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Geo-Drill Project Q&A

Tue, 11 May, 2021

Geothermal is an underused renewable energy source as a result of the cost of investment and the long development cycles associated with it. A major obstacle to the wider use of geothermal energy is the cost of drilling to large depths and at high temperatures.

The Geo-Drill Project aims to address these issues through the development of new drilling technologies.

We spoke to Kevin Mallin, the Managing Director of Geo-Drill consortium member Geolorn Ltd, to find out more…

Can you start by introducing yourself and letting us know how you are involved in this project?

My name is Kevin Mallin and I am Managing Director of Geolorn Ltd, who are working as part of the the EU Horizon 2020 funded Research and Innovation project Geo-Drill. Geolorn is a project management and drilling engineering consultancy, whose project work includes hydro-carbon appraisal drilling in Namibia, geothermal resource potential in Slovakia, acting as drilling programme and engineering consultants to the NERC-funded Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Centre (Minewater) and Cheshire Energy Research Centre, as well as drilling management for a number of deep geothermal projects.

Geothermal technologies need to cope with harsh environments - can you let us know a little bit more about the operating environment for these tools?

Geothermal resources are varied in their types, depths, pressures and temperatures. These can range from high temperature brines, volcanic flows producing corrosive gases, through to high-strength igneous rocks. Depths of “deep geothermal resources” can range from 3,000m to over 6,000m; there are even projects planned to drill to in excess of 8,000m, where water becomes a “super-critical” fluid, with temperatures over 3500C. So, not only do the drilling tools have to cope with high temperatures, they also need to be able to drill formations that are very soft, right through to igneous formations that can have strengths over 300MPa. Wear on the bits is a major issue because, once worn, the whole drilling apparatus needs to be pulled out of the well so the bit can be changed and then run back in again. This is hugely time consuming and costly, so technologies and processes that reduce wear are very important. Another major concern is knowing what you are drilling through and, possibly, where you might encounter problems before those problems manifest themselves.

How does the Geo-Drill Project aim to solve these challenges?

What was identified during our funding proposal is that a highly skilled, multi-disciplinary team was required to try and address the multitude of problems that deep geothermal drilling faces.

Developments include new drilling tools that encompass proven technologies with improved operating parameters; new materials and coatings that prolong in-hole time; technology that allows for the rapid collection of information from the base of the well to make better decisions; and drilling experts that keep the whole project focused on the challenges. We also have cutting-edge computer modelling that helps us to understand what is happening during drilling, as well as a state-of-the-art simulator to test the drilling tools.

It truly is a holistic approach to solving the challenges of deep geothermal resources.

What are the expected benefits from the project?

Reduced drilling costs, through time saved due to longer tool life and drilling information acted upon.

How is the project progressing now, and what’s next for the project?

Like all projects there are periods of intense progress with minor lulls as the information gained from laboratory work is transformed into knowledge applied in the field. We have also been affected by Covid restrictions, although not as badly as some.

Once we have finished the laboratory testing, we will be field testing and hopefully we will then be able to run a full POC test somewhere on a project that will benefit from the Geo-Drill technology.


The Geo-Drill project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 815319