Department of Energy Selects University of Utah Site for $140 Million Geothermal Research and Development Opportunity


Drill rig at Utah FORGE Geothermal site. Photo: Rick Allis, Utah Geological Survey.

EGI extends an enthusiastic Congratulations to Dr. Joseph Moore and the entire Utah FORGE team! On June 14, 2018 the U.S. Department of Energy announced the selection of the University of Utah’s EGI-based Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) field laboratory to receive up to $140 million in funding over the next five years on top of over $10 million previously awarded for the project for a total exceeding $150 Million.

The selection was the culmination of a three-year effort lead by a scientific advisory team from EGI, the Dept. of Chemical Engineering at the University of Utah, the Utah Geological Survey, and the Governor’s Office of Energy Development, along with a host of contributing partners.

Closely following the DOE announcement, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) approved an Industrial Assistance Fund, post-performance Economic Opportunity Grant for FORGE. The project will create 23 new jobs with an average full-time wage of $94,000 per year and a capital investment of more than $100 million.

Read the Deseret News follow-up story on the Utah FORGE efforts, published on August 4, 2018 and others from the Salt Lake Tribune, KSL TV/Radio, and ThinkGeoEnergy.

From the U.S. Department of Energy:

[T]he U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that the University of Utah will receive up to $140 million in continued funding over the next five years for cutting-edge geothermal research and development. After three years of planning, site characterization, and competition, the proposed site outside of Milford, Utah, has been selected as the location of the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) field laboratory. This new FORGE site is dedicated to research on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), or manmade geothermal reservoirs.

“Enhanced geothermal systems are the future of geothermal energy, and critical investments in EGS will help advance American leadership in clean energy innovation,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “Funding efforts toward the next frontier in geothermal energy technologies will help diversify the United States’ domestic energy portfolio, enhance our energy access, and increase our energy security.”

Conventional geothermal resources occur naturally in the U.S. but are geographically limited due to the necessary co-location of heat, permeability, and fluid deep underground. Currently, American geothermal electricity production is located solely in the western states, where conventional geothermal resources put about 3.8 gigawatts (GW) of electricity on the grid.

Manmade geothermal reservoirs can be engineered wherever hot rocks are found, and since such formations are almost ubiquitous – they just vary in depth – those reservoirs have the potential to be utilized practically everywhere.  EGS could significantly expand geothermal energy production, with an estimated 100 GW of currently inaccessible resources, removing the geographic barriers of conventional geothermal resources.

Critical to broad EGS deployment, FORGE will be a laboratory where scientists and researchers can learn how to engineer these manmade systems. The geothermal community will gain a fundamental understanding of the key mechanisms controlling EGS success; develop, test, and improve new techniques in an ideal EGS environment; and rapidly disseminate technical data and communicate to the public.

Exceptional, creative, and responsible technological innovation, such as that taking place at FORGE, is not only necessary to bring EGS to technical maturity, but is also a critical step on America’s path to energy security and global geothermal energy leadership.

More information and regular updates from the Utah FORGE team can be found at forgeutah.com.

More information about DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office can be found HERE.