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Capturing the energy beneath our feet

Part of Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy?

Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy? shines a spotlight on research projects under development in the Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs). Learn more about the initiative, read the launch commentary, or explore the TCPs.


What is the aim of this project?

The Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) is a dedicated underground field laboratory in Utah, United States, that is developing, testing and accelerating breakthroughs in enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) technologies to advance the uptake of geothermal resources around the world.

FORGE’s mission is to enable cutting-edge research, drilling and technology testing so that scientists can identify a replicable, commercial pathway to EGS. FORGE also fosters robust data collection using state-of-the-art instrumentation to capture and share data and activities occurring at FORGE in real time. FORGE’s innovative collaboration and management platform is the first of its kind.

How would the project be explained to a high-school student?

Traditional geothermal wells are drilled in hot permeable rock. An enhanced geothermal system is a man-made reservoir created where there is hot rock that is not permeable enough. Fluid is injected into the rock, re-opening pre-existing cracks and making the rock permeable. This allows the fluid to transport heat to the surface where energy can extracted and used, such as for electricity generation. The original geothermal water is recycled back into the reservoir.

How does the project help to achieve climate and energy goals?

  • Enhanced geothermal systems emit little or no greenhouse gases.
  • EGS plants provide reliable baseload power that pairs well with intermittent renewables.
  • Geothermal electricity generation requires less space than other power sources, such as wind and solar.
  • Geothermal jobs require skills used by workers in oil and gas production, mining, construction, manufacturing and other industries. Many of these workers are considering new jobs as their industries change dramatically.

What government policies could advance this project?

  • Increasing funding for EGS research and demonstration projects.
  • Providing tax incentives and other financing tools to support geothermal technologies.
  • Demonstrating the suitability and safety of large-scale geothermal energy development to the public.


Enhanced Geothermal System.

Enhanced Geothermal System. Source: US Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office.


Partners

  • University of Utah Energy & Geoscience Institute
  • Utah Geological Survey
  • Geothermal Resource Group (California)
  • Temple University (Pennsylvania)
  • Smithfield Foods (Virginia)
  • Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands
  • US Geological Survey
  • Idaho National Laboratory
  • Private consultants

Funder

United States Department of Energy

Expected project duration

2015-2024


About the Geothermal TCP

Established in 1997, the Geothermal Energy TCP promotes international collaboration to foster the development and sustainable use of geothermal energy. Its activities are chiefly directed towards the sharing of information; developing technologies, techniques and best practices for exploration, development and utilisation; and producing and disseminating authoritative geothermal information and data.