January 13, 2023
Journal Article

GeoThermalCloud: Machine Learning for Geothermal Resource Exploration


Geothermal is a renewable energy source that can provide reliable and flexible electricity generation for the world. In the past decade, the U.S. Geological Survey's resource assessments, Play Fairway Analyses (PFA), and GeoVision report by the U.S. Department of Energy's Geothermal Technologies Office provided insights on enormous untapped potential for geothermal energy to contribute to the U.S. domestic energy needs. The past studies identified that geothermal resources without surface expression (e.g., blind/hidden hydrothermal systems) comprise a huge potential. These blind systems can significantly increase power generation. But a primary challenge is locating and quantifying these hidden resources, which do not have any thermal manifestations on the surface. PFA has successfully identified some blind systems in the western USA (e.g., specific locations in the Great Basin region within Nevada). However, a comprehensive search for these blind systems can be time-consuming, expensive, and resource-intensive with a low probability of success. Accelerated discovery of these blind resources is needed with growing energy needs and higher chances of exploration success. Recent advances in machine learning (ML) have shown promise in shortening the timeline for this discovery. This paper presents a novel ML-based methodology for geothermal exploration towards PFA applications. Our methodology is provided through our open-source ML framework called GeoThermalCloud \url{https://github.com/SmartTensors/GeoThermalCloud.jl}. GeoThermalCloud uses a series of unsupervised, supervised, and physics-informed ML methods available in SmartTensors AI platform \url{https://github.com/SmartTensors}. Here, the presented analyses are performed using our unsupervised ML algorithm called NMF$k$, which is available in the SmartTensors AI platform. Our ML algorithm facilitates the discovery of new phenomena, hidden patterns, and mechanisms that helps us to make informed decisions. Moreover, the GeoThermalCloud enhances the collected PFA data and discovers signatures representative of geothermal resources. Through GeoThermalCloud, we were able to identify hidden patterns in the geothermal field data needed for the efficient discovery of blind systems. Crucial geothermal signatures often overlooked in traditional PFA are extracted using GeoThermalCloud and analyzed by the subject matter experts to provide ML-enhanced PFA, which is informative for efficient exploration. We applied our ML methodology on various open-source geothermal datasets within the U.S. (some of these are collected by past PFA work), and the results provide valuable insights on resource types within those explored regions. This ML-enhanced workflow makes GeoThermalCloud attractive for the geothermal community to improve existing datasets and extract valuable information often unnoticed during geothermal exploration.

Published: January 13, 2023


Mudunuru M., V.V. Vesselinov, and B. Ahmmed. 2022. GeoThermalCloud: Machine Learning for Geothermal Resource Exploration. Journal of Machine Learning for Modeling and Computing 3, no. 4:57–72. PNNL-SA-178322. doi:10.1615/JMachLearnModelComput.2022046445