Proposals for grants that support two geothermal drilling demonstration projects are being accepted by the Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO), with letters of intent due March 1, 2024, and full applications due on April 1, 2024.

Funding of up to $31 million is available for projects that support enhanced geothermal systems wellbore tools, and for projects that use low-temperature geothermal heat for industrial processes, said the GTO, which is tasked with increasing geothermal energy deployment through research, development, and demonstration of new technologies.

However, while $31 million has been allocated for those projects, most of that money will be awarded for the wellbore projects over the thermal energy storage project, explained the GTO, which has separated the projects into “topic areas”. The topic areas and the amount of funding allocated to each are:

  • Topic Area 1: Funding of up to $23.1 million is available to support projects that address downhole cement and casing evaluation tools for use in high-temperature and hostile geothermal wellbores.
  • Topic Area 2: Funding of up to $7.9 million is available to support a demonstration project for low-temperature (<130◦ C) reservoir thermal energy storage (RTES) technology that has applications for industrial processes. 

Selected Topic Area 1 projects are to address wellbore tools and technology to supplement and advance beyond currently available off-the-shelf solutions provided by the oil and gas industry for cement and casing evaluation, the GTO said. The current solutions are suitable for the upper end of the oil and gas industry’s temperature needs, but are not generally considered adequate for use in hotter, enhanced geothermal systems, according to the agency.

The selected Topic Area 2 project is to demonstrate low-temperature RTES technology with applications to industrial processes such as melting plastic, removing moisture, treating chemicals, and others. The GTO added that RTES takes advantage of large subsurface storage capacities, geothermal gradients, and thermal insulation associated with deep geologic formations to store thermal energy that can be extracted later for beneficial use on a variety of timescales. By doing so, RTES helps reduce emissions from energy-intensive industrial heating processes.

Letters of intent are necessary in order to file a full application, said the GTO, and those letters must be filed by 5 p.m. EST on March 1, 2024. The GTO anticipates making several awards over the course of fiscal years 2024 through 2028, with individual awards ranging between $100,000 and $10 million.

Projects selected to receive awards under the current request for proposals are to be notified in July 2024, and “award negotiations” are expected to occur in September 2024, the GTO said.