WorldWide Drilling Resource

14 APRIL 2022 WorldWide Drilling Resource® Revolutionary Drilling Technology Presented at Geothermal Rising Conference Adapted from Information by EurekAlert At the recent Geothermal Rising Conference in San Diego, California, Matt Houde, founder and project manager at Quaise Inc., shared a scientific paper about the first test campaign to bring potentially transformative geothermal drilling technology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to the world. The test campaign involves researchers from the industry, along with MIT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Based at ORNL, it is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy through the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). Coauthors of the paper presented by Houde include Quaise CEO Carlos Araque, Paul Woskov of the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC), Jimmy Lee of the PSFC, Ken Oglesby of Impact Technologies LLC, Tim Bigelow of ORNL, and Geoff Garrison and Matt Uddenberg of AltaRock Energy Inc. The mother lode of geothermal energy is about two to twelve miles beneath the earth’s surface where rock reaches 704ºF (374ºC), so hot if water could be pumped to the area, it would become supercritical, which is a steam-like phase similar to the vapor that makes clouds. Supercritical water can carry around five to ten times more energy than regular hot water, making it an extremely efficient energy source if it could be pumped aboveground to turbines and converted into electricity. Today, these resources are only accessed in places like Iceland and other areas where they are relatively close to the surface. The main obstacle is inability to drill deep enough. Drills used by gas and oil industries cannot withstand formidable temperatures and pressures found miles down. Quaise is working to replace conventional drill bits which mechanically break up rock. To do so, the company is researching millimeter wave energy, akin to energy used in microwave ovens. Millimeter waves (MMWs) literally melt then vaporize rock to create ever deeper holes. The general technique was developed by Woskov at MIT, who “over the last ten years demonstrated in the lab much of the core physics and science involved,” said Houde. Woskov, who recently completed testing which confirmed those data, also showed he could use MMWs to drill a hole in basalt with a 1:1 aspect ratio - two inches deep by two inches in diameter. Houde emphasized the general technology, such as the gyrotron machine producing the millimeter wave energy, is not new. “We’re leveraging some 70 years of research toward nuclear fusion as an energy source,” he added. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel because fusion has pushed this technology to the point where it can serve our purposes. We simply have to optimize it for deep drilling.” The Quaise technique also takes advantage of conventional drilling technologies such as those developed by gas and oil industries. Traditional methods will be used to drill through surface layers to bedrock. The new testing campaign at ORNL will use a gyrotron ten times more powerful than the one Woskov used at MIT. The goal of current testing is to drill a hole with a 10:1 aspect ratio. The more powerful gyrotron will allow simulation of the full drilling process. Specifically, it will allow the team to vaporize rock. Woskov’s gyrotron was only powerful enough to melt the basalt. “This will be the first time anyone has done this,” said Houde. As discussed in the Geothermal Rising presentation, current tests will result in a wealth of new data “that will enable us to fully model the MMW drilling process.” The team is already moving forward with plans and equipment for additional phases of the test campaign. For example, engineers are building a second test fixture for the next phase at ORNL when they will aim for a drilling aspect ratio of 100:1. “Next, we’ll go to the field for a 1000:1 demonstration. We are developing a prototype MMW drilling rig for that purpose,” said Houde. “It’s a matter of proving out the MMW process at deeper and deeper depths.” Quaise Inc. engineers with a second test fixture to be used in developing a novel geothermal drilling technique. GEO For more information call: (270) 786-3010 or visit us online: All New! Atlantis-Pro Vault • Traffic-Rated Capable • Simple installation • Trouble-free operation