Occidental Petroleum, partners get $9M federal award for geothermal project

A Colorado project aimed at advancing techniques to tap geothermal energy will receive approximately $9 million in federal funding.

The Department of Energy said Wednesday that Occidental Petroleum, the Colorado School of Mines and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden will collaborate on the project. The team will use existing and new techniques to drill two high-temperature wells in the Denver-Julesburg Basin in northeast Colorado.

The effort, called Geothermal Limitless Approach to Drilling Efficiencies , or GLADE, was one of two projects announced by the DOE. The other is a plan to use new drilling technology at a site in California. That project received $6.2 million.

The DOE wants to reduce the cost of developing geothermal energy by improving drilling rates by at least 25%. The agency’s goal is to power at least 40 million U.S. homes with renewable geothermal energy by 2050.

Gov. Jared Polis has made developing geothermal energy a priority in his role as chairman of the Western Governors’ Association. A new state law places geothermal energy on the same footing as solar energy by requiring the Colorado Energy Office to develop consumer education and guidance about systems for water and space heating or cooling.

A second new state law created a $12 million grant program in the energy office to advance geothermal technologies and energy projects.

“Governor Polis welcomes the federal government’s support of this innovative work. New drilling technologies like those being explored with this new partnership can expand the footprint of where geothermal energy is viable and help expand geothermal across Colorado,” Conor Cahill, the governor’s spokesman, said in an email.

The development of geothermal energy is an innovative opportunity for the West that builds on Polis’ work to “save people money on energy, create good-paying jobs, cut pollution, and make progress towards 100% renewable energy by 2040,” Cahill said.

Geothermal energy taps the heat within the earth to heat water and buildings and to generate electricity.

“There is incredible, untapped potential to use the heat beneath our feet to meet our energy demands with a renewable resource that can be found throughout the U.S.,” Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement.

Lowering the cost of drilling can help expand use of the renewable energy source and help make the transition to “a clean energy future while also creating good-paying jobs nationwide,” Granholm said.

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