King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) is committed to exploring the potential of subsurface geothermal energy in Saudi Arabia – with particular emphasis on sedimentary basins along the country’s Red Sea coastline. Power generation in the Kingdom is primarily fossil fuel based and a new geothermal project, led by faculty from the Ali I. Naimi Petroleum Research Center and Earth Science program at KAUST is set to play a key role in spearheading state-of-the-art geothermal energy research and implementation.
As a first step towards this goal, KAUST has contracted TAQA Geothermal Energy Company to project manage and execute the drilling of a shallow observatory, surveillance and monitoring well on its campus in Thuwal. The 400 m deep borehole will be spudded at the end of January 2024 and is an integrated multidisciplinary project amongst several KAUST faculty and their innovative research. For example, state-of-the-art fiber optics distributed sensors for seismic, acoustic and temperature measurements will be deployed. Other geophysical and seismological data acquisition programs are planned to further interrogate the subsurface directly below the well location.
The project is in line with KAUST’s strategy to accelerate impact on the world through alignment with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 Research, Development, and Innovation (RDI) priorities, enhancing global and local partnerships, and focusing on commercialization and economic impact.
Project lead and Research Professor Thomas Finkbeiner says, ‘Although energy will not be harvested from this well, this project nonetheless marks an important first step towards realizing KAUST’s goals to enabling and developing geothermal energy as a viable renewable energy resource for the Kingdom. The data we acquire will be very informative and illuminate the subsurface below our feet. This learning will be used for planning and risk mitigation purposes for all of the deep geothermal wells that will follow. The future of geothermal energy is certainly bright, and we are looking forward to seeing the results from this exciting project collaboration.”
Geothermal resources in the Kingdom present a unique and untapped opportunity to decarbonize and diversify the energy mix. We are proud to be awarded the planning and execution of this exciting project that will surely serve as a model for sustainable energy transition as well as academic, technological and industrial collaboration, comments Meshary Alayed, CEO of TAQA Geothermal Energy Company headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.