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Can one end-to-end solution solve all the problems geothermal projects encounter, and defuse the complexity that sometimes plagues them? Jonathon Clearwater, Technical Domain Expert, Reservoir Engineer, believes there’s an answer in Volsung.

Geothermal energy has enormous potential as a clean energy source, and is already being used worldwide, both as a provider of heat for local communities, or more commonly to drive electrical generators using steam or liquid from geothermal reservoirs. It has a longer history than people may think (geothermal reservoirs were being used to create electricity as long ago as 1904), and has a global footprint that spans Indonesia to Iceland, and the US to Kenya.

While occasionally viewed as the less well known relation of the green energy revolution – with solar and wind gaining the lion’s share of attention and investment – this is an unfair judgement of a technology with enormous promise.

The amount of heat within just 10,000 metres of the Earth’s surface contains 50,000 times more energy than all the oil and natural gas resources in the world. Geothermal power plants produce far less carbon dioxide than other energy plants. There is already a commitment from the Global Geothermal Alliance to deliver a five-fold increase in installed geothermal capacity by 2030. Analysis by Rystad Energy estimates that US$7.4bn will be spent on European geothermal heating projects alone between now and that deadline. All this will see geothermal move firmly into the mainstream of green energy creation. We believe it is a coming hero of the sustainable energy revolution.

However, it is also true to say that geothermal plants have a unique set of challenges that lead some investors to consider them – not always rightly – as more of a risk than solar or wind.

Overcoming the challenges geothermal must work with

They can be geoscientifically complex. Fully understanding the physical processes involved, including fluid flow, thermodynamics and the dynamic response of a geothermal system to development is key for success.… In short, there is a lot to consider, and a number of different geoscientific disciplines to master in order to paint a clear picture of the true potential of any geothermal site. Even extracting the energy has an impact on the energy you can extract! Each new well you drill can affect the productivity of other wells in the field, and this must all be factored in to the long-term productivity, maintenance, and management of a geothermal resource. (In comparison, you could cover the Earth’s surface with solar panels and still not suck the sun dry.)

But it could also be true to say that these complexities arise not through lack of knowledge, but lack of connected workflow.

Thoroughly simulating all the twists and turns of a geothermal resource has been challenging in the past. Modelling solutions have not always been able to take onboard every form of data geothermal projects throw up. They may be able to capture part of the problem, or one layer of the heat’s journey, but stop short of delivering an end-to-end answer. Numerical models may turn out to be inconsistent with the geology, or struggle to include all the relevant physics. The addition of best in class Volsung flow simulation and wellbore modelling software to the Seequent stable of products for the geothermal community as well as its interoperability with Leapfrog Energy geological modelling software is a major step forwards in Seequent’s ability to further support the burgeoning geothermal industry.

One place for all the answers

Volsung is an integrated solution to comprehensively model and simulate geothermal processes, from subsurface reservoirs to surface systems. This holistic simulation combines reservoir, wellbore and surface network simulators with advanced features such as microgravity and subsidence forecasting, tracer modelling, Monte Carlo analysis and GPU-based parallel processing.

This end-to-end analysis, and the ability to integrate every element of the science in a single package, offers major advantages to geothermal teams.

  • It speeds up modelling times, helping to reduce costs and accelerate development.
  • Volsung supplies a robust and reliable wellbore model, and enables 3D visualisation of model outputs, including individual cell properties and flow vectors.
  • What’s more, geology and conceptual models can be directly imported from Leapfrog, improving workflows and efficiency.

As a solution specifically designed around the challenges and ambitions of the geothermal industry, we think it is perfectly placed to deliver the one thing all such projects need more of – confidence. Confidence that you’re exploring in the right place, getting an accurate assessment of your resources, fully understanding the risks and geological issues present, and making reliable predictions on your long-term energy production.

Seequent aims to be a major partner for the geothermal industry, an industry we consider to be critically important during the largest energy transition in human history. Perhaps one of the largest transitions of any kind. Seequent software is already supporting around 40% of the currently installed geothermal capacity around the world. Volsung is the next step in bringing the promise of geothermal to fruition and shaping the future of energy usage across the planet.

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