Geothermal Investments, Exploration, and New Opportunities

In this post:
*DOE Press Release: EERE Success Story-Geothermal Technology Breakthrough in Idaho: Building Upon Previous EGS Accomplishments
*AU Press Release: East Africa Donors’ Coordination meeting encouraging Geothermal Investment commences at the African Union Headquarters
*Indonesian Pertamina Will Operate 3 Geothermal Plants in 2016
*Geothermal Development in Japan Hindered by Hot Springs Industry
*Toshiba Contemplates Expanding Its Geothermal Business Beyond Turbines
*Regional Indonesian Governments to Get Share from Geothermal Profits
*Utility Dive: PG&E Will Close Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant, To Be Replaced with Renewables, Efficiency, Storage


A typical Japanese onsen – or traditional hot spring – that stems from the country’s abundant geothermal resources.

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DOE Press Release: EERE Success Story-Geothermal Technology Breakthrough in Idaho: Building Upon Previous EGS Accomplishments

The Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO)’s major long-term goal is to realize enhanced geothermal system (EGS) technologies’ vast potential through commercial, cost-competitive, EGS power production. In pursuit of this goal, GTO funds research and development (R&D) and field demonstrations to facilitate new, innovative technology deployment and validation to reduce costs and improve performance of these man-made geothermal reservoirs. To build upon previous EGS demonstrations successes, GTO and the University of Utah are continuing to push EGS technologies forward with ground breaking accomplishments at the Raft River Geothermal Field in Idaho.

The Energy & Geoscience Institute at the University of Utah is demonstrating stimulation techniques that connect a previously isolated injection well, RRG-9, to the existing power production wells. In effect, this makes existing geothermal reservoirs larger, and more electricity can be added to the grid.

As of June 2016, the team observed more than a 50-fold increase in well injectivity, from approximately 20 gallons per minute (gpm) to nearly 1,000 gpm at RRG-9. Regular fluid samples collected from nearby production wells indicate new, man-made connections between the RRG-9 and the existing reservoir.

The fluid samples and increased well injectivity have several important implications:

The stimulation of RRG-9 has successfully enlarged the size of the existing geothermal reservoir. With fluid sampling, GTO and the project team can verify that a portion of the fluid injected at RRG-9 travels through the EGS reservoir and extracts heat from the surrounding rocks, before entering the existing production wells and being used to generate electricity.

The injection well, which was initially isolated, or subcommercial, has been incorporated into the existing geothermal field. RRG-9 has greatly exceeded the project teams’ target flow rate of 500 gpm. Pressures within the reservoir have decreased with time, also indicating that the reservoir is growing.

The increased reservoir size and added injectivity will yield an estimated 2.5 megawatts electric and eliminate the need for drilling another $3 million-$4 million injection well closer to the bore field.

The team’s success at the Raft River EGS project demonstrates the importance of low pressure thermal stimulation as the primary mechanism for improving well injectivity, in conjunction with strategic high rate stimulation techniques.

Broad collaboration on this EGS demonstration project has contributed significantly to its success. Collaboration between the academic community, geothermal industry, and National Laboratories has ensured a successful well stimulation project, and facilitated collection of an immense amount of temperature, pressure, flow, seismic, and tracer data. This data will continue to be used for analysis, data interpretation, and modeling efforts for years to come.

The final phase of this project will consist of long-term data collection and analysis activities to understand the creation and evolution of an EGS reservoir that is connected to an existing geothermal reservoir. The data collected here will further advance EGS technologies and deployment, further contributing to the advancement of EGS commercialization.

AU Press Release: East Africa Donors’ Coordination meeting encouraging Geothermal Investment commences at the African Union Headquarters

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 17 June 2016: The East Africa Donors’ Coordination meeting commenced on Monday 13th June 2016. H.E Dr. Elham M Ibrahim, AUC Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy met with Ambassadors, Gary Quince the Head of the EU delegation to the AU, H.E Mr. Bruce Shepherd of New Zealand, H.E Mr. Thomas Terstegen, Deputy Head of Mission of Germany, Deputy Director General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Ministers responsible for energy and Ambassadors of the East African Rift System (EARS) countries, representatives of donors, representatives of development partners, experts of Geothermal Risk Mitigation Facility (GRMF) beneficiaries ‘and countries, public and private sector. To encourage further geothermal investments and improve access to equity or other funding sources and thus play a catalytic role in establishing geothermal energy as a strategic option in power expansion planning of Eastern Africa.

As it was the first meeting of its kind ever to hold at the African Union, Commissioner Elham Ibrahim expressed her warm regards to delegates present and to the Geothermal Risk Mitigation Facility (GRMF) team for organizing a gathering that thrives to encourage public and private investors to develop geothermal prospects for power generation in Eastern Africa. Dr. Elham noted that it is more than ever important to increase the deployment of geothermal projects so as to increase the rate of energy access in Africa especially with the growing population. This she said can be achieved with reliable and competitively priced modern energy such as geothermal.

Dr. Elham also highlighted Agenda 2063 and the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) noting that on the road to achieve an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, the first ten year plan where energy is taken to be one of the major enabling aspects has been elaborated.

“It is our responsibility as a continent to work together join hands and coordinate our efforts to develop our short , medium and long term plans to efficiently exploit the resources thereby satisfy the continents energy needs”; she concluded

H.E Mr. Bruce Shepherd Ambassador of New Zealand to Ethiopia spelled out New Zealand’s contribution to East Africa as countries in the region seek to strengthen their domestic and renewable energy generation and sustainably develop one of the world’s most significant geothermal resources. On this he said that New Zealand will make available its well-developed policy, hard and soft tools, and cutting edge technology as well as expertise of over 60 years in Geothermal energy, Ambassador Bruce also underscored the African Union Code of Practice for Geothermal Drilling, a product which is the result of a unique collaboration between New Zealand and the African Union. The Code of Practice will allows for explorations of new modes of sustainable energy, particularly in this era of climate change.

Ambassador, Gary Quince the Head of the EU delegation said that Geothermal is a course strong potential contribution to renewable energy development in Africa. With the growing population he said that geothermal energy is a unique option as it provides base load alternative with high capacity factor to fossil fuel based electricity generation thus deemed environmentally friendly

He noted that the aim of the Geothermal Risk Mitigation Facility is to reduce barriers for investment while attracting public and private partners to invest in geothermal power.

Deputy Director General of International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) called upon the 11 eligible countries of the Risk Mitigation facility for energy which are Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Comoros, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, and Zambia to strongly consider geothermal investment saying that if utilized to full potential , it can provide sustainable energy system for these countries

For Details Please Contact:

Mr. Aboubakari Baba-Moussa | Director of Infrastructure and Energy | African Union Commission (AUC) | Email:
Media Contact:
Esther Azaa Tankou, Ag. Director of Information and Communication, African Union Commission (AUC)/ Tel: +251(0) 911361185 / E-mail:
For further information:
Directorate of Information and Communication | African Union Commission I E-mail: I Website: I Addis Ababa | Ethiopia
Indonesian Pertamina Will Operate 3 Geothermal Plants in 2016

PT Pertamina Geothermal Energy (PGE), the national enterprise engaged in energy, is ready to operate three geothermal plants this year with a total capacity of 165 megawatt (MW).

“These geothermal projects are meant to boost the national energy security program,” Corporate Secretary of PGE Tafif Azimudin said recently.

The three geothermal plants are Unit 3 in Ulubelu, Lampung, with a capacity of 55MW, the Lahendong Unit 5 in North Sulawesi with a capacity of 55MW, and the Karaha Unit 1 in West Java with a capacity of 55MW.

The Ulubelu unit 3 is scheduled to operate in August 2016 in accordance with the commercial operation date (COD).

Meanwhile, the Lahendong unit 5 and the Karaha unit 1 are scheduled to begin operations in December 2016.

“The total additional capacity installed in these geothermal plants is 160MW. Currently, the installed capacity of geothermal power plants managed by PGE is 437MW,” Tafif said.

PGE has also completed the exploratory drilling of wells in these geothermal power plants. The drilling consists of two wells in Ulubelu unit 3, two wells in Lahendong unit 5, and three wells in Karaha unit 1.

The operations at these geothermal power plants are expected to increase Pertaminas geothermal power production.

Through 2015, Pertaminas geothermal production amounted to 3056.82 gigawatt-hours (GWh), increasing at 2831.40 GWh as compared to 2014.

Data obtained from Pertamina showed that in the first quarter of 2016 Pertaminas geothermal production reached 761.51 GWh, up 6.3 percent, as compared to that of the same period last year.

From January to April 2016, the operational expenses decreased to US$3.1 per ton compared to that in 2015, when it was $3.7 per ton.

Geothermal Development in Japan Hindered by Hot Springs Industry

With centuries of tradition behind them, Japan’s bathers, who enjoy geothermal hot springs in a culturally rich setting filled with customs, remain unmoved by the nation’s bid to tap a rich reserve of power equivalent to about 20 nuclear reactors.

The resource-poor country, which last year spent 18.2 trillion yen importing fossil fuels to its shores, has the world’s third-largest geothermal reserves, containing an estimated 23 GW of power, according to the International Energy Agency’s geothermal division.

Less than 600 megawatts, or about 2%, of that capacity is being used at present, according to the agency.

Japan’s hot springs, known locally as “onsen,” have been in use for more than a millennium as communal baths. Additionally, to this day, heat bubbling up from below the Earth’s surface is used in some mountain villages to boil eggs or to keep roads free of winter snow and ice.

Harnessing that resource on a much larger scale remains elusive. At the end of 2015, Japan housed about one-third the installed geothermal capacity of Indonesia and one-fifth the US, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data.

Furthermore, Japan’s geothermal capacity has changed little since 2000. Now, development of the resource is under greater scrutiny as questions arise over how Japan will meet carbon emission reductions pledged at Paris climate talks in December and as efforts to restart the country’s nuclear fleet flounder because of legal actions and public opposition.

“Of course we want to develop our resources at the speed of Turkey or Indonesia, but it is very difficult because of the problems related to hot springs and national natural parks,” Toru Saito, chief secretary of the Japan Geothermal Association, said by phone. “We are hindered because our environmental reviews take a lot of time.”

Environmental assessments and survey drilling can take as long as nine years, according to the government. After receiving environmental approval, constructing a facility can take four years.

Japan, which lies on an arc of volcanoes and fault lines surrounding the Pacific Basin known as the “Ring of Fire,” aims to more than triple its current capacity of geothermal power by 2030.

But according to hot spring owners, some of whom have had onsen in their family for generations, geothermal threatens to destroy their livelihoods.

“We strongly oppose geothermal development,” said Toru Terada, the senior managing director of the Japan Spa Association, which represents 1,200 members. “Geothermal plants can lower the temperature of the springs, as well as deplete volume. We can’t support the government’s plan to loosen regulations in order to expand facilities.”

Hot springs are big business in Japan. More than 120 million people stay overnight at such resorts annually, while millions go for day trips, according to the association.

“Undoubtedly the onsen has impeded” development of geothermal, Greg Bignall, head of the geothermal department at New Zealand-based GNS Science, said by phone. “They can point historically in Japan and around the world where developments have negatively impacted the hot springs.”

The government and developers should address hot spring owners’ concerns by showing examples of areas that have been developed without damage and by explaining advancements in current methodologies and technologies, according to Bignall.

In October, the government relaxed rules protecting onsen and natural parks, expanding the area that can be drilled. The government still doesn’t allow for drilling in so-called “special protection areas.”

Approximately 80% of Japan’s geothermal resources lie on onsen or nature reserves, according to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

“One of the leading impediments to the development of geothermal is that when surveying and drilling needed to occur inside natural parks, the Ministry of Environment wouldn’t grant approval,” Toshiyuki

Tosha, a professor at Kumamoto University and geothermal development adviser for the Japanese government, said by e-mail.

“With the new rules from October, we are getting to a situation where we can drill more in natural parks.”

Before the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear accident in 2011, Japan picked nuclear power as its low-cost green power source of choice, going so far as to forecast that the nation would derive more than 50% of its electricity needs from atomic plants by 2030.

With nuclear now largely idled, Japan is struggling to find a way to power its cities and factories while also meeting its emissions goals and climate commitments.

Geothermal has seen little benefit from an incentive program introduced in 2012 to encourage more clean-energy development, accounting for less than 0.1% of the roughly 86 gigawatts of clean energy projects approved so far by the government.

Japan’s total electricity capacity last year was 230 gigawatts, according to BNEF.

While hot spring owners oppose development of geothermal resources over concerns it could lower the temperature of water they use in their spas, the country’s Geothermal Research Society says tapping the energy source could cut Japan’s CO2 emissions by 54.7 million tons a year.

“Geothermal is a perfect baseload contributor,” GNS Science’s Bignall said. “You can do a lot with geothermal and a lot with natural resources – probably more than what people are doing already.”



Toshiba Contemplates Expanding Its Geothermal Business Beyond Turbines

Toshiba Corp., the world’s biggest supplier of turbines used to produce electricity from geothermal heat, will expand its geothermal power business into operation and maintenance services as it aims to extend its lead in a global market dominated by a handful of competitors.

“We are just doing turbines now but we want to take full advantage of business opportunities in every stage of the value chain,” Tsutsomu Higashizawa, who is in charge of the Tokyo-based company’s global geothermal business, said in an interview.

Three Japanese manufacturers dominate the market for geothermal turbines. Toshiba, which has provided equipment for projects accounting for more than 3,000 megawatts of capacity, has a 23.4 percent share, trailed by Fuji Electric Co. and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Ltd. with 21.2 percent and 20.7 percent, respectively, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Mitsubishi Hitachi is a venture between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Hitachi Ltd.

“Our goal is to get a 100 percent share of the market, but more realistically we are aiming for at least half,” Higashizawa said.

Toshiba has sold equipment for projects in countries such as the U.S., Mexico, the Philippines and Indonesia, and said in May that it had won an order for a project in Turkey. The company also supplied a turbine for Japan’s first geothermal power plant, which opened in 1966 in the northern prefecture of Iwate.

Partnership Approach

Toshiba, which has been trying to recover from an accounting scandal, aims to win more orders in Turkey and African nations such as Kenya through its partnership with Ormat Technologies Inc., a Nevada-based geothermal company, according to Higashizawa.

The two companies signed an agreement in October to offer a wider variety of products and services for geothermal projects, with Ormat’s binary technology complementing Toshiba’s conventional flash turbine systems. Binary systems allow for cooler geothermal reserves to be used as opposed to flash steam plants.

The partnership allows Toshiba to “catch up” with Fuji and Mitsubishi Hitachi as they supply both binary and flash systems, Higashizawa said.

Toshiba will also benefit from Ormat’s expertise in various stages of developing geothermal power projects from funding to drilling to operations. Toshiba, whose geothermal business has been focused on the manufacturing of turbines, will provide O&M services with Ormat or on its own depending on the project, Higashizawa said.

Toshiba is also eyeing other steps beyond developing geothermal projects and supplying equipment. The company is open to various options, including owning geothermal power plants, Higashizawa said.

Regional Indonesian Governments to Get Share from Geothermal Profits

Local governments in Indonesia will soon be able to enjoy the profits from geothermal activities. The government has entered the final stages of drafting a regulation on the bonus from geothermal production, which is expected to be implemented next month.

“The Energy Minister, Finance Minister, Home Affairs Minister, and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy have all agreed. We now only have to wait for the president’s approval,” Yunus Saefulhak Director of Geothermal Energy and Mineral Resources, told reporters.

The bonus and profit portions for local governments will be given based on the sales percentage between geothermal developers and the central government. The calculation is based on power units (kilowatt hours/kWh). For thermal power sales and purchase agreements (SAPs), the profit share is 1.0 percent and for electricity SAPs the share is 0.5 percent.

Yunus said areas that are eligible for a share of the revenues are cities and regencies-not provinces. If a work is located in more than two regencies/cities, the production bonus will be divided according to the area size.

Yunus said the policy will lower non-tax revenues from the geothermal sector. This year, the non-tax revenue target is set at just Rp630 billion, below last year’s Rp882 billion.

Abadi Purnomo, chairman of the Indonesian Geothermal Association, agrees with the production bonus concept proposed by the government. Before it is applied, however, he asks the government to increase the sales tariff of geothermal power, because a production bonus scheme will change power plants’ cost structure, especially those that are already in operation.

Utility Dive: PG&E Will Close Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant, To Be Replaced with Renewables, Efficiency, Storage

After years of debate over its future, Diablo Canyon is succumbing to the fate of many nuclear plants in organized markets.

With low gas prices and stagnant load growth keeping market prices down, nuclear plants, with their relatively high fixed costs, are finding it difficult to compete. Five reactors were shut down in 2013 and 2014, the Post notes, while Exelon just announced plans to shutter two major plants after efforts to win legislative support in Illinois failed.

“Our analysis continues to show that instead of continuing to run all the time, there will be parts of the year where Diablo will not be needed,” PG&E CEO Tony Earley, said Tuesday, according to SF Gate. “At a plant like Diablo, with large fixed costs, if you effectively only run the plant half the time, you’ve doubled the cost.”

In California, however, the debate focused on more than economics, with many critics focusing on safety concerns at Diablo. While PG&E has always maintained the plant is safe to operate, some green groups have called for its closure following the tsunami-induced meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011.

Those calls have opened a divide in the environmental community, with others arguing that the environmental benefits of the plant’s carbon-free generation mean its life should be extended beyond the 2020s.

By agreeing to replace the nuclear generation with greenhouse gas-free resources, PG&E is taking aim at the concerns of both camps. Under the terms of the deal, PG&E is committing to source 55% of its power from renewables by 2031, outpacing the 50%-by-2030 renewable energy mandate in place in California.

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, a party to the deal, called it a historic agreement.

“It sets a date for the certain end of nuclear power in California and assures replacement with clean, safe, cost-competitive, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage,” he said in a statement. “It lays out an effective roadmap for a nuclear phase-out in the world’s sixth largest economy, while assuring a green energy replacement plan to make California a global leader in fighting climate change.”

Under the deal, PG&E will submit a detailed proposal to the CPUC to approve its transition away from nuclear power. If approved, PG&E would promise to obtain 2,000 gross GWh from efficiency by January 2025 and issue requests for offers for 2,000 GWh per year of greenhouse gas-free energy resources or efficiency by 2020.

Because Diablo Canyon provides baseload energy, the proposal recognizes that retiring the plant could create the need for some renewable energy curtailment and new challenges around system ramping and grid integration. To address these, the parties to the deal say they will “strongly support” efforts at the CPUC to support the development of carbon-free energy storage resources, including pumped hydro and utility-owned storage.

While the details of the closure and resource replacements will be worked out in the coming years, the framework for Diablo Canyon’s retirement could provide a model for other jurisdictions facing nuclear closures. In May, an official from the Nuclear Energy Institute said as many as 20 plants could be at risk for retirement nationwide, which could put pressure on state efforts to comply with the Clean Power Plan if they are replaced with fossil generation.

In the USA, Newberry Volcano Heats Up

A group of developers and researchers expects their site near the Newberry Volcano to make the cut into the next round of siting a national geothermal research lab.

“We feel pretty confident,” said David Stowe, a spokesman for Seattle-based AltaRock Energy Inc., a geothermal firm that leases the Newberry land and has conducted testing at the site.

The possibility of Deschutes County landing the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy has garnered support from federal, state and local elected officials. Proponents expect the facility would generate temporary construction jobs, academic opportunities through area colleges and universities, and an economic boost for local communities that could benefit from visiting researchers and workers.

The U.S. Department of Energy wants the proposed lab to serve as a research site for scientists and engineers to develop and test new technologies for enhanced geothermal systems.

Enhanced geothermal involves injecting water into the ground where there is hot, impermeable rock below. The injected water circulates and opens up existing small fractures, sending heat to the surface where steam can generate electricity. The water returns to the human-made underground reservoir in a cycle.

The Energy Department expects that research from the future observatory would produce data and testing for the scientific community and industry to better access a possibly huge resource. Researchers expect that tapping up to 2 percent of the geothermal energy potential in the West could power the nation several times over. Proponents of the technology note geothermal’s lack of greenhouse gas emissions and its ability to operate consistently, rather than intermittently like solar and wind-powered resources.

The Newberry site, located on federal land at the Newberry Volcano, has long been explored for potential geothermal resources.

The Newberry Volcano became a national monument in 1990 out of concern about geothermal development in the area. Different efforts have been made to tap the geothermal potential around Newberry, but no conventional geothermal systems – without enhanced technology – exist outside the monument’s boundaries in the region, Stowe said.

Now, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington leads the effort to make Newberry the research lab for enhanced geothermal, partnering with Oregon State University, GE Global Research and Statoil, a Norway-based oil and gas company; as well as Seattle-based AltaRock, which leases about 15,000 acres of Newberry land outside the boundary of the national volcanic monument from the U.S. Forest Service. By fall, the Energy Department could further narrow the field of potential sites from five to three.

“The competition is pretty stiff,” said Stowe. Sites in Idaho, Nevada, California and Utah remain in the running.

The three sites that advance to the next round would split about $30 million in Energy Department funding for planning and permitting over the next couple of years.

Then the Energy Department will choose a final site, where it would implement the lab over a stretch of at least five years, when research aims to perfect enhanced geothermal techniques and make it more efficient, Stowe said.

Partners say they have the only site on the side of an active volcano, where AltaRock has already conducted enhanced geothermal testing.

On Monday, representatives from AltaRock and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory led a tour of the site for the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, a regional power planning body, answering questions from the crowd about the possible work at the site.

“Our resource is heat,” said Laura Nofziger, senior vice president and managing director at AltaRock Services LLC. But mining that resource requires flowing fluid through the rock, in cracks that aren’t so large that the water rushes through without heating up.

As a research site, the observatory would help test various techniques to make enhanced geothermal economically sustainable, for instance by improving drilling equipment and training.

“This is really a research project,” said Alain Bonneville, a laboratory fellow at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s earth systems science division.

If Newberry becomes the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy, AltaRock would have injection and production wells, the underground reservoir, and information on how the site operates – data for investors to build a power plant there.

If Newberry does not become the research site, AltaRock would then determine what to do with its lease, Stowe said.


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