Is fracking the key to getting the most from geothermal energy?

Is fracking the key to getting the most from geothermal energy?

March 11, 2024 0 By Bret Williams

Big Oil and startups alike are looking to this tech to tap energy from the earth

Oil majors around the world are investing in and partnering with startups focused on geothermal energy to help unlock some of the renewable potential under the surface of the earth.

This trend is helping to build momentum in an area previously seeing slow growth

Geothermal energy has promise for helping the United States to meet its net-zero targets, as is the case in a number of other economies. Among the major oil and gas firms that have made direct investments into geothermal energy startups and projects include BP, Chevron, and Devon Energy.

On top of this trend, many startups are working with new technologies or are employing existing tech in new ways. For instance, a number of newly formed businesses have started employing horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to access the heat under the earth’s surface that can provide clean renewable power. Fracking is the tech best recognized for its use in the US for shale extraction.

Lowering the cost of geothermal energy well drilling

Drilling geothermal energy wells comes with a hefty price tag. That said, as the renewable power trend has started taking off in recent years, companies have been developing ways to achieve this goal at a lower cost.  Still, those expenses must fall considerably further if this renewable is to gain any real traction and represent over 1 percent of US power generation.

Though the Department of Energy (DoE) is seeking to strengthen this type of renewable heat, only a small part of the US can access it using current technology. Therefore, the DEO is supporting innovation and research for the advancement of enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), which typically involves drilling deeper under the surface to access the heat.

Geothermal energy Drilling

A substantial component of this effort is for the reduction of the cost of EGS by 90 percent, to bring it to around $45 per megawatt-hour by 2035.

“Investments in EGS can unlock affordable clean energy for over 65 million American homes and exponentially increase opportunities for geothermal heating and cooling solutions nationwide,” said a statement released by the DoE.


That said, with oil majors to help fund them, a number of startups have been focusing on new geothermal energy projects using fracking and horizontal drilling.

Among the top examples of this trend is Fervo Energy, which is using precision directional drilling tech for horizontal drilling into heat reservoirs.

Is the controversy the same?

hydrogen news ebookFracking has been a heated topic, so to speak, as its practice has been associated with a number of downsides, such as triggering earthquakes, among others.  It is unclear as to whether this practice will stir up as much controversy for the pursuit of geothermal energy as it has for shale extraction.

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