Constructing Deep Closed-Loop Geothermal Wells for Globally Scalable Energy Production by Leveraging Oil and Gas ERD and HPHT Well Construction Expertise

van Oort, Eric (The University of Texas at Austin) | Chen, Dongmei (The University of Texas at Austin) | Ashok, Pradeepkumar (The University of Texas at Austin) | Fallah, Amirhossein (The University of Texas at Austin)


Abstract Deep closed-loop geothermal systems (DCLGS) are introduced as an alternative to traditional enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) for green energy production that is globally scalable and dispatchable. Recent modeling work shows that DCLGS can generate an amount of power that is similar to EGS, while overcoming many of the downsides of EGS (such as induced seismicity, emissions to air, mineral scaling etc.). DCLGS wells can be constructed by leveraging and extending oil & gas extended reach drilling (ERD) and high-pressure high-temperature (HPHT) drilling expertise in particular. The objectives of this paper are two-fold. First, we demonstrate that DCLGS wells can generate power/electricity on a scale that is comparable to EGS, i.e. on the order of 40-55 MW per well. To this extent, we have developed a coupled hydraulic-thermal model, validated using oil and gas well cases, that can simulate various DCLGS well configurations. Secondly, we highlight the technology gaps and needs that still exist for economically drilling DCLGS wells, showing that it is possible to extend oil & gas technology, expertise and experience in ERD and HPHT drilling to construct complex DCLGS wells. Our coupled hydraulic-thermal sensitivity analyses show that there are key well drilling and design parameters that will ultimately affect DCLGS operating efficiency, including strategic deployment of managed pressure drilling / operation (MPD/MPO) technology, the use of vacuum-insulated tubing (VIT), and the selection of the completion in the high-temperature rock zones. Results show that optimum design and execution can boost geothermal power generation to 50 MW and beyond. In addition, historical ERD and HPHT well experience is reviewed to establish the current state-of-the-art in complex well construction and highlight what specific technology developments require attention and investment to make DCLGS a reality in the near-future (with a time horizon of ~10 years). A main conclusion is that DCLGS is a realistic and viable alternative to EGS, with effective mitigation of many of the (potentially show-stopping) downsides of EGS. Oil and gas companies are currently highly interested in green, sustainable energy to meet their environmental goals. DCLGS well construction allows them to actively develop a sustainable energy field in which they already have extensive domain expertise. DCLGS offers oil and gas companies a new direction for profitable business development while meeting environmental goals, and at the same time enables workforce retention, retraining and re-deployment using the highly transferable skills of oil and gas workers.


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