High resource risk and high upstream exploration costs are key barriers to scaling up geothermal energy development globally. Reducing the upstream risk has, for a long time, been a priority area of the sector on several fronts. The DEEPEN project aims to contribute to this goal by increasing the probability of success when drilling for geothermal fluids in magmatic systems. This will be achieved by developing improved exploration methods and an improved framework for the joint interpretation of exploration data using the Play Fairway Analysis (PFA) methodology.
The development of the PFA methodology is among the more notable developments towards reducing geothermal resource risk in recent years. This methodology, which is inspired by best practices in the oil and gas industries, allows estimation of the combined probability of encountering high-temperature fluids, their producibility and recharge, in a sub-volume of the crust through joint inversion of several geoscientific exploration data sets. To date, the PFA methodology has been applied with significant success to several different geothermal play types. Still, much remains to be done to refine it for application to magmatic environments.
Developing the PFA methodology for magmatic environments is a priority area for the sector as most geothermal resources, currently under production, belong to this play type. Improved understanding of subsurface conditions in these environments would improve the success rate of drilling and, thus, directly impact the economic viability of geothermal power projects through reduced drilling cost. Furthermore, mounting evidence suggests that harvestable energy from magmatic geothermal reservoirs could be increased significantly by exploiting the bottom of convective geothermal reservoirs, towards the top of the magmatic heat sources, where superhot conditions prevail, to reach supercritical fluids (SCF) by deep drilling in an economically viable way the methodology for defining well targets needs to be improved. As a framework to interpret a diverse portfolio of geoscientific data, the PFA methodology could be a key tool to define drilling targets in the roots of magmatic geothermal systems.