Establishing a Baseline for Global Geothermal Drilling Rates

Clara Larson, Jody Robins, Katherine Young, Alfred Eustes

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Geothermal is a promising source of renewable energy with almost zero emissions. However, there remains untapped geothermal potential around the world. This is largely because geothermal projects have high development costs and high resource-value uncertainty, and returns on initial investments can be slow to materialize. Increasing drilling efficiency of geothermal wells is one way to decrease development costs, as drilling accounts for up to 50% of the upfront costs of a geothermal power project. Currently, little quantitative information exists about how fast geothermal drilling occurs on a global scale. This paper was originally intended to be an extension of Frone and Boyd's 2018 report on geothermal drilling rates in California and Nevada. Our project includes global data and considers additional measures, such as flat time. Data for the project was limited to published papers and drilling reports that are publicly available online. The goal of our project was to establish a baseline geothermal drilling rate that is representative of current global geothermal drilling practices can be used to gauge the impact of future improvements in geothermal drilling technology. We recorded the number of days from beginning to end of a project, the number of days spent drilling, and the number of days considered to be flat time. We found the average global rate at which a drilling project is completed (including non-drilling activities) to be 160 ft/day, and the average drilling rate (including only time during which active drilling occurred) to be 360 ft/day. Our data shows no clear trend in rate change from 2000 to 2017 and significant variability in drilling rates between countries and within countries.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages18
StatePublished - 2021
EventWorld Geothermal Congress 2020+1 - Reykjavik, Iceland
Duration: 1 Apr 202131 Oct 2021


ConferenceWorld Geothermal Congress 2020+1
CityReykjavik, Iceland

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5500-75275


  • baseline
  • drilling rates
  • geothermal
  • rate of penetration


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