Google Taps Fervo Energy To Develop Enhanced Geothermal Systems in Nevada

Founded in 2017, Fervo Energy is aiming to leverage multistage hydraulic fracturing technology to create more-efficient geothermal wells that will power the Internet company's data infrastructure by 2022.

A map of geothermal resources in the US Lower 48.
Credit: US Department of Energy.

Google announced on 19 May that it has tapped the geothermal startup Fervo Energy to develop a carbon-free source of power for the technology giant’s data centers in Nevada. The project is part of Google’s wider ambition to transition away from fossil fuels and purchase 100% renewable power by 2030.

In its announcement, Google described the deal as “the world’s first corporate agreement to develop a next-generation geothermal power project” that will represent “an ‘always-on’ carbon-free resource.” The plan calls for Fervo to begin supplying geothermal power to the power grid in Nevada that feeds Google’s data centers and other infrastructure by 2022.

The two companies will work together to use downhole diagnostics along with new artificial intelligence and machine-learning tools to increase the efficiency of the approach Fervo is pioneering.

“Using fiber-optic cables inside wells, Fervo can gather real-time data on flow, temperature, and performance of the geothermal resource. This data allows Fervo to identify precisely where the best resources exist, making it possible to control flow at various depths,” Google said in its announcement.

Founded in 2017 and principally based in Houston, Fervo specializes in the application of multistage hydraulic fracturing to develop what is called an enhanced geothermal system (EGS). By using hydraulic fracturing, geothermal developers can create more surface area for water to flow through the hot rocks and flow back up to surface in a producing well as steam or hot water.

Tim Latimer, the cofounder and chief executive officer of Fervo, is a former drilling engineer who was first exposed to the geothermal sector while problem solving high-temperature issues he encountered while working in the oil and gas fields of the Eagle Ford Shale.

At the 2020 Unconventional Resources Technology Conference, Latimer spoke to some of the key differences between petroleum and EGS development while also highlighting the important role of upstream technology in modern geothermal approaches. “Directional drilling, distributed fiber-optic sensing, physics-based simulation, and high-temperature flow control all are key things to make geothermal systems work,” he said at the conference.

Earlier this month, Fervo announced that it raised $28 million in a Series B funding round that was led by the Capricorn Investment Group and included participation from Houston-based drilling contractor Helmerich & Payne.