Advanced Drilling Technologies for Geothermal

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Advanced drilling technologies are crucial for accessing and developing geothermal resources, particularly for Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) and deeper geothermal reservoirs. These technologies aim to improve drilling efficiency, reduce costs, and minimize environmental impacts, enabling the expansion of geothermal energy production.

Impact on climate action

Advanced Drilling Technologies in Geothermal Energy bolster climate action by unlocking deeper, hotter geothermal reservoirs. By increasing access to geothermal resources, these innovations expand renewable energy capacity, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and mitigate carbon emissions, accelerating the transition to a sustainable and low-carbon energy system.


  • Directional Drilling: This technique allows for drilling wells at an angle or even horizontally, enabling access to geothermal resources that are not directly below the drilling rig.
  • Horizontal Drilling: Horizontal drilling involves drilling a wellbore that extends horizontally through a reservoir, maximizing contact with the geothermal resource and increasing heat extraction efficiency.
  • Multi-Lateral Drilling: This technique involves drilling multiple lateral wellbores from a single vertical well, further increasing reservoir contact and heat extraction.
  • Coiled Tubing Drilling: Coiled tubing drilling uses a continuous reel of flexible tubing instead of rigid drill pipe, allowing for faster and more efficient drilling in certain formations.
  • Drilling Fluids and Cementing: Advanced drilling fluids and cementing techniques are essential for maintaining wellbore stability and preventing fluid loss or contamination of groundwater resources.

TRL : 6-8 (depending on the specific technology)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Automated Drilling Systems: Automation and robotics are being increasingly used in drilling operations to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance safety.
  • High-Temperature and High-Pressure Drilling Tools: New drilling tools and materials are being developed to withstand the harsh conditions encountered in deep geothermal wells.
  • Real-Time Drilling Data Analytics: Sensors and data analytics are used to monitor drilling parameters in real-time, enabling optimization of drilling processes and early detection of potential problems.
  • Closed-Loop Drilling Systems: Closed-loop drilling systems recycle and treat drilling fluids, minimizing water usage and environmental impacts.
  • Drilling with Supercritical CO2: Researchers are exploring the use of supercritical CO2 as a drilling fluid, offering advantages in terms of environmental friendliness and reduced formation damage.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Precision Drilling Methods
  • Automation in Drilling Operations
  • Next-Generation Drilling Tools
  • Sustainable Drilling Fluids
  • Reservoir Engineering Innovations
  • Real-Time Drilling Optimization
  • Closed-Loop Drilling Systems
  • High-Temperature Drilling Solutions
  • Drilling Safety and Risk Management
  • Geothermal Wellbore Stability
  • Advanced Cementing Techniques
  • Geothermal Drilling in Extreme Environments
  • Multi-Lateral Drilling Applications
  • Drill Bit Technology Advancements
  • Geothermal Drilling Fluid Chemistry
  • Geomechanics in Geothermal Drilling
  • Geothermal Drilling Data Analytics

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. Quaise Energy:
    • Technology Enhancement: Quaise Energy specializes in developing advanced drilling technologies for geothermal energy extraction. Their approach involves using high-power lasers to drill deep into the Earth’s crust, enabling access to geothermal reservoirs previously considered inaccessible. By utilizing laser drilling, Quaise aims to unlock vast sources of clean, renewable geothermal energy.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Quaise Energy stands out for its innovative use of laser technology in drilling, offering a potentially disruptive solution to traditional drilling methods in the geothermal industry. Their approach has the potential to reduce drilling costs, increase drilling speed, and access geothermal resources in locations where conventional methods are challenging or impractical.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Quaise Energy serves the geothermal energy industry, utilities, and renewable energy developers seeking cost-effective and scalable solutions for geothermal resource exploration and development. Their advanced drilling technologies could enable the expansion of geothermal energy production globally, supporting the transition to a low-carbon energy future.
  2. Eavor Technologies:
    • Technology Enhancement: Eavor Technologies specializes in developing and commercializing the Eavor-Loop, a novel closed-loop geothermal energy system. Unlike traditional geothermal systems that rely on drilling directly into hot rock formations, the Eavor-Loop uses a network of horizontal wells to circulate a working fluid through a subsurface heat exchanger, extracting heat from the Earth’s natural heat gradient.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Eavor Technologies stands out for its innovative approach to geothermal energy extraction, offering a closed-loop system that eliminates the need for traditional drilling techniques and mitigates environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing. The Eavor-Loop provides a scalable and environmentally friendly solution for accessing geothermal energy resources worldwide.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Eavor Technologies serves utilities, industrial customers, and renewable energy developers seeking reliable and sustainable energy solutions. The Eavor-Loop’s versatility and scalability make it suitable for various applications, including baseload power generation, district heating, and industrial process heat.
  3. Fervo Energy:
    • Technology Enhancement: Fervo Energy focuses on developing enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) using advanced drilling and reservoir engineering techniques. Their approach involves drilling deep into hot rock formations and creating artificial fractures to enhance heat transfer and fluid circulation. Fervo’s expertise in geothermal reservoir optimization aims to increase energy extraction efficiency and reduce project costs.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Fervo Energy stands out for its emphasis on innovation in geothermal drilling and reservoir engineering, offering tailored solutions for enhancing geothermal resource productivity and sustainability. Their EGS approach could unlock significant geothermal potential worldwide, providing a reliable and dispatchable source of renewable energy.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Fervo Energy serves the geothermal energy industry, utilities, and energy investors seeking to develop and operate enhanced geothermal projects. Their advanced drilling technologies and reservoir optimization techniques offer a competitive advantage in accessing deep geothermal resources and maximizing energy output.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Research Focus: MIT is renowned for its research on Advanced Drilling Technologies for Geothermal Energy, focusing on developing cutting-edge drilling methods, tools, and techniques to access deeper and hotter geothermal reservoirs cost-effectively and efficiently.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the design and optimization of advanced drilling systems, including rotary, directional, and underbalanced drilling technologies, tailored for geothermal applications. They also explore novel materials, coatings, and drilling fluids to improve drill bit performance, reduce wear and friction, and enhance drilling speed and accuracy.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), deep geothermal wells, and geothermal heat pumps. By advancing drilling technologies, MIT’s research aims to unlock the vast potential of geothermal energy resources worldwide, providing clean, renewable, and baseload power generation, heating, and cooling solutions for residential, commercial, and industrial applications.
  2. Stanford University:
    • Research Focus: Stanford University conducts groundbreaking research on Advanced Drilling Technologies for Geothermal Energy, leveraging its expertise in rock mechanics, fluid dynamics, and reservoir engineering to develop innovative solutions for deep geothermal exploration and production.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the development of advanced drilling models, simulation tools, and predictive analytics to optimize drilling performance, mitigate risks, and maximize resource recovery in geothermal reservoirs. They also investigate downhole sensing technologies, real-time monitoring systems, and intelligent drilling algorithms to improve wellbore stability, geosteering accuracy, and geothermal reservoir characterization.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in geothermal power plants, district heating systems, and geothermal-based industrial processes. By enhancing drilling technologies, Stanford’s research supports the expansion of geothermal energy production, grid stability, and renewable energy integration, contributing to climate change mitigation and energy security.
  3. University of Oklahoma:
    • Research Focus: University of Oklahoma is engaged in innovative research on Advanced Drilling Technologies for Geothermal Energy, leveraging its expertise in petroleum engineering, geology, and geophysics to address the unique challenges and opportunities associated with geothermal exploration and development.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the adaptation of oil and gas drilling technologies, such as rotary steerable systems, measurement-while-drilling (MWD), and logging-while-drilling (LWD) tools, for geothermal applications. They also investigate novel drilling fluids, borehole stability models, and geothermal wellbore integrity assessment methods to optimize drilling operations in high-temperature and high-pressure environments.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in geothermal resource assessment, reservoir characterization, and drilling risk management. By advancing drilling technologies for geothermal energy, University of Oklahoma’s research aims to expand the geothermal energy industry, create jobs, and promote economic development in geothermally favorable regions, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Advanced drilling technologies are being implemented in geothermal projects around the world, enabling the development of deeper and more challenging geothermal resources. For example, directional drilling and horizontal drilling are commonly used in EGS projects to access hot rock formations.