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Study of Additive Manufacturing Application to Geothermal Technologies...

Publication Type
Conference Paper
Book Title
Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering
Publication Date
Conference Name
PROCEEDINGS, 45th Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering
Conference Location
Stanford, California, United States of America
Conference Sponsor
Stanford University
Conference Date

Geothermal reservoir characterization, field construction, and reservoir operations are very technology intensive activities that contribute significantly to the cost of delivering electricity produced from geothermal resources. Many geothermal technologies, such as downhole tools and drilling equipment, have unusual material, design, and manufacturing considerations dictated by the harsh geothermal environment and extreme aspect ratios required for deployment in a borehole. An additional challenge that faces geothermal applications is the low tool production volume needed to support the industry. Whereas tens of thousands of Oil & Gas wells are drilled and completed in the U.S. annually, there are typically only tens of geothermal wells that are drilled and completed. If a tool typically used in Oil & Gas applications cannot be directly used for geothermal, then the cost associated with making the tool suitable for geothermal is often prohibitive. There is therefore a much smaller inventory of technologies available to geothermal as compared to Oil & Gas and the level of efficiency and sophistication associated with field practice suffers accordingly. A number of advanced manufacturing methods, such as additive manufacturing, have received increased R&D as well as commercial attention in recent years because of their ability to rapidly prototype complex parts. Additive manufacturing in particular provides an opportunity to increase the technology available to the geothermal industry by either reducing fabrication costs associated with complex components or enabling economic production of low volume parts where specialized tooling is often required. Additional potential benefits of additive manufacturing include increased design freedom to make higher performing parts that cannot be made conventionally, the ability to integrate components into assemblies without joining operations, and the ability to economically fabricate variations on design in cases, such as casting molds, where there are large up-front costs associated with tooling. We have recently completed a study that investigated technology needs, representative use cases, manufacturability, and a techno-economic framework for comparing conventional to additive manufacturing methods for geothermal applications. This paper will provide an overview of this recent effort, describe the different elements of the assessment, and summarize the key takeaways related to both the feasibility of using additive manufacturing for geothermal technology applications as well as the potential benefits and impacts.