Geothermal Energy: How Commercial Drilling Helps Explore Renewable Energy

For over 85 years, Tacoma Pump and Drilling has been at the forefront of advanced drilling technology, equipment, and techniques. Our goal has been to utilize drilling for the benefit of our clients, community, and also our climate. While our passion for environmental preservation is reflected through our water well drilling, it is also profoundly evident in our work on geothermal energy commercial drilling projects.

A common question we often face, however, is how drilling and renewable energy work together. What does it look like, exactly, to provide drilling services in the work of discovering, exploring, and demonstrating the possibilities available with geothermal energy?

Tacoma Pump and Drilling has worked on many geothermal drilling projects over the years. In 2012, we partnered with AltaRock Energy Inc. to support their work at the Newberry Enhanced Geothermal System Demonstration Project in Central Oregon. This ongoing project is designed to research and develop ways to engineer geothermal systems where they might not naturally produce enough energy to harness. While we continue to provide geothermal drilling across the region, here is how one particular drilling project helped advance research and open up new possibilities for renewable energy in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. 

What is Geothermal Energy?

Geothermal energy is a naturally occurring energy that is both stored and generated in the earth. Heat from the earth, combined with water, produces steam as the water rises to the surface. That steam, when harnessed, can be used to power turbines and produce electricity. The water eventually goes back into the earth to begin the process again.

While this is a simplified understanding of geothermal energy, what it reveals about the renewable energy source is that there are three important elements to the use of geothermal energy: heat, water, and pathways for the water to travel through. 

The Newberry Project in Oregon was an Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) project, meaning we were working with researchers, engineers, and hydrogeologists to understand how to develop the naturally occurring thermal energy, expand its potential, and harness it to create electricity.

Drilling for Renewable Energy

Our role in the Newberry EGS project was to drill or deepen several new and existing boreholes at the site in Central Oregon, near the Newberry Volcano National Monument. We were also tasked with deepening an existing water well.

Each of our drilling projects was designed to help the EGS demonstration team monitor and better understand the thermal energy being produced beneath the site. Several boreholes were drilled as temperature gradient holes and the others were for seismometer placement. 

The overall goal of the EGS demonstration was to build a design for a commercial-scale well field and power plant that could provide electricity to up to 35,000 homes. With our work at the Newberry EGS project, we were able to get the research team one step closer to their goal. 

The data garnered from our drilling sites helped them determine where to implement hydraulic shearing—a process that pumps water down into the earth to enhance the existing subterranean water supply and its pathways. This enhancement of existing thermal energy is what defines EGS, a process that could allow us to tap into geothermal renewable energy across the United States. 

The relationship between drilling and renewable energy comes down to two key components: water supply (tapping into well water), and research (understanding the seismic and thermal behavior happening beneath the earth’s surface). Without drilling, it is impossible to determine how much water is needed to enhance the existing thermal energy, and where that energy (and heat) are the most prominent. Partnering with the Newberry EGS project was just one of many opportunities we’ve had to explore geothermal energy and develop the potential for renewable energy for this and future generations. 

Commercial Projects with Tacoma Pump and Drilling

We are excited to use our drilling technology, experience, and knowledge to help advance the study of renewable energy in our region. Our commercial drilling projects also extend beyond geothermal energy as we provide water, environmental, and construction drilling for municipalities, corporations, geological surveys, and more. Contact us to get a quote for your next drilling project.