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Allow Us to Introduce Ourselves: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

April 16, 2016


The Department of Energy’s Office of Science recognizes Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) as a lead laboratory in the area of subsurface science. Our unique history supporting the Hanford clean up site outside of Richland, Washington has given us decades of experience that also apply to other challenges facing the deep subsurface, like the geological storage of CO2 or the production of geothermal energy. Backed by this experience, we are proud to lead the NEWGEN project that aims to implement the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) at the Newberry Volcano in Central Oregon. FORGE is led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office.

There are three major areas where PNNL shines when it comes to advancing geothermal technology. They are reservoir stimulation, hybrid systems, and the code comparison study we do on behalf of the Geothermal Technologies Office.

Reservoir Stimulation

PNNL has developed an environmentally friendly fluid that can undergo volumetric expansions triggered by temperature. The stress associated with these expansions in volume has shown to consistently create/propagate fracture networks through highly impermeable igneous rock under enhanced geothermal systems.

Hybrid Systems

The U.S. Geothermal Technologies Office has acknowledged PNNL as a leader in hybrid systems through competitively selected Research and Development awards. These funded projects focus on technologies to recover rare earth elements combined with the use of low-grade geothermal resources. We are also developing materials that enhance heat transfer.

Code Comparison Study

Lastly, we lead the code comparison study, which is developing improved tools for the characterization and modeling of the subsurface at enhanced geothermal system project sites. It also demonstrates the ability of the scientific community to accurately detect reservoir characteristics including fluid pathways, dynamics, and residence times.

I am so excited for the chance to further enhanced geothermal system technologies and geothermal science at the NEWGEN site. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty!

About the Author

Dr. Alain Bonneville is a Laboratory Fellow at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington. He is the Principal Investigator for the NEWGEN project, one of the Department of Energy’s FORGE sites.


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