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Title: Technology Development and Field Trials of EGS Drilling Systems at Chocolate Mountain

Polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) bits are routinely used in the oil and gas industry for drilling medium to hard rock but have not been adopted for geothermal drilling, largely due to past reliability issues and higher purchase costs. The Sandia Geothermal Research Department has recently completed a field demonstration of the applicability of advanced synthetic diamond drill bits for production geothermal drilling. Two commercially-available PDC bits were tested in a geothermal drilling program in the Chocolate Mountains in Southern California. These bits drilled the granitic formations with significantly better Rate of Penetration (ROP) and bit life than the roller cone bit they are compared with. Drilling records and bit performance data along with associated drilling cost savings are presented herein. The drilling trials have demonstrated PDC bit drilling technology has matured for applicability and improvements to geothermal drilling. This will be especially beneficial for development of Enhanced Geothermal Systems whereby resources can be accessed anywhere within the continental US by drilling to deep, hot resources in hard, basement rock formations.
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
AID 20008
Product Type:
Research Org(s):
DOE Geothermal Data Repository; Sandia National Laboratories
Sandia National Laboratories
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Geothermal Technologies Program (EE-2C)
15 Geothermal Energy; geothermal; chocolate mountains; drilling; pdc bit; roller cone; granite; chocolate mountains drilling; synthetic diamond; rate of penetration; egs; lateral vibration spectrum; California; CA; Southern California; SoCal; drilling records; performance data; drilling charts; before and after; pictures; vibration spectrum
OSTI Identifier:
  1. The Geothermal Data Repository (GDR) is the submission point for all data collected from researchers funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Geothermal Technologies Office (DOE GTO). The DOE GTO is providing access to its geothermal project information through the GDR. The GDR is powered by OpenEI, an energy information portal sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
No associated Collections found.
  1. Objectives Options associated with geothermal drilling operations are generally limited by factors such as formation temperature and rock strength. The objective of the research is to expand the "tool box" available to the geothermal driller by furthering the development of a high-temperature drilling motor thatmore » can be used in directional drilling applications for drilling high temperature geothermal formations. The motor is specifically designed to operate in conjunction with a pneumatic down-the-hole-hammer. It provides a more compact design compared to traditional drilling motors such as PDMs (positive displacement motors). The packaging can help to enhance directional drilling capabilities. It uses no elastomeric components, which enables it to operate in higher temperatures ( >250 °F). Current work on the motor has shown that is a capable of operating under pneumatic power with a down-the-hole-hammer. Further development work will include continued testing and refining motor components and evaluating motor capabilities. Targets/Milestones Complete testing current motor - 12/31/2010 Make final material and design decisions - 01/31/2011 Build and test final prototype - 04/31/2011 Final demonstration - 07/31/2011 Impacts The development of the motor will help to achieve program technical objectives by improving well construction capabilities. This includes enabling high-temperature drilling as well as enhancing directional drilling. A key component in the auto indexer is the drive motor. It is an air-driven vane motor that converts the energy stored in the compressed air to mechanical energy. The motor is attached to hammer-like components which impart an impulsive load onto the drive shaft. The impulsive force on the drive shaft in turn creates an indexing action. A controlled test was performed to characterize the performance of the the vane motor for a given pressure. The Sandia dynamometer test station was used to determine the performance of the motor for a given input pressure. « less
  2. The US Geological Survey (USGS) resource assessment (Williams et al., 2009) outlined a mean 30GWe of undiscovered hydrothermal resource in the western US. One goal of the Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) is to accelerate the development of this undiscovered resource. The Geothermal Technologies Program (GTP)more » Blue Ribbon Panel (GTO, 2011) recommended that DOE focus efforts on helping industry identify hidden geothermal resources to increase geothermal capacity in the near term. Increased exploration activity will produce more prospects, more discoveries, and more readily developable resources. Detailed exploration case studies akin to those found in oil and gas (e.g. Beaumont, et al, 1990) will give operators a single point of information to gather clean, unbiased information on which to build geothermal drilling prospects. To support this effort, the National Renewable Energy laboratory (NREL) has been working with the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a template for geothermal case studies on the Geothermal Gateway on OpenEI. In fiscal year 2013, the template was developed and tested with two case studies: Raft River Geothermal Area ( and Coso Geothermal Area ( In fiscal year 2014, ten additional case studies were completed, and additional features were added to the template to allow for more data and the direct citations of data. The template allows for: Data - a variety of data can be collected for each area, including power production information, well field information, geologic information, reservoir information, and geochemistry information. Narratives ? general (e.g. area overview, history and infrastructure), technical (e.g. exploration history, well field description, R&D activities) and geologic narratives (e.g. area geology, hydrothermal system, heat source, geochemistry.) Exploration Activity Catalog - catalog of exploration activities conducted in the area (with dates and references.) NEPA Analysis ? a query of NEPA analyses conducted in the area (that have been catalogued in the OpenEI NEPA database.) In fiscal year 2015, NREL is working with universities to populate additional case studies on OpenEI. The goal is to provide a large enough dataset to start conducting analyses of exploration programs to identify correlations between successful exploration plans for areas with similar geologic occurrence models. « less
  3. The Engineered Geothermal System (EGS) Exploration Methodology Project is developing an exploration approach for EGS through the integration of geoscientific data. The Project chose the Dixie Valley Geothermal System in Nevada as a field laboratory site for methodology calibration purposes because, in the public domain,more » it is a highly characterized geothermal system in the Basin and Range with a considerable amount of geoscience and most importantly, well data. The overall project area is 2500km2 with the Calibration Area (Dixie Valley Geothermal Wellfield) being about 170km2. The project was subdivided into five tasks (1) collect and assess the existing public domain geoscience data; (2) design and populate a GIS database; (3) develop a baseline (existing data) geothermal conceptual model, evaluate geostatistical relationships, and generate baseline, coupled EGS favorability/trust maps from +1km above sea level (asl) to -4km asl for the Calibration Area at 0.5km intervals to identify EGS drilling targets at a scale of 5km x 5km; (4) collect new geophysical and geochemical data, and (5) repeat Task 3 for the enhanced (baseline + new ) data. Favorability maps were based on the integrated assessment of the three critical EGS exploration parameters of interest: rock type, temperature and stress. A complimentary trust map was generated to compliment the favorability maps to graphically illustrate the cumulative confidence in the data used in the favorability mapping. The Final Scientific Report (FSR) is submitted in two parts with Part I describing the results of project Tasks 1 through 3 and Part II covering the results of project Tasks 4 through 5 plus answering nine questions posed in the proposal for the overall project. FSR Part I presents (1) an assessment of the readily available public domain data and some proprietary data provided by Terra-Gen Power, LLC, (2) a re-interpretation of these data as required, (3) an exploratory geostatistical data analysis, (4) the baseline geothermal conceptual model, and (5) the EGS favorability/trust mapping. The conceptual model presented applies to both the hydrothermal system and EGS in the Dixie Valley region. FSR Part II presents (1) 278 new gravity stations; (2) enhanced gravity-magnetic modeling; (3) 42 new ambient seismic noise survey stations; (4) an integration of the new seismic noise data with a regional seismic network; (5) a new methodology and approach to interpret this data; (5) a novel method to predict rock type and temperature based on the newly interpreted data; (6) 70 new magnetotelluric (MT) stations; (7) an integrated interpretation of the enhanced MT data set; (8) the results of a 308 station soil CO2 gas survey; (9) new conductive thermal modeling in the project area; (10) new convective modeling in the Calibration Area; (11) pseudo-convective modeling in the Calibration Area; (12) enhanced data implications and qualitative geoscience correlations at three scales (a) Regional, (b) Project, and (c) Calibration Area; (13) quantitative geostatistical exploratory data analysis; and (14) responses to nine questions posed in the proposal for this investigation. Enhanced favorability/trust maps were not generated because there was not a sufficient amount of new, fully-vetted (see below) rock type, temperature, and stress data. The enhanced seismic data did generate a new method to infer rock type and temperature. However, in the opinion of the Principal Investigator for this project, this new methodology needs to be tested and evaluated at other sites in the Basin and Range before it is used to generate the referenced maps. As in the baseline conceptual model, the enhanced findings can be applied to both the hydrothermal system and EGS in the Dixie Valley region. « less
  4. In enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) the reservoir permeability is often enhanced or created using hydraulic fracturing. In hydraulic fracturing, high fluid pressures are applied to confined zones in the subsurface usually using packers to fracture the host rock. This enhances rock permeability and therefore conductivemore » heat transfer to the circulating geothermal fluid (e.g. water or supercritical carbon dioxide). The ultimate goal is to increase or improve the thermal energy production from the subsurface by either optimal designs of injection and production wells or by altering the fracture permeability to create different zones of circulation that can be exploited in geothermal heat extraction. Moreover, hydraulic fracturing can lead to the creation of undesirable short-circuits or fast flow-paths between the injection and extraction wells leading to a short thermal residence time, low heat recovery, and thus a short-life of the EGS. A potential remedy to these problems is to deploy a cementing (blocking, diverting) agent to minimize short-cuts and/or create new circulation cells for heat extraction. A potential diverting agent is the colloidal silica by-product that can be co-produced from geothermal fluids. Silica gels are abundant in various surface and subsurface applications, yet they have not been evaluated for EGS applications. In this study we are investigating the benefits of silica gel deployment on thermal response of an EGS, either by blocking short-circuiting undesirable pathways as a result of diverting the geofluid to other fractures; or creating, within fractures, new circulation cells for harvesting heat through newly active surface area contact. A significant advantage of colloidal silica is that it can be co-produced from geothermal fluids using an inexpensive membrane-based separation technology that was developed previously using DOE-GTP funding. This co-produced silica has properties that potentially make it useful as a fluid diversion agent for subsurface applications. Colloidal silica solutions exist as low-viscosity fluids during their “induction period” but then undergo a rapid increase in viscosity (gelation) to form a solid gel. The length of the induction period can be manipulated by varying the properties of the solution, such as silica concentration and colloid size. We believe it is possible to produce colloidal silica gels suitable for use as diverting agents for blocking undesirable fast-paths which result in short-circuiting the EGS once hydraulic fracturing has been deployed. In addition, the gels could be used in conventional geothermal fields to increase overall energy recovery by modifying flow. « less
  5. This geodatabase was built to cover several geothermal targets developed by Flint Geothermal in 2012 during a search for high-temperature systems that could be exploited for electric power development. Several of the thermal springs have geochemistry and geothermometry values indicative of high-temperature systems. In addition,more » the explorationists discovered a very young Climax-style molybdenum porphyry system northeast of Rico, and drilling intersected thermal waters at depth. Datasets include: 1. Structural data collected by Flint Geothermal 2. Point information 3. Mines and prospects from the USGS MRDS dataset 4. Results of reconnaissance shallow (2 meter) temperature surveys 5. Air photo lineaments 6. Areas covered by travertine 7. Groundwater geochemistry 8. Land ownership in the Rico area 9. Georeferenced geologic map of the Rico Quadrangle, by Pratt et al. 10. Various 1:24,000 scale topographic maps « less