Optimizing Geothermal Drilling: Oil and Gas Technology Transfer

Kate Denninger, Alfred Eustes, Walt Baker, Dan Bolton, Jason Bell, Sean Bell, Amelia Jacobs, Uneshddarann Nagandran, Mitch Tilley, Ralph Quick

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

    9 Scopus Citations


    There is a significant amount of financial risk associated with geothermal drilling. This study of drilling operations seeks opportunities to improve upon current practices and technologies. The scope of this study included analyzing 21 geothermal wells and 21 oil and gas wells. The goal was to determine a 'Perfect Well' using historical data to compare the best oil and gas well to the best geothermal well. Unfortunately, limitations encountered in the study included missing data (bit records, mud information, etc.) and poor data collection practices An online software database was used to format drilling data to IADC coded daily drilling reports and generate figures for analysis. Six major issues have been found in geothermal drilling operations. These problems include lost circulation, rig/ equipment selection, cementing, penetration rate, drilling program, and time management. As a result of these issues, geothermal drilling averaged 56.4 days longer than drilling comparable oil and gas wells in the wells in this study. Roughly $13.9 million was spent on non-productive time in the 21 geothermal wells, compared with only $1.3 million in the oil and gas wells, assuming a cost of $50,000 per day. Comparable events such as drilling the same sized hole, tripping in/out, cementing, and running the same size casing took substantially less time in the oil and gas wells. Geothermal wells were drilled using older and/or less advanced technology to depths less than 10,000 feet, while oil and gas wells reached 12,500 feet faster with purpose built rigs. A new approach is now underway that will optimize drilling programs throughout the drilling industry using Mechanical Specific Energy (MSE) as a tool to realize efficient drilling processes. Potential improvements for current geothermal operations are: the use of electronic records, real time services, and official glossary terms to describe rig operations, and advanced drilling rigs/technology.
    Original languageAmerican English
    Number of pages10
    StatePublished - 2015
    EventGeothermal Resources Council 2015 Annual Meeting - Reno, Nevada
    Duration: 20 Sep 201523 Sep 2015


    ConferenceGeothermal Resources Council 2015 Annual Meeting
    CityReno, Nevada

    NREL Publication Number

    • NREL/CP-6A10-66439


    • drilling
    • geothermal well cementing
    • lost circulation
    • mechanical specific energy
    • oil and gas
    • perfect well
    • performance qualifiers
    • rig management


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