Exploration and Targeting

NREL researches, develops, and deploys innovative exploration and targeting methodologies for geothermal prospects and projects.

3-D visualization of a geothermal powerplant and the subsurface geology
Leveraging NREL's experience and capabilities in global geothermal exploration is key to improving geothermal resource targeting.

A major challenge in traditional hydrothermal resource development is the capital-intensive early phase of exploratory well drilling. Investors typically spend large sums before knowing with certainty whether an adequate resource exists. For this reason, de-risking drilling through effective pre-drilling exploration and targeting activities is important.

Our capabilities in exploration and targeting span the spectrum of geothermal resources and end uses and include deep high-temperature and low-temperature hydrothermal, enhanced geothermal systems, advanced geothermal systems, sedimentary resources, and shallow subsurface characterization.


  • Geological and conceptual modeling – Expertise in multiscale resource exploration using integrated geoscientific datasets and conceptual modeling techniques
  • Geophysical and geochemical data acquisition, processing, and interpretation
  • Play fairway analysis – Expertise in applying the concept and workflow to geothermal exploration
  • Geospatial analysis – Expertise in collection and analysis of geospatial datasets to develop maps, models, and visualizations for geothermal exploration and targeting


Sedimentary Geothermal Resources in Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Texas, NREL Technical Report (2020)

GeoRePORT Case Study Examples: Reporting Using the Geothermal Resource Portfolio Optimization and Reporting Technique (GeoRePORT), Geothermal Resources Council Annual Meeting and Expo (2019)

An Estimate of Shallow, Low-Temperature Geothermal Resources of the United States, Geothermal Resources Council Annual Meeting (2016)

Geothermal Prospector: Supporting Geothermal Analysis through Spatial Data Visualization and Querying Tools, NREL Technical Report (2015)

View all NREL publications about geothermal research.


Amanda Kolker

Researcher, Thermal Science and Technologies Group