The Snake River Geothermal Drilling Project – Innovative Approaches to Geothermal Exploration Geothermal Project

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Last modified on July 22, 2011.

Project Title The Snake River Geothermal Drilling Project – Innovative Approaches to Geothermal Exploration
Project Type / Topic 1 Recovery Act: Geothermal Technologies Program
Project Type / Topic 2 Validation of Innovative Exploration Technologies
Project Description This project will implement and test a series of innovative geothermal exploration strategies in two phases. Phase 1 studies will comprise surface mapping, shallow seismic surveys, potential field surveys (gravity and magnetics), compilation of existing well data, and the construction of three dimension structure sections. Phase 2 will comprise two intermediate depth (1.5-1.6 km) slim-hole exploration wells with a full suite of geophysical borehole logs and a vertical seismic profile to extrapolate stratigraphy encountered in the well into the surrounding terrain. Both of the exploration wells will be fully cored to preserve a complete record of the volcanic stratigraphy that can be used in complementary science projects. This project will function in tandem with Project Hotspot, a continental scientific drilling project that focuses on the origin and evolution of the Yellowstone hotspot.
State Idaho
Objectives -To implement and test a range of geophysical and geologic approaches to geothermal exploration

-To establish the central Snake River Plain as a viable target for the production of geothermal energy that is close to fast growing urban centers in southern Idaho and northern Utah

The slim-hole exploration wells will be used to document thermal resources and to provide a lithologic and stratigraphic context for interpretation of the data obtained in Phase 1.

Awardees (Company / Institution) Utah State University
Awardee Website
Partner 1 Lee Liberty, Shallow Geophysics group, Boise State University
Partner 2 David Blackwell, Geothermal Laboratory, Southern Methodist University
Partner 3 Douglas Schmitt, Institute for Geophysical Research, University of Alberta
Partner 4 Jonathan Glen, US Geological Survey
Partner 5 US Continental Drilling Consortium (DOSECC)
Partner 6 International Continental Drilling Program (ICDP-Potsdam)

Funding Opportunity Announcement DE-FOA-0000109
DOE Funding Level (total award amount) $4,640,110.00
Awardee Cost Share $2,054,674.00
Total Project Cost $6,694,784.00

Principal Investigator(s) John Shervais

Location of Project Snake River Plain, ID
About the Area The Snake River volcanic province overlies a thermal anomaly that extends deep into the mantle and represents one of the highest heat flow provinces in North America, and an area with the highest calculated geothermal gradients. This makes the SRP one of the most under-developed and potentially highest producing geothermal districts in the United States. Elevated heat flow is typically highest along the margins of the topographic Snake River Plain and lowest along the axis of the plain, where thermal gradients are suppressed by the Snake River aquifer. Beneath this aquifer, however, thermal gradients rise again and may tap even higher heat flows associated with the intrusion of mafic magmas into the mid-crustal sill complex.

Impacts An innovative combination of methods designed to reduce overall exploration risk and refine well characterization. A regional solution that may have application elsewhere.
Funding Source American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
References EERE Geothermal Technologies Programs[1]


  1. EERE Geothermal Technologies Programs