Physics-Based Instruction Leads To Huge Success For Geothermal Drilling


Department of Energy funding is helping Texas A&M researchers refine drilling methods and create cost-saving models for future geothermal energy companies.

Researchers Sam Noynaert and Fred Dupriest have been working on a project funded by a $1.86 million grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) to change geothermal drilling practices. Their goals are to refine drilling methods and create a cost-saving business model for future geothermal energy companies.

“One of the DOE’s goals is to make geothermal energy more economical,” said Noynaert, a professor of practice in the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M University. “It’s a very low-margin business, so reducing costs has a tangible impact.”

Using the earth’s subsurface heat to change water to steam and power generators to produce electricity is not a new idea, but it’s a proven one. For instance, the first large-scale geothermal electricity-generating plant opened in the U.S. in 1960 and has grown to become the most significant energy complex of its kind in the world. Unfortunately, while advances in technology have improved energy production efficiency, one aspect of tapping this renewable resource is still highly cost-prohibitive to those wanting to invest in it: drilling into the earth.

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