Development of Exploration Methods for Engineered Geothermal Systems through Integrated Geophysical, Geologic and Geochemical Interpretation. Geothermal Project

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Last modified on July 22, 2011.

Project Title Development of Exploration Methods for Engineered Geothermal Systems through Integrated Geophysical, Geologic and Geochemical Interpretation.
Project Type / Topic 1 Recovery Act: Enhanced Geothermal Systems Component Research and Development/Analysis
Project Type / Topic 2 Geophysical Exploration Technologies
Project Description A comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach is proposed using existing geophysical exploration technology coupled with new seismic techniques and subject matter experts to determine the combination of geoscience data that demonstrates the greatest potential for identifying EGS drilling targets using non-invasive techniques. This proposed exploration methodology is expected to increase spatial resolution and reduce the non-uniqueness that is inherent in geological data, thereby reducing the uncertainty in the primary selection criteria for identifying EGS drilling targets. These criteria are, in order of importance: (1) temperatures greater than 200-250°C at 1-5 km depth; (2) rock type at the depth of interest, and; (3) stress regime.

The geophysical methods (including modeling) that will be used in conjunction with geological, geochemical and thermal analyses are magnetotellurics, gravity, magnetics, seismic tomography, and new seismic noise techniques developed by the University of Nevada at Reno (UNR). UNR’s ambient noise methods are particularly advantageous for exploration because they do not rely on local earthquake data (difficult to obtain in regions with low levels of seismicity) or active sources, such as those used in reflection surveys (prohibitively expensive for geothermal exploration).

Statistical methods will be used to analyze uncertainty, non-uniqueness and inconsistencies in the data, as well as to assess the prediction capability of variables extracted from the data. Subject matter experts will synthesize the available information into a conceptual EGS model with the goal of inferring temperature, rock composition, and stress at a scale of 5 km x 5 km at depths of 1-5 km.

State Nevada
Objectives Develop, test and calibrate an exploration methodology that integrates geology, geophysics, and geochemistry into a conceptual model to identify potential drilling targets for Engineered Geothermal Systems (EGS).
Awardees (Company / Institution) AltaRock Energy, Inc.
Awardee Website
Partner 1 University of Nevada at Reno
Partner 2 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Partner 3 Southern Methodist University
Partner 4 University of Utah

Funding Opportunity Announcement DE-FOA-0000075
DOE Funding Level (total award amount) $1,450,120.00
Awardee Cost Share $525,928.00
Total Project Cost $1,976,048.00

Principal Investigator(s) Joe L. Iovenitti, Principal Investigator, AltaRock Energy, Inc.
Other Principal Investigators Deborah L. Hopkins, Deputy Principal Investigator, AltaRock Energy, Inc.
Targets / Milestones -An EGS exploration methodology based on integration of geological data

-Assessment of the current state of the art in EGS exploration -Evaluation of UNR’s ambient noise seismic technique -Determination of whether UNR’s technique allows temperature and rock type to be reliably inferred -Determination of whether it is feasible to identify potential EGS drilling targets with a resolution of 5 km x 5 km at depths of 1-5 km -EGS drilling favorability map for the Dixie Valley study site -A comprehensive GIS database populated with existing selected public domain and all newly acquired geological data for the study site

Location of Project Dixie Valley, NV
39.6878°, -118.0806°
About the Area The study site in Dixie Valley, Nevada, was chosen because this Basin and Range (BR) geothermal resource is highly characterized, including extensive temperature data at depth, which will allow us to test and calibrate the methodology developed. The site is considered an excellent analog for AltaRock’s extensive lease holdings in the northwest BR. Preliminary investigation also indicates it should be possible to cover an area at Dixie Valley that will include the three thermal regimes of interest: a hot dry region, a hot wet region, and a cold zone.

Impacts If successful, the project will provide a exploration methodology based on geology, ambient noise seismic techniques, geochemistry and other methods.
Funding Source American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
References EERE Geothermal Technologies Programs[1]


  1. EERE Geothermal Technologies Programs