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Webinar Summary: Innovative Drilling Technologies for Geothermal Applications (Fraunhofer IEG)

About the company:

The Fraunhofer Research Institution for Energy Infrastructures and Geothermal Systems (IEG) carries out research in the fields of integrated energy infrastructures, geothermal energy, and sector coupling for a successful energy transition at seven locations across Germany.

About the speaker:

Volker Wittig is head of the Drilling Technologies Department at Fraunhofer IEG. He will share his knowledge about the latest innovative drilling technologies for geothermal applications which are used widely in industry and research, for example in geothermal power generation.


Dear students, due to technical issues we were not able to host the WebSeminar today. We apologize for this inconvenience. However, Mr. Wittig offers to repeat the seminar next week, December 3rd at 5 p.m. (German time): As a small compensation he will announce a potential master thesis about »Two phase fluid flow simulation and solids transport in vertical pipelines /tubing sections using adequate software«. Sincerely, your SPE-Board and SEG-Board


Date: December 3, 2020

Location: Online via Zoom

No. of participants: max. 26

Figure 1: Presentation by Volker Wittig (top left yellow box) and the participants.

Together with the SEG (Society of Economic Geologists) Student Chapter, the SPE Student Chapter at RWTH Aachen University invited Volker Wittig to hold a presentation about Innovative Drilling Technologies for Geothermal Applications (figure 1). Some of the chapters’ students got to know Mr. Wittig during a visit to the Fraunhofer Research Institute for Energy Infrastructures and Geothermal Systems (IEG) in October 2020 during a field trip organized by RWTH Aachen University and invited him to share his knowledge and experience with students.

Volker Wittig is the head of the Advanced Drilling Technologies Department at Fraunhofer IEG. As a leading mechanical engineer, he is involved in several ongoing research projects, where not only engineers but also geologists and geoscientists are needed. Currently, the EU-H2020 Geo-Drill, High-Pressure Jetting / Stimulation, and drilling control / automization (MOUSE) projects stand out as being the most recent and innovative topics that Fraunhofer IEG is working on.

Mr. Wittig elaborated extensively on today’s challenges regarding drilling technologies in geothermal applications. Firstly, he talked about Laser Jet Drilling with mechanical enhancement, where the rock is softened using a powerful laser (figure 2). Secondly, he proceeded about Electro-Impulse drilling, where the rock is being destroyed with high voltage, and pointed out the similarities to plasma pulse drilling. Thirdly, he talked about flame/spallation type drilling combined with mechanical enhancement, a project the Fraunhofer IEG is working on together with ETH Zurich.

Figure 2: Laser Jet Drilling technique.

He closed his presentation by explaining that Fraunhofer IEG is also enabling technologies and concepts behind new composite materials for drilling units.

Mr. Wittig announced that students are more than welcome to submit applications for internships or for a Bachelor’s and Master’s thesis to the Fraunhofer IEG. This request is not only addressing geoscience students but rather also mechanical engineering students wanting to get involved in such innovative technologies for broader use.

Currently, one geoscience student from RWTH Aachen University is doing his Ph.D. at Fraunhofer IEG. During the Q&A session, some interesting questions arose, e.g. the most promising method is the laser jet drilling technique, whereas other methods are ten times as expensive compared to traditional drilling.

After the presentation, the participants had the chance to talk to Volker Wittig in a more relaxed environment. We would like to thank Mr. Wittig for following our invitation to hold a presentation for the SPE and SEG Student Chapters at RWTH Aachen University and look forward to further and close cooperation with the Fraunhofer IEG.



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