Geothermal Drilling Speeds Up by 70%, Costs Slashed by Half Since 2022

Sandy Rivers
By Sandy Rivers
The Cape Station facility in southern Utah. Credit: Fervo Energy

Fervo Energy has achieved groundbreaking progress in geothermal drilling, boasting a 70% faster drilling process at half the cost of previous efforts, setting a new precedent in the renewable energy sector. At its Cape Station facility in southern Utah, Fervo drilled a horizontal well in just 21 days for US$4.8 million, down from $9.4 million for a similar project in Nevada in 2022. In short, Fervo just proved it can drill for 50% less!

This advancement isn’t just a stride in efficiency, but a leap towards making geothermal energy a mainstay in clean power generation.

“We now have the best drilling technology from the petroleum drilling industry,” Fred Dupriest, a professor of engineering at Texas A&M University and former Chief Drilling Engineer at ExxonMobil, stated, underscoring the significance of adopting and adapting oil and gas drilling innovations for geothermal purposes. Dupriest’s comments reflect a broader theme of cross-industry knowledge transfer that is rapidly accelerating the development of geothermal energy.

The company’s efforts are part of a broader ambition to harness the Earth’s heat more efficiently and affordably. Last year, Fervo’s Project Red in Nevada, backed by Google, showcased the potential of enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) by producing 3.4 megawatts of power, sufficient for around 500 American households. The project demonstrated not only the viability of EGS but also its scalability and connection to the grid, providing a sustainable power source for Google’s data centers.

Google's geothermal plant in Nevada was designed and built by Fervo.

Fervo’s success in Utah, drilling wells over 2,100 feet deeper and at significantly lower costs, highlights the technical and economic potential of geothermal energy. Utilizing polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) drill bits and mud coolers, technologies borrowed from the oil and gas industry, Fervo has set a new standard in drilling efficiency.

“The biggest expense in drilling is time it takes to drill. The easiest way to reduce drilling costs is to drill faster,” said Tim Latimer, Fervo’s co-founder and chief executive. Latimer’s approach to drilling mirrors the rapid advancements seen in the oil and gas sector, suggesting a bright future for geothermal energy as a competitive, 24/7 clean energy source.

Fervo’s innovative drilling techniques not only promise to lower the cost of geothermal energy, but also to expand its feasibility to new regions, potentially unlocking vast new sources of clean energy right now as the world awaits the arrival of fusion energy

As Fervo gears up for its ambitious project in Utah, aiming to produce 400 megawatts of continuous power by 2028, the implications for the clean energy landscape are profound.

Latimer’s vision for Fervo is emblematic of a broader trend in renewable energy: leveraging learning curves and technological innovation to drive down costs and increase accessibility. The company’s strategy is simple and direct – streamline and automate drilling processes to improve efficiency and lower costs. 

"We think geothermal will be on the end of that spectrum like solar or LEDs or battery that benefits from a learning curve because we figured out a way to standardize."
Tim Latimer

As Fervo Energy continues to pioneer advancements in geothermal drilling, its achievements represent more than just technical milestones. They signal a shift towards a sustainable energy future where geothermal power plays a pivotal role, offering a reliable, clean, and increasingly affordable energy source for the world.

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