Cornell’s Geothermal Heat Aspiration and 2022 Cornell University Borehole Observatory
by Teresa Jordan, Cornell University
Although geothermal energy is available everywhere, tapping this energy source as direct-use heat has lagged. Successful large scale direct-use heat systems demonstrate the commercial potential, drawing heat from rocks whose temperature is roughly the same as that of central New York at 6000-10,000 ft depth. Cornell University is advancing toward a large-scale demonstration of the potential to heat the Ithaca campus with ~70-90 °C geothermal heat. If successful, this would be a major part of displacing Cornell’s fossil energy by 2035 and, also, it would advance the growth of this new energy sector elsewhere in the region.
This presentation will summarize a decade of analysis of archived data from hydrocarbon exploration and development wells which led to an understanding of the variability of thermal gradients and reservoir properties in the Appalachian Basin rocks of New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. However, those data provide scant insight to fluid flow potential in the Cambrian strata and no information for the metamorphic basement. Consequently, to advance analysis and design of a geothermal reservoir, a 3-km deep geothermal exploratory well -- the Cornell University Borehole Observatory (CUBO) -- was drilled on the Ithaca, NY campus in the summer of 2022. The drilling operations, borehole completion, and contracted experts were very similar to those of a standard Appalachian Basin gas drilling program, overseen by NY-DEC’s standard regulations for a stratigraphic well.
CUBO extends through largely low porosity and low permeability Paleozoic sedimentary rocks, and 390 ft into granulite-grade Grenville metamorphic basement rocks. Major objectives for wireline logs and borehole tests were to explore potential fracture-dominated reservoir targets, requiring stress, fracture distribution, and hydrologic data. CUBO is designed to be a dedicated observatory and testing borehole, separate from any future operational well pairs. The presentation will discuss the preliminary results of our analysis of the various geologic, hydrologic, logging, sampling, and downhole testing data acquired.
Teresa Jordan, PhD
Professor Emerita of Geology, Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
J. Preston Levis Professor of Engineering
B.S. (geology), 1974, RPI; Ph.D. (Geology), 1979, Stanford University
Jordan’s research involves use of sedimentary rock distributions and properties to reconstruct earth history and to provide natural resources. The focus of much of the last two decades have been the climate and hydrological history of the Atacama Desert of Chile, and on finding more environmentally benign ways to meet society's needs for energy using subsurface resources. Ongoing projects include geothermal energy exploration in eastern North America, with a 2022 focus on the Cornell University Borehole Observatory. Jordan served 2001-2003 as the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs in Cornell’s Engineering College and 2003-2008 as the Chair of Cornell University’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and previously served the National Science Foundation on advisory committees for the Office of International Science and Engineering and for Environmental Research and Education. She has served the Chilean science and engineering research community on the external review team for FONDAP Water Center for Agriculture and Mining. Recognitions of her work include selection as a Fellow of the Geological Society of America (1995), a Corresponding Member of the Asociación Geológica Argentina (1997), the Lawrence Sloss award of the Sedimentary Geology division of the Geological Society of America (2005), a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (2014), and the William F Twenhofel Medal of SEPM the Society for Sedimentary Geology (2021).