At present, along with conventional energy sources continually consumed, renewable energy sources are increasingly favored, especially the clean and inexhaustible geothermal resources have been universally valued both at home and abroad. In particular, the Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS), which is mainly aimed to exploit the thermal energy of Hot Dry Rock (HDR) at depths of 3 to 10 kilometers underground, has been full of interest to many countries. However, so far there hasn't been an EGS being successfully put into commercial operation because of its shortcomings such as small scale, low efficiency, etc. In this article, in response to the bottleneck of the study on the development of traditional EGS based on drilling technology (EGS-D), a conceptual model of EGS based upon excavation technology (EGS-E) is innovatively proposed and its main components of underground structure are described in this paper. As for ‘High ground stress, High ground temperature and High osmotic pressure’ initial conditions with regards to deep rock mass, the excavation experience, which is worth being learnt from extensive review of previous study as well as practical experience such as the successful excavation of ultra-deep mines in the gold field of South Africa, is summed up. The underground spatial structure that may be reasonable to the so-called EGS-E is being tried establishing. It is expected to provide with a basis for our subsequent numerical modeling.
Currently, seeking and developing clean new energy is the basic energy exploitation strategy, and the clean and inexhaustible geothermal resources have been universally valued both at home and abroad. Geothermal energy is the heat energy mainly generated by the transmutation of radioactive elements in rocks, which is 2.0934×1018 kJ annually. And the geothermal energy stored at depths of less than 10 kilometers underground was estimated to be 170 million times the amount of heat released from all the coals stored in the earth by Pollack and Chapman in 1977 (Wang Ruifeng, 2002). It can be seen that the reserves of geothermal energy are very considerable.
In spite of its advantages of stability, continuity and high utilization coefficient, the scale of the geothermal energy with temperature less than 150 °C at depths of less than 3 kilometers underground is usually too small to maintain the demand for long-term stable electricity production which is mainly hydrothermal and only accounts for 10% of all the geothermal energy stored in the earth (Guo Jian et al., 2014). Therefore, the enhanced geothermal system (EGS) which aims at exploiting the geothermal energy from hot dry rock (HDR) at depths of 3 to 10 kilometers has gradually attracted people's attention.