Chris Schulz Published

Project Explores Potential Of Geothermal In W.Va.

A large scaffolding extends above and around a bore well site on a dusty site. In the foreground gas wells are stored in red cages, and to the left of frame is a group of people. The entire scene is under a bright blue sky with scarce cloud coverage.
West Virginia University and its partners are exploring the possibility of geothermal heating and carbon sequestration in the region via a 3-mile-deep bore well.
Chris Schulz/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia University (WVU) is digging deep to learn more about alternative energy and carbon capture. 

The geothermal well in the Morgantown Industrial Park, which began drilling in mid-May, has so far reached 1,300 feet in depth. 

The project aims to ultimately drill down 15,000 feet to determine if the increasing heat at such depths is viable for future use as a clean energy source across the region. 

Shikha Sharma, a geology professor at WVU and the project’s primary investigator, said this specialized drilling is only the second of its kind in the country, and first in West Virginia.

“We are not only assessing the geothermal potential of the rocks beneath us here in West Virginia, we will be going pretty deep,” she said. “We’ll also be collecting rocks, sidewall course, to assess the potential of CO2 storage in the shallow formations. Combining both things together is pretty unique.”

The project is a collaboration between several entities, but most notably the WVU Energy Institute with WVU faculty, Northeast Natural Energy and the U.S. Department of Energy. 

They hope to have their first rock samples by July and regular temperature data by the end of the year.

Sharma said depending on the study’s results, West Virginia could be well positioned to use geothermal as a renewable source of energy and heat. 

“A lot of skill sets required for drilling oil and gas wells goes into developing geothermal,” she said. “We can retool a lot of those technologies, and level up geothermal as a renewable energy technology. I think that’s another major advantage for oil and gas states like West Virginia.”