Geothermal energy prize names semifinalists

Geothermal energy prize names semifinalists
Sunset over a U.S. Department of Energy geothermal test site (Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada). Photo credit: Dick Benoit

Ten teams are semifinalists in the American-Made Geothermal Geophone Prize. They each earn $75,000 in cash prizes and $75,000 in vouchers for technical help to advance technologies to further develop the renewable energy resource.

Geophones are tools that are used to detect underground acoustic vibrations or to listen for seismic noise. They are useful in a variety of applications and increasingly in geothermal reservoir monitoring. 

However, traditional seismic monitoring tools cannot easily hold up to the high temperatures, high rock strengths, and corrosive working fluids in many of the hottest geothermal wells.

The prize aims to change that. As part of the American-Made Challenges program and funded by the Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office, the prize aims to advance the development of geophones that can stand up to harsh geothermal environments.

Enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) have the potential to enable development of more than 60 GW of renewable electricity capacity by 2050. The Geothermal Geophone Prize is intended to spark innovation and help achieve this potential by addressing challenges of operating high-temperature, downhole-capable seismic monitoring for EGS.

Geophones collect data sets that provide information about subsurface geothermal reservoirs and how the reservoir rock is evolving before, during, and after geothermal operations. 

Geophones can be deployed at the surface or in wells that place them closer to geothermal reservoirs. The deeper the dig—geothermal reservoirs exist from 8,000 to over 12,000 feet underground—the more robust, sensitive, and heat resistant monitoring tools need to be. 

In Phase 1 of the prize, competitors were asked to identify and develop an initial concept for a high-temperature, downhole seismic sensor utilizing currently available components. 

Phase 1 winners include:

Avalon (Houston, Texas): Chirped Laser Geophone for Geothermal Boreholes—An optical geophone designed to withstand high temperatures

GE (Niskayuna, New York): GE MEMS [Micro-Electro-Mechanical System] Downhole Geophone—Dual vibrating beam, high-temperature, and lower cost accelerometer

GeoPhotonics (Houston, Texas): Optical MEMS & Geothermal Seismology—All-fiber MEMS cantilever solution

Harold Snyder’s Team (Rockwall, Texas): Geothermal 3-Axis Accelerometer Microseismic Tool—Higher-sensitivity microseismic and 3D-printed accelerometer

Intelligent Fiber Optic Systems Inc. (San Jose, California): The GeoSense Solution—Addresses sensor and temperature challenges, with added data analytics

MagiQ Technologies Inc. (Somerville, Massachusetts): ThermaView Optical Seismic for Smart Geothermal—Newly advanced signal processing system, equipped with a smaller, more rugged accelerometer tool design

NXTANT (Rancho Palos Verdes, California): NXTANT—Project EAGLE is an advanced MEMs accelerometer designed with both aerospace and underwater technologies

OzIC High-Temperature Seismology (Fayetteville, Arkansas): High-Temperature LVDT-based Geophone—Offers a newly designed tool featuring advanced manufacturing components

PSG (Dallas, Texas): Photonic Seismometer for Geothermal Applications—New triaxial optical concept offering high temperature and pressure solutions

Ultra-High Temperature Seismic Tool (Dublin, Ohio): Ultra-High Temperature Seismic Tool—Combines advanced aerospace circuitry with proven oil and gas tooling.

During Phase 2, teams are being asked to advance their concepts and demonstrate the promise of their designs. Phase 2 is also open to interested parties who did not participate in Phase 1. Submissions for Phase 2 are due in October.