Argonne National Laboratory is assisting the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy to develop innovative geothermal energy technologies to find, access, and use the nation's geothermal resources. Argonne contributes to this goal through research that is advancing characterization and analysis of reservoirs, developing improved chemical energy carriers for the conversion of geothermal energy, and assessing the environmental impacts of geothermal systems.
Geothermal electricity generation provides less than 1 percent of US power production, in part because of the limited geological locations suited to traditional geothermal technologies. Advanced geothermal system technology would allow for the widespread production of geothermal electricity, but its costs are currently too high to effectively compete with fossil plants.
Achieving cost competitiveness for advanced geothermal systems will require a range of basic science, applied science, and systems analysis. Basic science will enable the design of materials that can perform in high-temperature, corrosive environments, improving geothermal resource discovery. Applied science can optimize reservoir performance for long-term operation, increasing exploration success and decreasing drilling time. Systems analysis can provide insight into how the complex interplay of issues such as variability of geology, regulation, environment, and economics will impact the market penetration of these technologies.
Argonne’s approach is supported by the laboratory’s strengths in materials science, X-ray characterization, chemical engineering, sensor design and engineering, and life-cycle and system integration analysis.
Examples of Argonne geothermal R&D include:
- Use of synchrotron x-ray techniques to study chemical interactions of binary supercritical CO2 and H2O fluids with rocks under relevant geothermal system conditions. View the presentation.
- Development of ultrasonic and far-field electromagnetic sensors to measure conditions in enhanced geothermal system reservoirs. View the presentation.
- Development of chemical energy carriers to convert, store, and transport geothermal heat as chemical energy rather than as the low-temperature latent heat of steam. View the presentation.
- Assessment of the energy requirements and environmental emissions through the life cycle of enhanced geothermal systems. View the presentation.