In 1972, the University of Utah opened a new institute dedicated to meet growing demands for research from industry, primarily in geothermal energy. Named the University of Utah Research Institute (UURI), the university founded this institute with researchers from two mining companies: Anaconda and Kennecott. This group was assembled because it had become apparent that geothermal systems more closely resembled mineral deposits rather than oil and gas reservoirs. UURI’s creators believed the exploration techniques used by the minerals industry would be needed to develop geothermal energy resources.
Once established, UURI offered new capabilities in collecting and interpreting geologic, geochemical, and geophysical data; satellite image interpretation; geological modeling; tracer testing and development; and resource evaluation. The Earth Science Lab within UURI concentrated the institute’s geothermal work alongside its other divisions’ scientific work. The institute took its place among other initiatives, including the formation of Research Park close to the main campus, as part of a push to elevate the university’s profile as a center for outstanding academic research.
UURI completed many research projects for clients in locations throughout the intermountain west and abroad. The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) was one of UURI’s largest funding partners from the institute’s beginning, sponsoring several field studies for geothermal applications. The Earth Science Laboratory, the center for UURI’s geothermal work, led many projects improving geothermal energy technology, creating new exploration opportunities, refining reservoir definition, and mapping techniques for hydrothermal systems. UURI’s research reports covered results from experimental technologies used in the field, test cases for modeling methods, tracer testing, climate science, site examination, and resource evaluation. UURI performed this groundbreaking scientific work in locations around the world for more than 20 years.
Big changes came when UURI and ESRI from the University of South Carolina merged in 1995. The merger solidified the University of Utah as a leader in energy research by combining its excellent geothermal team at UURI with ESRI’s hydrocarbons expertise. Since then, EGI’s geothermal research capabilities continued to develop an international reputation of excellence. Corporate associates involved in geothermal energy choose EGI for tracer testing at geothermal well sites around the world. Some of these reports are available to current members through EGIconnect.
EGI continues to complete geothermal research projects for DoE, most notably Utah FORGE, in an institutional partnership lasting more than 45 years. With Utah FORGE, DoE is supporting ongoing research and development of an enhanced geothermal research plant in Milford, Utah, to test new technologies for enhanced geothermal systems in order to scale and expand geothermal resource potential. ASKEGI celebrates the many contributions of the geologists, geochemists, geophysicists, and researchers who have built an outstanding geothermal research program at EGI through the legacy of UURI.