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DOE awards OSU $1 million to boost Geothermal Energy Research

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $12 million in funding for seven research projects to advance the commercialization of enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) — manmade reservoirs that produce clean, renewable energy.

EGS development could expand U.S. geothermal energy capabilities and extend the use of geothermal energy into new geographic areas across the country. The selected projects are part of DOE’s efforts to deploy innovative solutions to help achieve the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and a carbon-free grid by 2035.


“Tapping into geothermal energy — a clean and reliable energy source underneath our feet that is available in all corners of this country — is a key part of our plan to expand and diversify America’s clean energy market,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The ground-breaking solutions we’re anticipating from the selected national laboratory and university research teams will help America achieve a clean energy economy while creating good-paying jobs and bolstering America’s energy workforce.”


This funding will help develop and deploy technologies and techniques that will enable efficient and lower-cost geothermal heat production. Through this investment, DOE will advance its goals of driving down EGS costs and accelerating the path toward widespread commercialization. Through technology improvement, geothermal power generation could increase 26-fold, deploying 60 gigawatts-electric of clean energy by 2050 that could power as many as 60 million homes.


A research project led by the School of Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology at Oklahoma State University was among the projects chosen and was funded for $1.0 million.


Their project “Development of Ionic Based Fluid to Improve Fluid Hydraulics in Enhanced Geothermal Systems” is led by Dr. Mohammed Al Dushaishi.  The Co-PIs are Drs. Hunjoo Lee, Prem Bikkina and Geir Hareland.  This project will develop a novel fluid system to improve fluid hydraulics in EGS. To reach this objective, the proposed fluid has to eliminate short circuits, i.e., fast paths, and redistribute fluid flow such that smaller fractures with low conductivity will receive higher fluid volume. This team will be solving this problem by improving the hydraulic properties of injected fluids using ionic liquids (IL). These ILs will increase the fluid viscosity due to the lower temperatures in highly conductive fast paths, leading to greater friction losses and forcing the injected fluids into the small fractures with lower conductivities and higher temperatures. 


Other universities included in the funding were:

  • Cornell University: $2.3 million
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: $1.7 million
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology: $2.3 million
  • Montana State University: $1.5 million
  • Pennsylvania State University, University Park: $1.0 million
  • University of New Mexico: $2.0 million

“Enhanced geothermal systems are a crucial component of our clean energy future in Oklahoma and across the country. Funding advanced research and development for new geothermal technologies was a high priority in the bipartisan Energy Act of 2020, and I’m glad to see DOE is moving forward on this critical issue,” said U.S. Representative Frank Lucas (OK-3), Ranking Member of the House Science, Space, & Technology Committee. “Oklahoma State University is a pioneer in geothermal technologies and I’m excited to see how their research will help make enhanced geothermal systems a more affordable and widespread energy technology.”


From investing $14.5 million earlier this year to testing enhanced geothermal systems within existing wells, to continued research around applying machine learning techniques to geothermal exploration, DOE is committed to advancing technologies that rapidly increase geothermal development while pushing the frontiers of science and investing in projects that support equity, inclusion, and a clean energy future for all Americans.


For more information about the selectees and additional program areas, visit DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office’s website.

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