ESSIE Seminar 2022

Date(s) - 04/29/2022
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM


Zoom Link:

Meeting ID: 951 7675 7634
Passcode: 064851

Rock Fracture Caging to Power the Next Generation
Dr. Luke P. Frash
Los Alamos National Laboratory

Society is rapidly speeding towards an energy transition where our primary source of energy must shift
from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources. Among the alternative sources, geothermal energy remains
largely untapped with an estimated 2050 capacity of more than 60 GWe base-load energy generation in
the Unites States (GTO, 2019) versus its current delivery of only 2.6 GWe (EIA, 2020). Similarities between
oil and gas technology and geothermal technology pose an opportunity for energy companies to shift
towards clean geothermal energy production, but not without overcoming some crucial challenges. First,
hot water has negligible value compared to oil, so the value of a hot rock resource depends on the design
of the wells and flow stimulation methods that are used to exploit it. Second, geothermal energy poses a
much higher risk for injection induced seismicity, so solutions are needed to control this risk. Third,
geothermal wells are deeper and hotter and more hostile to tools and instruments, so drilling is more
challenging and more expensive. To address these challenges, we propose “fracture caging” where four
or more deep wells are drilled in tactical positions to extract energy more efficiently and more safely than
was previously thought to be possible. It may seem counterintuitive, but a successful fracture cage using
more than the typical two-well geothermal system could lower the cost per well and a disproportionately
increase reservoir productivity. To explore the potential of “caging” we developed a new fast numerical
model that predicts flow and heat transfer characteristics as a function of well design. Informing this
model, we include a new interdimensional scaling theory to predict natural fracture hydromechanical
properties and seismic risk. Altogether, our work at Los Alamos National Laboratory is seeking a path
forward to expand geothermal energy utilization and safety through wholistic design and development

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