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Innovative Geothermal Technologies Get DOE Boost of $20 Million
Sep 28, 2010
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U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced $20 million to research, develop, and demonstrate cutting-edge geothermal technologies.

The seven projects will demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of non-conventional geothermal energy technologies in three research areas:
• low temperature fluids
• geothermal fluids recovered from oil and gas wells
• highly pressurized geothermal fluids

The funding will help demonstrate and commercialize innovative technologies to lower the high initial costs of geothermal development and help make the operational deployment of low temperature geothermal units more economical.

"These innovative projects have the potential to expand the use of geothermal energy to more areas around the country," said Secretary Chu. "The development of these technologies will allow us to tap into additional renewable energy resources, reduce carbon pollution and create new jobs."

Low temperature resources are widely available across the country and offer an opportunity to significantly expand the national geothermal portfolio. However, most low temperature geothermal resources are not hot enough to be harnessed through traditional geothermal processes, including dry steam or flash steam power plants, which typically use water at temperatures greater than 360°F (182°C). The projects announced today aim to take advantage of geothermal fluids that won't "flash" on their own for electricity generation, but could be used in binary-cycle power plants. In binary cycle technologies, the water from the geothermal reservoir is used to heat another "working fluid," which is vaporized and used to turn the turbine or generator units.

Geothermal coproduction with oil and gas wells also has significant potential to produce electricity for field use or to be sold to the electrical grid. In the United States, an average of 10 barrels of water is produced with every barrel of oil. Historically, this coproduced hot water has been treated as a waste product. Using the water to generate power, however, provides a significant, clean source of energy that can extend the economic life of oil and gas fields.

Highly pressurized or geopressured fluid geothermal production is a type of geothermal resource that occurs in deep basins where fluid and gas occur naturally under very high pressure. These geothermal reservoirs often contain dissolved natural gas that may not be economical to produce alone, but can be economically developed in combination with geothermal energy production. Geopressured reservoirs are located along the Pacific coast, in Appalachia, beneath the Gulf of Mexico, and in other deep sedimentary basins in the United States, so these projects will diversify and expand the country's potential to develop renewable geothermal energy.

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