface, the cooled, circulated water will be cycled back into the first well. The laboratory will use non-potable groundwater that cannot be used for agriculture or human consumption.

The team of the University of Utah is collaborating with SITLA (State and Institutional Trust Lands Administration) and private landowners to establish the facility within the Milford, Utah, renewable energy corridor, which is already home to two geothermal plants, a wind farm, a solar field and a biogas facility.

“This laboratory will provide a unique opportunity for researchers around the world to develop and test new technologies for accessing geothermal resources in settings where they are not currently recoverable,” said Joseph Moore, an EGI research professor in the College of Engineering’s civil and environmental engineering department who is leading the team. “With technology development, geothermal resources beneath our feet offer the potential to help meet the nation’s energy needs.”

Under the funding by the FORGE initiative, the team will receive a $14.5 million grant to conduct environmental studies, an analysis of the facilities that will be required, geological, geophysical and geochemical surveys, and the drilling of a well to measure subsurface temperatures. That work will begin Oct. 1, 2016.

The two finalists were chosen out of a group of five contesting groups, who will now work on the exploratory second phase, which will take 18 months. The final site will then be announced in 2018.  The project then chosen will receive more than $130 million for drilling and research.

Source: The University of Utah