Geopolymer Sealing Materials Geothermal Lab Call Project

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Last modified on July 22, 2011.

Project Title Geopolymer Sealing Materials
Project Type / Topic 1 Laboratory Call for Submission of Applications for Research, Development and Analysis of Geothermal Technologies
Project Type / Topic 2 Temporary Sealing of Fractures

Project Description One pivotal factor governing a significant cost reduction of the total geothermal drilling operation expense is the alleviation of the lost circulation-caused problem related to the loss of substantial amount of drilling mud brought about by the formation of natural fractures and low-pressure generated fractures in underground foundation structures during the drilling operation. To deal with this problem, lost circulation zones must be sealed or plugged by appropriate materials. Regarding the sealing materials, when the convention lost circulation materials are inadequate, Portland cement-based cementitious materials are commonly used. However, although the completely cured cementitious sealing materials are reliable for stabilizing the lost circulation zones, the major concern raised for using them is that they must be modified with set-retarding reagents to avoid their cure during the down-hole pumping operation in high-temperature geothermal wells. Correspondingly, once the colloidal cementitious sealers are treated with the set retarder, it is very difficult to control the setting of the retarded sealers in the well. In addition to the material costs caused by lost circulation, the drilling rig and crew cost for “unwanted waiting time for setting of sealers emplaced in fractures” is enormously expensive, and also there is always the uncertainty of how much sealer needs pumping. In addition, the dynamic wellbore fluids and water frequently act to retard the curing of cements, thereby causing the washing way of uncured cements.

A new-type cementitious material called “Geopolymer” was formulated at BNL in conventional geothermal drilling and well completion projects aimed at developing CO2- and acid-resistant high temperature (up to 350°C) well cementing materials in a long-term collaboration with SNL.

State New York
Objectives Develop and characterize field-applicable geopolymer sealing materials in the laboratory and to transfer this developed material technology to geothermal drilling service companies as collaborators for field validation tests.
Awardees (Company / Institution) Brookhaven National Laboratory

Partner 1 LATICRETE International, Inc.
Partner 2 Sandia National Laboratory

Funding Opportunity Announcement DE-PS36-09GO99017

DOE Funding Level (total award amount) $579,000.00

Total Project Cost $579,000.00

Principal Investigator(s) Thomas Butcher

Targets / Milestones The project is divided into three major phases:

- Phase I: Material Development and characterization. This phase will consist of establishing the basic formulation of the temporary Geopolymer sealing materials, designed to meet the necessary criteria of two hour pumpability, compressive strength, and water permeability. The sealer will also need to be expandable and self-degradable in order to meet needs.
- Phase II: Technology transfer to geothermal industries. During this phase the material developed in phase I will be transferred to geothermal drilling service corporations for independent assessment.
- Phase III: Field demonstration and validation. Assuming the success of the first two phases, this phase will focus on emplacement of geopolymer sealing material in wellbores at EGS sites designated by our geothermal industry partners, followed by monitoring and validation activities.

Location of Project Upton, NY

Funding Source American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

References EERE Geothermal Technologies Programs[1]


  1. EERE Geothermal Technologies Programs