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GMEG - Geology, Minerals, Energy, & Geophysics Science Center

Geothermal Resource Investigations

 

 

 

 

External Geothermal Funding

Issue: The BLM funding provides critically important augmentation of USGS funds supporting geothermal assessment activities as mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Specifically, the proposed work involves three elements that are being addressed by the USGS:

  • The USGS will build on the ongoing assessment of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) resources on public lands by examining likely near-term development scenarios and evaluating the implications of EGS development for issues such as induced seismicity, land use, water resources, infrastructure, and access to the transmission grid.
  • The USGS will work with its geothermal partners to accelerate the synthesis and publication of supporting geochemical, geological, and geophysical databases used in producing the new national geothermal resource assessment. All of the resulting USGS assessment products, including databases, maps and publications, will be made available online.
  • The USGS will extend its ongoing assessment work to include additional unconventional geothermal resources on public lands, with a particular focus on those resources associated with sedimentary basins in the northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states.

In support of DOE Geothermal Technologies Program (GTP) goal of increasing the installed geothermal capacity in the United States, USGS is collaborating with the GTP on expanding geothermal resource assessments, developing new geothermal resource classification standards and assisting in the establishment of the National Geothermal Data System. The results of this work will enable lower risk/cost deployment of demonstrated, clean, renewable, baseload conventional and Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) geothermal power as it will provide the data and assessments necessary to stimulate public interest, market acceptance, and in turn the growth of the geothermal industry. USGS will also support GTP input to DOE National Energy Modeling by providing peer reviewed resource assessment data by geothermal region as input to Program supply curves, work with DOE and affected stakeholders to classify the geothermal resource, and cooperate with DOE on expanding the scope of the current geothermal resource assessment to all 50 states. USGS will produce a final USGS publication report on the results of the assessment and the methodologies employed.

Objectives:

BLM-funded studies comprise three tasks:

  1. Geothermal Databases, Geographic Information Systems, and Web Access - The USGS is working to produce online versions of various geothermal databases. The augmented focus on geothermal database development and publication work will accelerate database delivery, allowing the USGS to finish the necessary follow-on products for the assessment while meeting new requirements for the USGS to look at other aspects of geothermal resources.
  2. Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) - USGS studies under this task are an expanded effort to examine the effect of variations in stress, natural fracture and fault geometry, lithology, thermal/geochemical environment, and mechanical rock properties on EGS potential. In addition, the USGS will build on the resource characterization by examining near-term development scenarios and evaluating the implications of EGS development for issues such as induced seismicity, land use, water resources, infrastructure, and access to the transmission grid.
  3. Sedimentary Basins - USGS personnel will extend the scope of the current assessment beyond the hydrothermal systems of the western US to the deep, high temperature sedimentary basins of the western and central US as well as thermal aquifers, evaluating the potential for thermal energy recovery. The primary focus of this work will be on basins in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, which show evidence of significant geothermal potential on public lands.

The DOE work comprises four tasks:

  1. Conventional Geothermal Resource Characterization and Assessment - This task is focused on building on the new assessment through (a) reconnaissance-level exploration for undiscovered geothermal resources, (b) acquisition, analysis and modeling of data from selected identified geothermal systems in order to enhance understanding of those systems and to improve the assessment of geothermal resources, and (c) updating and analysis of databases relating to the assessment of low temperature (<90°C) geothermal resources.
  2. Enhanced Geothermal Systems - USGS studies will be directed at understanding the geologic, mechanical and hydrologic aspects of EGS exploration and development and providing an improved framework for classifying and assessing the EGS resource. USGS studies represent an expanded effort to examine the effect of variations in state of stress, natural fracture and fault geometry, lithology, thermal/geochemical environment, and mechanical rock properties on EGS potential.
  3. Sedimentary Basins - These resources include geopressured geothermal, geothermal collocated with oil and gas accumulations, and low to moderate temperature geothermal aquifers. USGS personnel will extend the scope of the current assessment beyond the western United States to the deep, high temperature sedimentary basins of the central and eastern United States as well as the shallow thermal aquifers. The results of this work will be incorporated in updated geothermal resource assessments and published in a series of reports and online databases.
  4. National Geothermal Data System Collaboration - As part of the national geothermal resource assessment, the USGS has conducted a comprehensive survey of the available information on geothermal systems and compiled extensive geothermal databases. These databases include chemical analyses of water and gas samples, heat flow measurements, gravity and magnetic surveys, geologic maps, seismicity catalogues, seismic surveys, drilling records and other relevant exploration and development data. In order to support the new DOE’s National Geothermal Data System (NGDS), the USGS will work with the institutions supporting the NGDS to integrate the USGS geothermal resource assessment data and derivative products with the new database. In addition, USGS staff will advise NGDS personnel on the design and development of the data system.
   

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