Projects // SURE


Novel Productivity Enhancement Concept for a Sustainable Utilization of a Geothermal Resource

The EU project SURE, part of the “European Strategic Energy Technology Plan” (SET-PLAN) will research how to increase the number and efficiency of geothermal wells, while at the same time reducing the environmental damage linked to the production of this type of energy. The drilling technology “Radial Water Jet Drilling” constitutes a promising approach to this issue.

Project SURE will test the applicability of a drilling technology for geothermal wells, which uses high-pressure water jets to break through the rock formation. This process is called “Radial Water Jet Drilling”. Laterals will be drilled in existing wells in order to connect highly conductive areas at distances of currently 100m. This concept has been adapted from the oil and gas industry and has already proven to be an environmentally friendlier alternative for exploiting highly permeable structures in the rock mass in comparison to hydraulic or acid-based stimulation technologies.

This drilling technology promises improved economic viability for geothermal energy, for example, by using mobile and lower-cost drilling rigs (Coiled Tubing Rigs). The application of this drilling technology to exploit geothermal energy is an innovation that has only been tested in the oil and gas industry, and never under conditions that characterise a geothermal formation. Different project partners will investigate the drilling process in its different phases in order to gain more knowledge about the interaction between the drilling fluids and the geothermal formation.

At the microscale, the project will define the properties of the rocks, which are necessary to physically describe the destruction process through water jets, as well as the effectiveness of the laterals in the formation in comparison to regular hydraulic stimulation. At the mesoscale, the project will investigate the drilling process itself using tests designed under environmental and simulated reservoir conditions. The objective is to use the obtained results to optimise and further develop the drilling process with the objective of exploiting geothermal formations. At the macroscale, the project will test the “Radial Water Jet Drilling” process in a real scenario in order to determine whether permeable rock masses can be localised and connected reliably, and how much the productivity of the reservoir can be improved. The research at the different scales will be supported by the development of model-based simulations and methods, whose results will be validated using the evaluation of the different experiments and tests.

By improving the efficiency of a geothermal reservoir, the results of the SURE project may have a significant influence on the exploitation and development of geothermal energy systems. This can be made possible by the technological progress of the “Radial Water Jet Drilling” process, the better connection of highly permeable rock masses and flow paths to the well, the reduction of environmental damage by the drilling process itself and the elimination of fracking operations while still stimulating the geothermal reservoirs.

Information on funding and further project participants

Funding code: FKZ 654662