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ESE Seminar: John O'Sullivan - Advances in Geothermal Modelling to Support a Sustainable and Just Energy Transition – Research, Teaching and Opportunities for Collaboration

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Geothermal energy has an important role to play in achieving a sustainable and just energy transition. As a renewable energy source, it can provide a secure alternative to communities currently relying on carbon emitting sources of electricity and heat. De-risking geothermal development is key to accelerating its uptake globally.  Geothermal modelling provides invaluable tools for de-risking geothermal development by supporting the management of existing geothermal resources and helping to assess undeveloped systems.

The modelling group at the Geothermal Institute has been advancing geothermal modelling technology for over 40 years and supports geothermal projects around the world. During this seminar we will present our latest advances in geothermal modelling technology and showcase their application in various global projects. Examples will include:

  • Running geothermal reservoir models in the Cloud
  • Uncertainty quantification of geothermal reservoir models
  • Resource assessment of geothermal systems using uncertainty quantification
  • Supercritical geothermal reservoir models
  • Transient geothermal wellbore modelling
  • Forecasting mineral extraction from geothermal fluids

We will also discuss our approach to teaching geothermal modelling at the Geothermal Institute both in New Zealand and through international short courses. Finally, we will outline opportunities to work collaboratively with our geothermal modelling team.



John is a Co-Director of the Geothermal Institute at the University of Auckland. He is an alumnus of the University of Auckland and Stanford and has spent time working as a consultant in industry as well as volunteering for various NGOs. He specialises in using numerical models to support strategic decision-making for geothermal projects, developing innovative modelling approaches for solving real-world problems and knowledge transfer of geothermal modelling technology. He is committed to the sustainable growth of global access to geothermal resources by helping to deliver successful projects through effective training, new research and by applying best practices in geothermal reservoir engineering and modelling.

John has worked on many geothermal projects around the world ranging from established fields to green field sites. Projects include commercial consulting, collaborative research, and independent reviewing. His modelling projects now utilise Cloud computing and eResearch infrastructure increasing the accessibility and efficiency of modelling. He has also run geothermal modelling training courses in-person and online in Iceland, Asia, South America, Africa, Europe, and Australia.



de Beer, A., Gravatt, M. J., Renaud, T., Nicholson, R., Maclaren, O. J., Dekkers, K., ... & O'Sullivan, J. (2023). Geologically Consistent Prior Parameter Distributions for Uncertainty Quantification of Geothermal Reservoirs. In Proceedings, 48th Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering, Stanford, USA.

Dekkers, K., Croucher, A., Gravatt, M., Renaud, T., Nicholson, R., Maclaren, O., ... & O’Sullivan, M. (2023, November). Cloud computing for complex geothermal simulations using the parallel software Waiwera. In Proceedings 45th New Zealand Geothermal Workshop (Vol. 15, p. 17), Auckland, New Zealand.

Dekkers, K., Gravatt, M., Renaud, T., Maclaren, O., Nicholson, R., O'Sullivan, M. J., ... & O'Sullivan, J. P. (2022). Resource assessment: estimating the potential of an African Rift geothermal reservoir. In Proc. 9th African Rift Geothermal Conference, Djibouti.

Dobson, P., Araya, N., Brounce, M., Busse, M., Camarillo, M. K., English, L., ... & White, M. (2023). Characterizing the Geothermal Lithium Resource at the Salton Sea. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Berkeley, USA.

O'Sullivan, JP, Popineau, J., Gravatt, M., Renaud, T., Riffault, J., Croucher, A., . . . O'Sullivan, MJ (2023). An integrated, mesh-independent geothermal modelling framework. Environmental Modelling & Software, 163, 105666.

Tonkin, R., O'Sullivan, JP, Gravatt, M., & O'Sullivan, MJ (2023). A transient geothermal wellbore simulator. Geothermics, 110, 102653.

Tonkin, R., O'Sullivan, JP, Gravatt, M., & O'Sullivan, MJ (2023). Simulation of complex transient flows in geothermal wells. Geothermics, 108, 102631.


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