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Levelized costs of electricity and direct-use heat from Enhanced Geothermal Systems
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Image of FIG. 1.

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FIG. 1.

GEOPHIRES operating scheme. GUI components are shown in orange ellipses; the FORTRAN model components are shown in green rectangles.

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FIG. 2.

Levelized costs for 18 EGS scenarios. The blue bars represent the LCOE in 2012 U.S. ¢/kWh for the electricity scenarios; the red bars represent the LCOH in 2012 U.S. $/MMBTU for the direct-use heat scenarios.

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FIG. 3.

Fraction of capital cost (initial investment) associated with resource exploration (bottom bars), drilling and reservoir stimulation (middle bars), and surface equipment (top bars) for the 18 EGS scenarios.

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FIG. 4.

Sensitivity of LCOE (left figures) and LCOH (right figures) to various parameters for medium-grade resource and mid-term technology case. High-sensitive and low-sensitive parameters are shown in top and bottom figures, respectively. The base-case LCOE and LCOH are 10.6 ¢/kWh and 5.1 $/MMBTU, respectively.

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FIG. 5.

Effect of drilling depth on the LCOE and LCOH for medium-grade resource and mid-term technology case. The geothermal gradient is constant at 50 °C/km. For the LCOE, the power plant type is a subcritical Organic Rankine Cycle for wells shallower than 3.7 km (<200 °C), and a double-flash power plant for wells deeper than 3.7 km (>200 °C).

Image of FIG. 6.

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FIG. 6.

Comparison of LCOE expressed in 2012 U.S. ¢/kWh for EGS obtained using GEOPHIRES (red bars) with LCOE for different electricity generating technologies (blue bars). LCOE values for other energy technologies are taken from the OpenEI Transparent Cost Database. 17 The solid bars and striped bars represent the current LCOE and projected LCOE for 2030, respectively. The GEOPHIRES commercially mature technology EGS scenarios are used to model the projected system performance in the year 2030.

Image of FIG. 7.

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FIG. 7.

Comparison of LCOH (2012 U.S. $/MMBTU) from EGS estimated with GEOPHIRES for industrial direct-use heat processes (light red bars) and district heating systems (dark red bars) with LCOH from natural gas boilers (blue bars). The current and projected residential and industrial gas prices are taken from the 2013 EIA Annual Energy Outlook. 19 It is assumed that the today's technology EGS scenarios in GEOPHIRES represent the 2012 costs. The commercially mature technology EGS scenarios are used to model the projected system performance in the year 2030. Low-, medium-, and high-grade resource refer to a geothermal gradient of 30, 50, and 70 °C/km, respectively.


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Table I.

Technology maturity cases for EGS scenarios.

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Table II.

Resource cases for EGS scenarios.


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GEOPHIRES (GEOthermal energy for the Production of Heat and Electricity (“IR”) Economically Simulated) is a software tool that combines reservoir, wellbore, and power plant models with capital and operating cost correlations and financial levelized cost models to assess the technical and economic performance of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS). It is an upgrade and expansion of the “MIT-EGS” program used in the 2006 “Future of Geothermal Energy” study. GEOPHIRES includes updated cost correlations for well drilling and completion, resource exploration, and Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) and flash power plants. It also has new power plant efficiency correlations based on AspenPlus and MATLAB simulations. The structure of GEOPHIRES enables feasibility studies of using geothermal resources not only for electricity generation but also for direct-use heating, and combined heat and power (CHP) applications. Full documentation on GEOPHIRES is provided in the supplementary material. Using GEOPHIRES, the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) and the levelized cost of heat (LCOH) have been estimated for 3 cases of resource grade (low-, medium-, and high-grade resource corresponding to a geothermal gradient of 30, 50, and 70 °C/km) in combination with 3 levels of technological maturity (today's, mid-term, and commercially mature technology corresponding to a productivity of 30, 50, and 70 kg/s per production well and thermal drawdown rate of 2%, 1.5%, and 1%). The results for the LCOE range from 4.6 to 57 ¢/kWh and for the LCOH from 3.5 to 14 $/MMBTU (1.2 to 4.8 ¢/kWh). The results for the base-case scenario (medium-grade resource and mid-term technology) are 11 ¢/kWh and 5 $/MMBTU (1.7 ¢/kWh), respectively. To account for parameter uncertainty, a sensitivity analysis has been included. The results for the LCOE and LCOH have been compared with values found in literature for EGS as well as other energy technologies. The key findings suggest that given today's technology maturity, electricity and direct-use heat from EGS are not economically competitive under current market conditions with other energy technologies. However, with moderate technological improvements, electricity from EGS is predicted to become cost-effective with respect to other renewable and non-renewable energy sources for medium- and high-grade geothermal resources. Direct-use heat from EGS is calculated to become cost-effective even for low-grade resources. This emphasizes that EGS for direct-use heat may not be neglected in future EGS development.


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Scitation: Levelized costs of electricity and direct-use heat from Enhanced Geothermal Systems