Enhanced geothermal: technology challenges?

This data-file tabulates the greatest challenges and focus areas for harnessing enhanced geothermal energy, aka deep geothermal technology, based on reviewing patents from 20 companies in the space. In particular, we have focused in upon Eavor Technologies, which has a clear moat around its drilling, sealing and working fluid technologies.

Enhanced geothermal energy projects aim to access 50-300ÂșC temperatures in the sub-surface by drilling down to 2,000-6,000m total vertical depths. Our recent research has covered the emerging opportunities in enhanced geothermal.

But what are the key challenges for enhanced geothermal technologies? To answer this question, we have reviewed the challenges that are cited in recent patents (chart below).

Challenges for commercializing enhanced geothermal technologies identified during or patent review. The greatest remaining challenges are related to heat transfer and well design.

The patents confirm that the largest challenges for deep geothermal are drilling long multi-lateral wells, which contact sufficient reservoir volumes to transfer heat from the subsurface into the working fluids, without depleting the geothermal resource.

Recent advances from the unconventional oil and gas industry are likely to be a crucial enabler from deep geothermal, based on the comments made in the patents.

Eavor Technologies is the company that stood out most in our overview of the geothermal industry. Eavor Technologies is a private company founded in 2017, headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, employing c100 people, in order to develop a next-generation, closed-loop geothermal energy technology.

Eavor’s aspiration is that its geothermal systems can be deployed anywhere, to harness the Earth’s geothermal gradient, and provide clean, reliable, flexible baseload heat and power, without geological/exploration risk. The closed loop system does not use hydraulic fracturing, does not exchange fluids with the formation, and thus does not suffer a risk of causing water contamination or Earthquakes. Hence we have reviewed 20 patent families from Eavor.

Based on reviewing its patents, we conclude that Eavor has developed proprietary technologies to drill deep wells, into hot formations, seal them using silicates/aluminosilicates, and keep them sealed via additives in the working fluid. Specific chemical additives are clear from the patents. The full details are in the Eavor-Conclusions and Eavor-Patents tabs.

The remaining risks for enhanced geothermal technology are also discussed, based on the evidence in the patents.

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