Laser-Mechanical Drilling for Geothermal Energy

Foro Energy
Low-Contact Drilling Technology to Enable Economical EGS Wells
Graphic of Foro's technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$9,141,030
Location: 
Littleton, CO
Project Term: 
01/15/2010 to 09/30/2013
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Geothermal energy is a potentially vast source of clean baseload electricity in the U.S. However, it is difficult and expensive to penetrate the ultra-hard rock formations found at many prospective geothermal sites. Conventional drill bits penetrate ultra-hard rock formations slowly and wear down quickly, which makes the drilling process time consuming and expensive. More economical drilling methods are required to enable access to next-generation energy resources, including geothermal and natural gas.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Foro Energy is developing a unique capability and hardware system to transmit high power lasers over long distances via fiber optic cables. This laser power is integrated with a mechanical drilling bit to enable rapid and sustained penetration of hard rock formations too costly to drill with mechanical drilling bits alone. The laser energy that is directed at the rock basically softens the rock, allowing the mechanical bit to more easily remove it. Foro Energy's laser-assisted drill bits have the potential to be up to 10 times more economical than conventional hard-rock drilling technologies, making them an effective way to access the U.S. energy resources currently locked under hard rock formations.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, Foro Energy's technology would be a key enabler of economical access to the estimated over 100,000 megawatts of baseload geothermal electrical power in the U.S. by 2050.
Security: 
Increased access to domestic energy sources like geothermal and natural gas would help break U.S. dependence on foreign energy sources.
Environment: 
Geothermal resources are a clean, renewable source of baseload electrical power.
Economy: 
Cost-effective access to domestic energy resources could help spur expansion of the U.S. geothermal and natural gas industries.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Timothy Heidel
Project Contact: 
Dr. Joel Moxley