KAUST and TAQA partner create shallow well to study geothermal energy potential in Saudi Arabia

Tony Chan speaking at the spudding of the well.

Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, February 19, 2024 - KAUST and TAQA Geothermal, a Saudi-based energy company, have partnered in an endeavor to unlock Saudi Arabia's geothermal potential.   

The two partners have ‘spudded,’ or broken ground for, a shallow well 400 meters deep on the KAUST campus as a test case for the monitoring and surveillance of future geothermal energy extraction in Saudi Arabia.   

The data gained from the well site will be used for the planning and risk mitigation of deeper geothermal wells. The temperature of geothermal energy acquired from a well depends on the well's depth, with deeper wells providing hotter temperatures and, therefore, wider potential. However, the costs and risks increase with the well depth. Thus, 400 meters was decided as an appropriate initial depth to investigate novel processing and analysis techniques. This project will provide valuable data for future geothermal energy extraction potential below KAUST. 

The project is further designed to test new technologies, such as fiber optics and drill rigs, and to test new workflows for geology and seismology research, providing new knowledge on processing and analysis. 

The project is led by KAUST Research Professor in Energy Resources and Petroleum Engineering Thomas Finkbeiner, who states that geothermal energy, if harnessed efficiently, offers the most stable renewable energy source.  

"Geothermal provides critical baseload energy available even when the sun does not shine or the wind does not blow," he said.  

The site was selected for its favorable geology and, considering the many KAUST researchers involved, proximity to KAUST.   

TAQA Geothermal CEO and Managing Director, Meshary AlAyed commented: “Commencement of drilling of this observation well on KAUST campus marks the real groundbreaking of the ambitious geothermal exploration project. Partnering with KAUST is a testament of our joint alignment on harnessing alternative sustainable energy sources for benefit of the Kingdom while advancing technology, research, and private sector partnerships.” 

The project is also intended to build domestic partnerships between academia and industry for innovation and commercialization in geothermal energy. The project is aligned with KAUST's new strategy announced in August 2023, and the Kingdom’s Research and Development Initiatives.