Geothermal breakthrough uses oil drilling tech to tap renewable energy

The milestone saw record-breaking energy production for the next-generation clean energy source, Google-backed company says

Anthony Cuthbertson
Thursday 20 July 2023 13:22 BST
Fervo Energy uses oil drilling equipment to tap clean geothermal energy
Fervo Energy uses oil drilling equipment to tap clean geothermal energy (Fervo Energy)

A Texas startup has made a major breakthrough towards achieving next-generation geothermal power after using oil drilling technology to tap the renewable energy source.

Houston-based Fervo Energy successfully completed a trial of the system, which saw a drill plunge 2.3km (7,700 feet) into the Earth’s surface in order to pump water into them.

Heated by high temperatures deep underground, the water was then pumped back to the surface where turbines converted the heat into electricity.

The 30-day well test produced record-breaking power output for an enhanced geothermal system of 3.5 megawatts of electric production – enough to power more than 2,500 homes.

“By applying drilling technology from the oil and gas industry, we have proven that we can produce 24/7 carbon-free energy resources in new geographies across the world,” said Tim Latimer, co-founder and chief executive of Fervo Energy.

“The incredible results we share today are the product of many years of dedicated work and commitment from Fervo employees and industry partners.”

One of these partners is Google, who signed an agreement in 2021 to develop the technology to provide carbon-free energy for its Cloud region in Las Vegas.

Current geothermal energy production is mostly limited to locations near tectonic plates, such as Iceland, where magma close to the Earth’s surface is easier to reach.

The deeper you go, the hotter it gets (Getty/iStock)

The latest feat marks a key milestone towards Fervo Energy’s plans to construct a 400MW project using its next-generation geothermal technology, which is expected to be online by 2028.

“Power systems modelling confirms that geothermal can be a critical player in a fully decarbonised grid,” said Jesse Jenkins, an assistant professor and leader of the Zero-carbon Energy systems Research and Optimisation (ZERO) lab at Princeton University.

“Fervo’s successful commercial pilot takes next-generation geothermal technology from the realm of models into the real world and starts us on a path to unlock geothermal’s full potential.”

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