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PIG in a pipeline

UND engineering team designs pipeline-scrubbing ‘PIG,’ wins geothermal manufacturing prize and advances to next level

UND’s Dreamer Geothermophiles designed a Pipeline Interventions Gadget to reduce mineral buildup. Schematic provided by Dreamer Thermomphiles.


A UND engineering team has won funding in a geothermal manufacturing competition, along with an invitation to advance to the next stage in the contest.

The “Dreamer Geothermophiles” won $33,333 and were one of 15 teams selected to continue in the American-Made Geothermal Manufacturing Prize. They will compete for part of a $1 million award.

The group has devised a plan (and presented it in a YouTube video) to reduce scaling in geothermal wells. Geothermal wells extract steam and heat from the Earth to generate electricity and provide heating and cooling.

Mineral buildup, or scaling, in pipelines and geothermal wells reduces flow and is expensive to remove. The scale – which is similar to concrete – builds up, corrodes pipes, slows fluid transmission and can eventually block pipelines.

Removing the buildup is costly, but letting it continue to accumulate can lead to pipeline corrosion and leakage.

The Dreamer Geothermophiles designed a “Pipeline Interventions Gadget” (PIG) to remove the scale deposits.

As mentioned, a YouTube video made by the students showcases the project.

Will Gosnold

The PIG would be able to operate at high temperatures, and would basically “scrub” pipelines under pressure while solving problems with previous technology, such as breakage, difficulty tracking, and other issues. It would help reduce pipeline costs and improve efficiency.

“The talent and enthusiasm of these students is inspiring,” said Will Gosnold, UND Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Geology and Geological Engineering. “They took the initiative to explore ideas for manufacturing something that would improve geothermal energy development, and they came up with a concept that impressed NREL and DOE.  I am very proud of them.”

The prize money will enable the team to continue developing the concept in the second phase of the four-challenge contest. Fifteen teams were chosen to continue to the next phase.

Stephan Nordeng

The Dreamer Geothermophiles are made up of 11 graduate students from UND and other universities, along with two faculty members, William Gosnold, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Geology and Geological Engineering, and Stephan Nordeng, Associate Professor of Geological Engineering. Student members are doctoral and master’s students in energy engineering, petroleum engineering, mechanical engineering and geophysics from UND; a staff member from UND Energy & Environmental Research Center; and students from the University of Louisiana and Stanford University.

“Our team’s name is Dreamer Geothermophiles, and that’s because each of us is a dreamer, thinker, and of course doer, so by working together on the strength of each individual team member, we have made our dream come true,” said Moones Alamooti, a UND doctoral student in geophysics. “We are ready for the next challenges because our team members believe where there is a will, there is a way.”

About the contest

The American-Made Geothermal Manufacturing Prize is designed to spur innovation and address manufacturing challenges in geothermal environments. Competitors take part in four escalating challenges, Ready! Set! Make! Geo! which offer $4.65 million in incentives to drive geothermal innovations from concept to testing.