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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.


Reflections On Stanford Geothermal Workshop

March 11, 2016

One of the key challenges in enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) is to understand how a fluid flows in the fracture network created by the stimulation processes. What is the extent of the fractures? What are their aperture? Are they connected? Is the surface of exchange between the fluid (water most of the time) and the hot rocks large enough to recover most of the heat present in the rocks? All these questions are fundamental for the success of any EGS project.

This “hot” topic was largely discussed during the last Stanford Geothermal Workshop held at Stanford University, Stanford, CA, between February 22nd and 24th, 2016 where more than 400 scientists from all over the world gather to present their latest findings and discuss innovative ideas.

Among all the papers presented on this subject, one particularly caught my attention.


Example of a fracture network created by a 3D printer (Suzuki et al., 2016).

It was presented by Ana Suzuki and collaborators who have used a 3D printer to create artificial and well controlled fracture network models with different geometric characteristics. They inject tracers in the created plastic model to map the fractures and then compare their results in terms of fractures properties to the results obtained by numerical simulation on the same geometry (see figure). The numerical modelling is thus calibrated and the tracers can now be used to characterize real fracture networks. This is quite an achievement!

Ana Suzuki is postdoc at Stanford University in the Geothermal Program of Prof. Roland Horne. You can learn more about Ana’s research here.

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.

NEWGEN Website Launched!

February 23, 2016

We’re excited to announce the launch of our new website dedicated entirely to the Newberry Geothermal Energy project. Check it out at and be sure to click on the video explaining geothermal energy and the FORGE initiative. We’ll continue to update this blog, our Facebook page, and the new website as the project moves forward. Thanks for staying tuned!


Welcome to the new look of the Newberry Geothermal Energy blog!

January 12, 2016

Newberry Geothermal Energy (NEWGEN) is a collaborative effort lead by a team of researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Oregon State University and AltaRock Energy, Inc. Combining research, academic and industry experience, this dynamic group will push geothermal energy research forward at the Newberry Volcano Enhanced Geothermal Energy (EGS) field site. Newberry Geothermal Energy is funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) through a competitive grant process which provides staged funding opportunities over the next several years. Five initial teams and field sites were selected in early 2015 to kick-off the DOE Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) initiative, and the Newberry site is a strong contender amongst them.

The project is currently in Phase I of III and has received $400,000 in initial funding from the DOE FORGE initiative plus additional investments from partner institutions. Phase I will culminate in a conceptual geologic model detailing the geothermal resource at Newberry Volcano, and a final report and presentation to the DOE FORGE review committee in the spring of 2016. Together, the conceptual geologic model, report and presentation will articulate Newberry’s suitability as the nation’s FORGE site. The five competing groups in Phase I will be down-selected to a maximum of three groups which will continue to Phase II. Phase II will involve further site characterization, team building and planning, followed by down-selection to the final FORGE site which will continue into Phase III. Phase III will involve field site development, well drilling, reservoir stimulation and testing and other competitively funded research and development activities related to EGS.

If Newberry Geothermal Energy is selected as the final FORGE site, there will be significant economic benefits to Central Oregon, the state and the region as scientists and engineers from around the country and the world come to the community to do research. The NEWGEN site is just 28 miles from OSU-Cascades, Oregon State University’s branch campus in Bend, creating opportunities for faculty research, student internships and community engagement. Successful development of the Newberry site into a national laboratory for EGS research will support cutting-edge science and engineering dedicated to bringing geothermal energy online at competitive market rates across the country. The laboratory will also serve as a training site for those entering the sustainable energy workforce.

Eventually, research breakthroughs at FORGE will enable development of the massive geothermal resource on Newberry Volcano with the potential to create up to 300 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs. In addition, the State of Oregon and Deschutes County will benefit from royalty income generated by the project during Phase III. The technologies to be tested and developed at NEWGEN will be applicable across the many volcanic areas of the western US, opening them up to EGS technology and making a real difference to the national capacity for EGS power generation.

With a long history of investment and research at Newberry, the site is well-aligned with DOE FORGE goals and requirements. Previous research at Newberry has made significant progress in characterizing the geologic and thermal properties of the area and significantly improved our understanding of EGS development in volcanic terrains. The Newberry Geothermal Energy team is dedicated to improving the scientific understanding of EGS development, deployment and effective management to generate sustainable energy for the future.

We thank you for visiting and hope you’ll continue to support us in our efforts to bring A Research Observatory for a Sustainable Future to Central Oregon!

Susan Petty speaks about Geothermal Energy at Paris Climate Summit

December 8, 2015
COP21 logo

AltaRock Energy, Inc. founder, Susan Petty recently spoke about the role of renewable geothermal energy at the Re-energising the Future conference as part of the COP21 Paris Climate Summit. A video of the session is available here, and Susan’s talk begins at 1:48 of Part 2.

Media Mentions: Think Geoenergy

November 19, 2015

Think Geoenergy has posted a new story about the Department of Energy’s road trip to visit the FORGE sites. Here’s the link to Roadtrip to the candidates for the FORGE geothermal research project in the U.S.Newberry wellhead

Media Mentions: Recently in the News

November 11, 2015

Local media sources have printed a few stories about the Newberry area recently. Here’s a link to the Sunriver Scene, with an article on page 11. Local news channel KTVZ-21 and the Bend Bulletin have also posted stories related to the recent micro-seismic events taking place southwest of Newberry. While these micro-seismic events are naturally occurring and unrelated to EGS development at Newberry, we wanted to share these articles with you anyway. If you’re interested in learning more about seismicity in the Pacific Northwest, the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network offers a great interactive map of seismic activity in the area. Check it out!


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