Monday, August 6, 2018

USA, Utah: GRC Member Explains Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Engineering Project

Hot and steamy energy? Utah hopes for a geothermal first (Deseret News)

John McLennan
GRC Member John McLennan is ready to battle Mother Nature and the odds by turning 50 years of history on its head and accessing geothermal power in a new way.

"For a researcher, this is more than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said McLennan, an associate professor of chemical engineering at the University of Utah.

The project is FORGE, or the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Engineering, and the idea is to drill two wells to access geothermal energy.

"Mother Nature has foiled this for the last 50 years," McLennan said in a recent combined meeting of the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards.

McLennan said this type of research was tried in the 1970s in Los Alamos, New Mexico, but what has changed the game now is the advent of horizontal drilling.

"There have been about 30 projects internationally where people have been trying to make this commercial, and really, it hasn't succeeded up to the present time," he said. "This is the first time that the new directional drilling and new technology is being applied. We really think it is going to make a big difference in this particular case."

That technology, he said, allows the two wells at a depth of 7,500 feet to act like a radiator.

"They are interconnected by hydraulic fracturing," McLennan said. "What you establish is something like a radiator on a car. It's a heat exchange system that you pump cold water down one well, it passes through the system of hydraulic fractures and as it passes through that, it takes on heat from the rock. "