August 2 , 2000
UPTON, NY. The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, in collaboration with Halliburton Company and Unocal Corporation, has won a 2000 R&D 100 Award for developing a high-performance cement. Known as ThermaLock cement, the product is particularly suited for use in geothermal wells. It can also be applied in oil and gas wells and used for soil remediation.
R&D 100 Awards are given annually by R&D Magazine to the top 100 technological achievements of the year. Typically, these are innovations that transform basic science into useful products. The awards will be presented at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago on September 27.
Brookhaven's award was one of twenty won by U.S. Department of Energy laboratories this year. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson commented, "This year's R&D 100 awards recognize the Department of Energy's continued contribution to our nation's economic prosperity and well-being. Energy Department laboratories are a wellspring of innovation, and I congratulate the researchers on their success."
About two percent of the world's electricity is derived from geothermal energy. Geothermal wells pump hot water or steam from the interior of the Earth to drive electricity-generating turbines. In geothermal environments, however, an abundance of carbon dioxide causes conventional cement to deteriorate rapidly through a chemical process called carbonation. ThermaLock cement creates zeolite and calcium phosphate minerals that block this destructive chemical reaction.
Toshi Sugama, the Brookhaven chemist who developed the cement and a three-time winner of the R&D 100 Award, said, "The service life of ThermaLock cement is estimated to be about twenty years. In contrast, conventional cements severely deteriorate after only one year in the harsh environment of a geothermal well. ThermaLock cement is not only effective and economical, but also environmentally friendly because it is made mostly of recycled fly ash, the byproduct of coal combustion, and no harsh chemicals are used in manufacturing it. Besides using the cement in specialized environments, it can also be used in walkways, roads and buildings, anywhere ordinary cement is used."
In addition to fly ash, the formula for the cement includes calcium aluminate, sodium polyphosphate and water in compositions that vary with the depth at which the cement will be used. Since these materials are abundant and inexpensive, and no technical training is required to make the cement, it is economical compared to conventional cements.
In 1997, large-scale field testing of the cement began at a geothermal well in Sumatra, Indonesia, operated by Unocal Corporation. Halliburton Company supplied the cement for these tests. In the first commercial use of the product, in April 1999, the Japan Petroleum Exploration Company used the new cement to complete the geothermal wells in Kyushu, Japan. The company subsequently used more than 140 tons of the product to build several more geothermal wells.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory creates and operates major facilities available to university, industrial and government personnel for basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences, and in selected energy technologies. The Laboratory is operated by Brookhaven Science Associates, a not-for-profit research management company, under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.
NOTE TO LOCAL EDITORS: Toshi Sugama lives in Wading River, NY.