Compared to more familiar wind and solar renewable energy sources, geothermal has advantages of 1) being non-intermittent, and 2) needing a smaller development footprint. Challenges include high up-front capital costs (primarily drilling), and local variation of resource intensity.
Currently, geothermal energy is a niche application, accounting for <1% (~3.8 GW) of US electric generating capacity. However, technology is improving, including adoption of O&G drilling/completions technology for 'new paradigm geothermal' applications such as heat loops and induced fracturing of hot dry rock. By 2050, geothermal could produce 5+% of US electricity, and capture significant market share for direct/district heating. Renewable Portfolio Standards enacted by many states and countries provide an additional catalyst for geothermal investment.
Geothermal offers potential to reduce energy poverty in many developing countries worldwide, where geothermal gradients are high.
Significant parallels exist between project maturation workflows for O&G and geothermal energy. These involve analog studies and competitive intelligence at early stages, data collection and integration at intermediate stages, and reservoir simulation at late stages leading into project sanction.
It may not be practical for firms to maintain all of these capabilities full-time.
APEX Subsurface Consulting can help!
The founder is well-connected in professional organizations such as Geothermal Rising and the Society of Petroleum Engineers … with a network that includes top-notch specialist talent in geoscience, reservoir engineering, drilling, production technology and more.
Unfamiliar with geothermal? Download a summary presentation!
Geothermal Subsurface Needs
Mapped resource potential; where are regional/local 'hotspots' in terms of geothermal gradient and permeability?
Heat flow forecasts based on local hydrogeology
Proof-of-concept for ... and implementation of ... Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS), with natural + induced permeability networks
✅ Competitive intelligence for 'energy transition' investors unfamiliar with geothermal space
✅ Regional and local opportunity screening
✅ Subsurface input for Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED), pre-sanction
Value at Every Stage
For conventional geothermal, exploration starts with literature search (typically involving surface fault maps) and 'zeroes in' on candidate locations through combination of aerial LIDAR surveys, surface soil sampling, magneto-telluric data acquisition, and drilling test boreholes to establish geothermal gradient. Geoscience data acquisition and integration are critical to reduce uncertainty and secure financing.
For 'new paradigm' geothermal, exploration involves targeting lithologies at sufficient depth with optimal geomechanical properties. Natural hydrothermal systems are not a requirement.
If analog and empirical data appear favorable, reservoir simulation may be required to improve the robustness of project economics across a full range of uncertainty, in greenfield and brownfield (post- first production) settings. Modeling may entail static/geologic modeling and dynamic simulation. The philosophy is comparable to integrated O&G modeling, although the variables are different. The founder of APEX Subsurface led an initiative related to model streamlining at a major O&G producer, again focused on uncertainty reduction and development optimization. Model output feeds directly into cash flows and economic forecasting.