From Department of Energy (US) : “Department of Energy Selects Four Projects to Receive up to $3.5 Million to Advance Research in Machine Learning for Geothermal Energy”

From Department of Energy (US)

July 9, 2021

DOE Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (US)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced today the selection of four projects to receive up to $3.5 million to apply machine learning techniques to geothermal exploration and production datasets. This work constitutes the Phase 2 portion of research and development (R&D) conducted under the DOE Geothermal Technologies Office’s (GTO) FY 2018 Machine Learning for Geothermal Energy funding opportunity.

These four projects, led by DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Colorado School of Mines (CSM) (US), University of Houston (US), and Pennsylvania State University (US), will build on previous work on machine learning algorithms and large geothermal datasets. Machine learning – the use of advanced algorithms to identify patterns in and make inferences from data – could assist in finding and developing new geothermal resources. If applied successfully, machine learning could lead to higher success rates in exploratory drilling, greater efficiency in plant operations, and ultimately lower costs for geothermal energy operators.

Vast potential exists for geothermal in the United States, but only 3.7 gigawatts electric (GWe) of energy capacity are currently installed. GTO’s 2019 GeoVision study concludes that with technology improvements, including the exploration techniques funded through this initiative, geothermal power generation could increase 26-fold from today, representing 60 GWe by 2050.

“Machine learning and artificial intelligence can provide impactful insights on large, complicated datasets, —like those used to analyze geothermal energy,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman. “As evidenced by the progress made by these four teams over the past eighteen months, geothermal developers will soon be the newest researchers able to use this cutting-edge technology in their chosen field.”

During Phase 1, LANL researchers developed GeoThermalCloud, a flexible, open-source, cloud-based machine learning framework designed to 1) discover new hidden geothermal signatures within existing large datasets, and 2) fuse big data and multi-physics models to develop data acquisition strategies. Phase 2 will expand GeoThermalCloud to accommodate a new range of datasets, including public, proprietary, satellite, airborne survey, and seismic data.

The CSM team will expand on its Phase 1 research by developing an explainable deep learning model (DLM) for the Coso Geothermal Area in California using surface and subsurface data sets. This will aid in detecting potential geothermal exploration sites from hyperspectral images to reduce the uncertainties associated with geothermal exploration, as well as provide a more in-depth understanding of the relation between surface and subsurface indicators of geothermal sources.

Houston’s Phase 2 research will focus on detecting and characterizing fracture zones, which is of great interest to operators of existing geothermal fields in western Nevada, with future application potential across various regions of geothermal resource activity. Models of faults and fractures captured and imaged in Phase 2 can support geothermal operators in their efforts to probe fluid flow pathways. This can help provide answers to key questions such as where to drill, permeability factors, and how much a resource can produce.

During Phase 1, Penn State researchers developed machine learning methods, using both field data and lab data, to locate and predict lab-scale seismicity, predict fluid injection characteristics, and model the evolution of reservoir permeability. Phase 2 work will expand on this by further exploring linkage between seismicity and permeability, improving machine learning models for enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) permeability and production, and building a flexible, baseline model for earthquake prediction and subsurface stress monitoring.

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The Department of Energy (US) is a cabinet-level department of the United States Government concerned with the United States’ policies regarding energy and safety in handling nuclear material. Its responsibilities include the nation’s nuclear weapons program; nuclear reactor production for the United States Navy; energy conservation; energy-related research; radioactive waste disposal; and domestic energy production. It also directs research in genomics. the Human Genome Project originated in a DOE initiative. DOE sponsors more research in the physical sciences than any other U.S. federal agency, the majority of which is conducted through its system of National Laboratories. The agency is led by the United States Secretary of Energy, and its headquarters are located in Southwest Washington, D.C., on Independence Avenue in the James V. Forrestal Building, named for James Forrestal, as well as in Germantown, Maryland.

Formation and consolidation

In 1942, during World War II, the United States started the Manhattan Project, a project to develop the atomic bomb, under the eye of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After the war in 1946, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was created to control the future of the project. The Atomic Energy Act of 1946 also created the framework for the first National Laboratories. Among other nuclear projects, the AEC produced fabricated uranium fuel cores at locations such as Fernald Feed Materials Production Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1974, the AEC gave way to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which was tasked with regulating the nuclear power industry and the Energy Research and Development Administration, which was tasked to manage the nuclear weapon; naval reactor; and energy development programs.

The 1973 oil crisis called attention to the need to consolidate energy policy. On August 4, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed into law The Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977 (Pub.L. 95–91, 91 Stat. 565, enacted August 4, 1977), which created the Department of Energy(US). The new agency, which began operations on October 1, 1977, consolidated the Federal Energy Administration; the Energy Research and Development Administration; the Federal Power Commission; and programs of various other agencies. Former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, who served under Presidents Nixon and Ford during the Vietnam War, was appointed as the first secretary.

President Carter created the Department of Energy with the goal of promoting energy conservation and developing alternative sources of energy. He wanted to not be dependent on foreign oil and reduce the use of fossil fuels. With international energy’s future uncertain for America, Carter acted quickly to have the department come into action the first year of his presidency. This was an extremely important issue of the time as the oil crisis was causing shortages and inflation. With the Three-Mile Island disaster, Carter was able to intervene with the help of the department. Carter made switches within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in this case to fix the management and procedures. This was possible as nuclear energy and weapons are responsibility of the Department of Energy.


On March 28, 2017, a supervisor in the Office of International Climate and Clean Energy asked staff to avoid the phrases “climate change,” “emissions reduction,” or “Paris Agreement” in written memos, briefings or other written communication. A DOE spokesperson denied that phrases had been banned.

In a May 2019 press release concerning natural gas exports from a Texas facility, the DOE used the term ‘freedom gas’ to refer to natural gas. The phrase originated from a speech made by Secretary Rick Perry in Brussels earlier that month. Washington Governor Jay Inslee decried the term “a joke”.


The Department of Energy operates a system of national laboratories and technical facilities for research and development, as follows:

Ames Laboratory
Argonne National Laboratory
Brookhaven National Laboratory
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
Idaho National Laboratory
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory
National Energy Technology Laboratory
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Sandia National Laboratories
Savannah River National Laboratory
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

Other major DOE facilities include:
Albany Research Center
Bannister Federal Complex
Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory – focuses on the design and development of nuclear power for the U.S. Navy
Kansas City Plant
Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory – operates for Naval Reactors Program Research under the DOE (not a National Laboratory)
National Petroleum Technology Office
Nevada Test Site
New Brunswick Laboratory
Office of Fossil Energy
Office of River Protection
Radiological and Environmental Sciences Laboratory
Y-12 National Security Complex
Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository

Pahute Mesa Airstrip – Nye County, Nevada, in supporting Nevada National Security Site