The U.S. Department of Energy announced a partnership to test Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) technology near Reno Nevada. The idea is to use the new technology concepts of EGS in a permeable underground strata with water injection into “hot dry rock.” The test is going on at the Ormat Technology Desert Peak site, already an 11 megawatt facility.

The technology called EGS (Flash Video Version) is thought to be similar to hydro fracturing used in oil and gas production enhancement. The well bore for the test does not produce commercially useful volumes of heated fluid. The test is planned to raise the bore site to as much as 50 megawatts of power or more.

Ormat’s Desert Peak Site

This site is an intense interest in geothermal progress because geothermal is likely the lowest cost and strongest contender for quick additions to the world’s need for electricity. The test is an attempt to enhance a commercial geothermal facility. The partnership members include the DOE, Ormat and GeothermEx in leadership roles plus the University of Utah, TerraTek, Pinnacle Technologies, the U.S. Geological Survey and three DOE research laboratories: Idaho National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory.

The funding is coming from the DOE with a project budget of $1.6 million for the work and the partners’ expense for the research costs with Ormat providing working capital. The partnership agreement includes Ormat’s agreement to use the EGS facilities for future technology development with the goal to use the technology for geothermal electrical generation in many areas throughout the U.S. Lucien Bronicki says, “Ormat anticipates the Desert Peak facility to be the first commercial project that taps into an EGS resource and produce substantial levels of electricity providing a rebirth for certain geothermal prospects in the U.S. Our objective in the Desert Peak EGS project is to demonstrate that EGS technology can achieve its potential of providing 100,000 megawatts of clean, baseload power as identified in last years’s DOE study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and show that this technology will enable electricity to be produced in regions where it is not currently economically viable.”

Ormat uses air-cooled power plants, which are the choice technology for EGS development because they don’t consume water in the conversion into electricity. All the working fluid is continuously cycled, heated, used and re-injected.

The partnership follows research started more than 20 years ago in DOE laboratories. The work joins Europena, Austrailian and Japanese efforts that have made significant progress with EGS during the past few years. The power will go on the northern Nevada power grid. The U.S. has a strong leader in Ormat. Checking the Ormat site shows that Ormat has facilities worldwide.

On the other side of the planet, Geodynamics Ltd of Australia has completed its wells in its “Habanero” project. The work is focusing on the circulation test – sending working fluid (water) down one bore and drawing the heated fluid back up another (effectively cleaning the reservoir). The test should show the company indications of the power potential in the EGS formed reservoir.

The most interesting part of Geodynamics effort is the depth, 13,850 ft (4,200 meters) and a temperature of 250 degrees C. Should the circulation tests work out to expectations, the concept will have made proof-of-concept and will be signed off by independent experts from the U.S.

The 4200 meter depth is a geothermal record, drilled into granite fractured with over 12,000 psi. Geodymanics has a new treasure of experience in rigs, bits, drilling fluid and pressure management. The three new wells represent the best effort to date in geothermal work.

The Australians call their version of the technology “Hot Fractured Rock”(HFR). The technology is an extension of projects underway in France, Switzerland, Germany, U.S., and Japan. Add to these relationships and the record depth achievement to the leaseholds in South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland, the company’s goal of 10,000 megawatts seems quite reasonable.

Tuesday February 26th 2008, the circulation test completed with 23 kg per second of flow. They’re on their way.

A very nice video courtesy of Geodynamics (mp4). 

Electricity is well understood to be the lowest coast and longest-term solution to fossil fueling. Geothermal has just had a very good month in getting a share of the electrical power generating growth.


1 Comment so far

  1. Atdalisanas Petijuma on May 28, 2011 7:17 PM

    I just wanted to say I really like your writing style.

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