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Fervo Energy drilling results show rapid advancement of geothermal performance

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Energy Global,

Fervo Energy has recently published early drilling results from its Cape Station project that exceed the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) expectations for enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). These results substantiate the rapid learning underway in the geothermal industry and signal readiness for continued commercialisation.

Fervo began its drilling campaign at Cape Station, its 400 MW project in southwest Utah, in June 2023, and over the last six months has successfully drilled one vertical and six horizontal wells there, rapidly reducing drilling times from well to well as learnings have accelerated. These advancements build on Fervo’s pioneering Project Red, commissioned in 2023, where Fervo drilled one vertical and two horizontal wells.

Fervo has consistently reduced drilling times and costs in horizontal, high-temperature, deep granite drilling. Though Cape wells are hotter and over 2100 ft deeper than Project Red wells, Fervo drilled its fastest Cape well in just 21 days, a 70% reduction in drilling time from Fervo’s first horizontal well drilled at Project Red in 2022. This increase in drilling efficiency has translated into significant cost reductions, with drilling costs across the first four horizontal wells at Cape falling from US$9.4 million to US$4.8 million per well.

“Since its inception, Fervo has looked to bring a manufacturing mentality to enhanced geothermal development, building a highly repeatable drilling process that allows for continuous improvement and, as a result, lower costs,” said Tim Latimer, Fervo Energy CEO and Co-Founder. “In just six months, we have proven that our technology solutions have led to a dramatic acceleration in forecasted drilling performance.”

Fervo’s drilling performance to date fits an expected learning rate of 35% for drilling time improvement, portending far more significant advances in performance and cost. This is the latest example that private sector work like Fervo’s Project Cape and pioneering research like DOE-sponsored Utah FORGE are rapidly moving the world of geothermal deployment forward.

“Fervo’s drilling improvements are like the early days of the shale revolution,” added Trey Lowe, Chief Technology Officer of Devon Energy. “When you operate continually and understand the resource, you dramatically streamline operations. That’s the unique value of Fervo’s approach to enhanced geothermal.”

Fervo achieved its results by increasing both the rate of penetration (ROP) and life of drill bits. On the fourth horizontal well drilled at Cape, for example, Fervo sustained an average ROP of 70 ft/h, already outpacing NREL’s 2035 projections for moderate technology improvement.

Modern oil and gas drilling equipment enabled this performance. Fervo used polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) drill bits typically deployed in shale basins to cut through hard, abrasive granite, while mud coolers counteracted high subsurface temperatures that have historically derailed geothermal exploration. These results underscore the applicability of oil and gas technology to enhanced geothermal.

“We now have the best drilling technology from the petroleum drilling industry. What encourages me now is that we’re starting to learn how to use it in ways that specifically maximise performance,” concluded Fred Dupriest, Professor of Engineering Practice at Texas A&M University and Former Chief Drilling Engineer at ExxonMobil. “Performance isn’t just what you use, but how you use it. We’re not just achieving technology transfer, but an impressive rate of knowledge transfer in how to use it.”



For more news and technical articles from the global renewable industry, read the latest issue of Energy Global magazine.

Energy Global's Winter 2023 issue

The Winter 2023 issue of Energy Global hosts an array of technical articles weather analysis, geothermal solutions, energy storage technology, and more. This issue also features a regional report looking at the future of renewables in North America, and a report from Théodore Reed-Martin, Editorial Assistant, Energy Global, on how Iceland utilises its unique geology for renewable energy.

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