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Krafla geothermal power plant in Iceland - Photo: iStock

Ramping up research on geothermal energy


As drilling technology is essentially the same for oil and gas applications as for geothermal drilling, IRIS is now in a position to contribute to improved technologies and processes needed for reducing geothermal drilling costs.

Currently, IRIS is participating in three research projects addressing geothermal drilling:
  1. Feasibility study on deep geothermal drilling in Ålgård,
    which is a VRI-project.
  2. GeoWell: Innovative materials and designs for long-life high-temperature geothermal wells,
    which is a EU-project led by ISOR at Iceland.
  3. Innodrill: Technology platform for research-based innovations in deep geothermal drilling, which is a RCN-project led by Sintef.
IRIS is also a member of a consortium that has submitted the FME-application “GeoS: Research Centre for Geothermal Energy Solutions”. If successful, IRIS will be responsible for the research related to drilling and well technology in the centre.

Geothermal energy is the heat from the Earth. It is clean and sustainable. Resources of geothermal energy range from the shallow ground to hot water and hot rock found a few miles beneath the Earth's surface, and down even deeper to the extremely high temperatures of molten rock called magma.

Shallow geothermal energy extraction is becoming increasingly popular both in Norway and elsewhere, as home-owners can benefit from this energy by using geothermal heat pumps. However, in order to take out the full potential of energy from the ground, one usually has to go 4000 m or deeper, as the potential for energy production increases with temperature. The deep heat resources are often stored as heat in hot fractured intrusive, volcanic or hard sedimentary rocks.

To connect to the deep heat resources, a well has to be drilled from surface to the deep, hot underground. The cost of these wells represent a large portion of the total expenses for a geothermal energy plan for the following reasons; i) drilling in very hard rock is time-consuming ii) the borehole diameter should be sufficiently large to ensure large mass flow and iii) each well is unique. 
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