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Title: Geothermally Coupled Well-Based Compressed Air Energy Storage

Previous work by McGrail et al. (2013, 2015) has evaluated the possibility of pairing compressed air energy storage with geothermal resources in lieu of a fossil-fired power generation component, and suggests that such applications may be cost competitive where geology is favorable to siting both the geothermal and CAES components of such a system. Those studies also note that the collocation of subsurface resources that meet both sets of requirements are difficult to find in areas that also offer infrastructure and near- to mid-term market demand for energy storage. This study examines a novel application for the compressed air storage portion of the project by evaluating the potential to store compressed air in disused wells by amending well casings to serve as subsurface pressure vessels. Because the wells themselves would function in lieu of a geologic storage reservoir for the CAES element of the project, siting could focus on locations with suitable geothermal resources, as long as there was also existing wellfield infrastructure that could be repurposed for air storage. Existing wellfields abound in the United States, and with current low energy prices, many recently productive fields are now shut in. Should energy prices remain stagnant, these idle fields willmore » be prime candidates for decommissioning unless they can be transitioned to other uses, such as redevelopment for energy storage. In addition to the nation’s ubiquitous oil and gas fields, geothermal fields, because of their phased production lifetimes, also may offer many abandoned wellbores that could be used for other purposes, often near currently productive geothermal resources. These existing fields offer an opportunity to decrease exploration and development uncertainty by leveraging data developed during prior field characterization, drilling, and production. They may also offer lower-cost deployment options for hybrid geothermal systems via redevelopment of existing well-field infrastructure. This project assessed the technical and economic feasibility of implementing geothermally coupled well-based CAES for grid-scale energy storage. Based on an evaluation of design specifications for a range of casing grades common in U.S. oil and gas fields, a 5-MW CAES project could be supported by twenty to twenty-five 5,000-foot, 7-inch wells using lower-grade casing, and as few as eight such wells for higher-end casing grades. Using this information, along with data on geothermal resources, well density, and potential future markets for energy storage systems, The Geysers geothermal field was selected to parameterize a case study to evaluate the potential match between the proven geothermal resource present at The Geysers and the field’s existing well infrastructure. Based on calculated wellbore compressed air mass, the study shows that a single average geothermal production well could provide enough geothermal energy to support a 15.4-MW (gross) power generation facility using 34 to 35 geothermal wells repurposed for compressed air storage, resulting in a simplified levelized cost of electricity (sLCOE) estimated at 11.2 ¢/kWh (Table S.1). Accounting for the power loss to the geothermal power project associated with diverting geothermal resources for air heating results in a net 2-MW decrease in generation capacity, increasing the CAES project’s sLCOE by 1.8 ¢/kWh.« less
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  1. Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Publication Date:
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Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
25 ENERGY STORAGE energy storage; CAES; geothermal; hybrid; balancing; wells