WorldWide Drilling Resource

41 MAY 2022 WorldWide Drilling Resource® MSU Pioneers a Different Type of Geothermal Technology Adapted from Information by Montana State University (MSU) Construction at a rural Montana school is giving MSU researchers an opportunity to help pioneer a new kind of geothermal heating and cooling system. As part of a major addition to the K-12 school in Winifred which serves about 130 students, a team of MSU engineering faculty and students guided the development of an innovative configuration for the closed-loop piping. The new system reduces the depth of the piping, resulting in shorter times required to drill holes. "We're documenting every step of this process to figure out how this pencils out over the long run,” said Kevin Amende, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at MSU, and leader of the project. The holes in Winifred took about onethird to one-sixth the time to drill as traditional, deep boreholes. The drilling contractor for this job typically drills for gas and oil, and Amende said the expanded use of more economical geothermal technology could help provide an alternative livelihood for gas and oil drilling professionals. The new MSU system is something of a hybrid with 500 feet of pipe in corkscrewlike coils inserted into holes that are 50 feet deep and 3 feet wide. Once it is operational, Amende’s team will measure the energy performance of the system. A group of three MSU engineering students, assisting the effort as part of a senior capstone project, are analyzing the new system compared to a traditional configuration. “It’s really cool that this is first time that this has been done,” said capstone team member Evan Bolen, who is majoring in mechanical engineering. “There’s been a steep learning curve, for sure, but it’s definitely something that we’re excited to be part of." "This could be ideal for certain situations,” remarked Amende. Researchers are trying to determine the possibility of a wide range of applications for this type of system, including in residential development or in places where deep boreholes are prohibitive due to shallow aquifers or other limitations. Collaborating on the geothermal project are Williams Plumbing and Heating, Associated Construction Engineers, Noble Casing, Major Geothermal, A&E Design, Dick Anderson Construction, Century Companies, and AAON. "Being able to bring together trade workers, engineers, and geothermal designers with a holistic approach like this isn’t something we usually get to do as researchers,” said Amende. “It's really cool to be able to do that and to include students in that as well." Completed boreholes are shown at the school’s construction site. Courtesy of Kevin Amende. GEO