Atlas Copco Secoroc LLC and Sandia National Laboratories have been awarded US$3.4M by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for a joint research project to develop technology that would significantly increase the speed of drilling deep geothermal wells and reduce the cost of investment in this renewable energy source.
Geothermal energy has great potential as an environmentally friendly source of energy in many parts of the world, but developments are constrained by the high costs related to drilling deep wells in hard rock and high temperatures. Percussive tools, or down-the-hole hammers, are a promising technology for geothermal exploration and development as they rely on mechanisms well suited for the type of rock normally found in geothermal formations. Compared to conventional geothermal drilling methods, down-the-hole hammers could quadruple the penetration rates.
During the three-year project Atlas Copco Secoroc will design, develop, and test equipment. Sandia National Laboratories will provide computer models to evaluate hammer performance, materials and components. Sandia will also develop a high temperature test cell to evaluate hammer prototypes.
The grant is one of 32 research and design projects for geothermal power production funded through an initiative by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. These projects are designed to meet the challenge to generate 80% of U.S. electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.
“We look forward with great anticipation to the results of this project,” said Bob Fassl, Business Area President, Atlas Copco Mining and Rock Excavation Technique. “Atlas Copco already offers a wide range of products and services for geothermal development projects and this is clearly a future growth market for the Group.”