In this post:
*GEA Participates in Annual Conservative Clean Energy Summit
*Countdown: Nearly 30 Days Left to Register Online for the GEA GEOEXPO+
*UN GGA Event to Highlight Geothermal Power
*2016 Tax Extenders Coalition Sends Joint Letter to Congress
*Senate Finance Mark-up Underscores Need for Action on Energy Taxes Incentives
*Sandoval Shakes Up PUC by Appointing 2 New Commissioners
*Cornell Wants to Heat Its Campus With Geothermal Energy
*Munich Aims High on Renewable District Heating
*Drilling Completed at Te Ahi O Maui
*Cornell Wants to Drill 2 to 4 miles Underground for Enhanced Geothermal Heating
*Geothermal Energy Plant Will Produce 25 Megawatts of Energy
*OPIC Board of Directors Approves Over $1 Billion in Support for Investments in Developing Countries
*Chevron Said to Narrow Bids for $3 Billion Asian Geothermal Sale
*Indonesia Rejects Plans for Development in Rainforest
*Increasing International Interest in Geothermal Development in Indonesia
*Tanzanian Volcanoes May Hoard Helium Ready for the Taking
GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell Presenting at the Annual Conservative Clean Energy Summit
GEA Participates in Annual Conservative Clean Energy Summit
This week GEA staffed a booth at the Christian Coalition’s and Young Republican’s annual renewable energy conference at the Capital Hyatt on Capitol Hill, where like minded politicians, Young Conservatives, politicians and stakeholders gathered to discuss and promote renewable energy. Speakers echoed a call for bipartisan support of renewable energy and above all, the energy independence that could bring as the US divests from fossil fuels. Many Washington-based clean energy associations were in attendance to educate interested attendees about the benefits of a green grid, with many participants eager to learn about utility-scale and direct-use geothermal.
Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), a leading geothermal advocate, spoke to the summit the morning of the event and highlighted the Section 48 amendment and the need to secure tax parity for geothermal energy. GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell also delivered a speech to an enthusiastic audience. Overall, it was a promising event for geothermal and renewables altogether, proving that clean energy crosses party lines.
Countdown: Nearly 30 Days Left to Register Online for the GEA GEOEXPO+
Leading Innovation. Fostering Cooperation. Network with over 1,200+ GEA/ GRC Event Attendees. This year’s multidimensional GEA GEOEXPO+ October 23-26, 2016 at the Sacramento Convention Center will feature a trade show, marketing forum, ample opportunities to network with a global pool of attendees, and the GEA’s first ever geothermal match making session (more information about the match making session will be released next week).
Who are the game changers? Check out a list of the 2016 exhibitors.
Interested in how federal and multilateral agencies can help geothermal power and possibly your business? Representatives from KfW, OPIC, USTDA, World Bank, Ex-Im Bank, US DOE GTO, USAID, USEA-EAGP amongst others will step onto the Marketing Forum stage.
Register now to attend the GEA GEOEXPO+.
4 day all-access pass to the GEA GEOEXPO+ is $295 for GEA Members/ $350 for Non-Members. Can’t make it all 4 days? Not a problem. Click here to check out our flexible registration options.
What does the all access pass online registration include?
This event is held in conjunction with the GRC Annual Meeting.
Connect with GEA/GRC attendees before you come to Sacramento. Download this year’s event app to make the most out of your GEA/GRC experience.
UN GGA Event to Highlight Geothermal Power
The GGA will host “Reaching SDG 7: Geothermal Energy and the Global Geothermal Alliance” on Thursday, 22 September 2016, 15:00 – 16:30 hrs at the United Nations Conference Building, CR 6 at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly:
“Geothermal energy is a proven clean energy technology, which provides stable and affordable electricity and, through direct use, space heating in the domestic, commercial and industrial sectors. Nevertheless, despite the vast geothermal potential, with identified resources in nearly 90 countries, only 24 of those countries are producing geothermal electricity (only 6% of estimated global potential).
Achieving SDG 7 (Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) and delivering on the Paris agreement on climate means investing in clean energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal. Expanding infrastructure to provide these sources in developing countries is crucial to creating jobs, boosting economic growth, and reducing environmental impacts. Geothermal development can play a vital part in the world’s transition to a sustainable energy future.
There are a number of challenges to the development of geothermal energy. There is a shortage of skilled professionals. There are environmental issues which need to be addressed, as well as issues around infrastructure. In general, a lack of available knowledge is hampering governments and investors from committing to this clean, flexible source of renewable energy. The main obstacle, however, remains the high upfront costs of drilling and risks associated with the uncertainties of the exploration phase.
In order to address the above challenges, in the margins of the Paris COP21 meeting in December 2015, a group of countries and other partners established the Global Geothermal Alliance, to create a global platform for improved dialogue, cooperation and coordinated action among the geothermal industry, policy makers and geothermal stakeholders. It brings over 70 Member countries and Partner institutions together to work towards increasing the share of geothermal energy in the global energy mix through both geothermal power generation and direct use of geothermal heat.
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kenya to the UN
Co-sponsored by Iceland, Kenya and IRENA, the High-level Event will bring together Ministers and experts from various regions to discuss geothermal energy and its potential as a clean, reliable and sustainable solution for development and the role that the Global Geothermal Alliance can play in addressing the key challenges hindering more accelerated geothermal deployment.
15:00 Introduction by Mr. Adnan Amin, Director-General of IRENA (moderator).
Remarks by H.E. Lilja D. Alfredsdottir, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iceland.
Remarks by H.E. Dr. Judy Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources of Kenya.
15:20 Presentation on Low temperature geothermal exploitation, by Mr. Sigsteinn
Gretarsson, CEO Arctic Green Energy, Member of the Board of Sinopec Green Energy Geothermal Development.
15:35 Presentation on High temperature geothermal exploitation for electrical production, by Mr. Trent Philip, Executive Director Reykjavik Geothermal.
15:50 Remarks by Mr. Tim Williamson, Deputy Director, Renewable Energy, US Department of State.
15:55 Interactive discussion.
16:20 Closing remarks by Co-chairs.
The High-Level Event is open to UN badge holders.
2016 Tax Extenders Coalition Sends Joint Letter to Congress
This week, a coalition of 52 groups sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to provide multi-year extension of the tax provisions that are currently slated to expire at the end of 2016. This includes renewable energy technologies left out of the longer-term extensions granted to solar and wind at the end of 2015. The groups joining in calling for tax extender legislation was a diverse range of interests from the American Farm Bureau Federation and GEA to the Association of American Railroads and the Roofing Institute.
The letter reads as follows:
“Dear Speaker Ryan, Democratic Leader Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, Democratic Leader Reid, Chairman Brady, Ranking Member Levin, Chairman Hatch and Ranking Member Wyden:
The undersigned organizations, representing a variety of business, energy, transportation and agriculture stakeholders strongly urge Congress to provide a seamless, multi-year extension of the tax provisions that are currently slated to expire at the end of 2016. These tax provisions impact sectors that are vital to the U.S. economy and support thousands of jobs nationwide.
Allowing these tax provisions to lapse would effectively increase taxes on the entities that create jobs and economic growth. Also, the on-again, off-again nature of credit eligibility will cause uncertainty and make it more difficult for businesses to make important tax planning decisions.
Accordingly, we respectfully ask that you provide a seamless, multi-year extension of these important tax provisions before Congress adjourns. We look forward to constructively working with you to achieve this important goal, and thank you in advance for your consideration.”
Senate Finance Mark-up Underscores Need for Action on Energy Taxes Incentives
The same week as the Christian coalition’s confernece, the Senate Finance Committee scheduled a mark-up for legislation on pension reform. Despite not being “germane” several Senators offered legislation relating to different expiring energy tax incentives. One of geothermal’s supporters in Congress, Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke on behalf of extending geothermal’s Section 48 tax credit past the end of this year.
” Nevada is a national leader on solar, geothermal and other innovative technologies. As a result of last year’s solar tax deal, Nevada expects an additional $2 billion in solar will be invested in our state alone, expanding clean energy production and creating hundreds of good paying jobs.
As a leader on this issue, I believe it is crucial and critical that we provide parity across the renewable energy sectors so that all Section 48 technologies are treated equally.
I am disappointed Section 48 parity is still an outstanding issue within the tax code. It should have been resolved last year,” remarked Heller. The Senator introduced an amendment that was not voted on which would have given geothermal parity with solar’s through a multi-year 30% ITC extension.
Sandoval Shakes Up PUC by Appointing 2 New Commissioners
In a move likely intended to overhaul the makeup of the Public Utilities Commission, Gov. Brian Sandoval on Tuesday appointed two new commissioners to the three-member panel, bringing outside perspectives to a regulatory body that is often criticized for being insular.
Effective Oct. 3, Sandoval’s general counsel Joe Reynolds and former Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Director Leo Drozdoff will become PUC commissioners, replacing David Noble and Alaina Burtenshaw, who have worked at the PUC for decades.
Reynolds will become PUC chairman, taking over for Paul Thomsen, another Sandoval appointee.
In a statement on Tuesday, the governor called Reynolds a “smart and thoughtful litigator who successfully managed some of the most difficult legal issues our state has faced in the past year and a half.” Drozdoff’s appointment to the utilities commission will be temporary.
Policymakers, energy experts and the governor criticized the commission after it unanimously approved rate hikes for rooftop solar customers, increasing bills for thousands of existing customers who installed solar panels on their roofs months, sometimes years, before the ruling.
In July, the governor said he would not reappoint Noble, who presided over the new rates. After the rates were approved, Noble made several public speaking appearances defending the rate structure. He said the new rates were necessary to ensure that solar customers were paying their fair share for the grid and not shifting service costs to nonsolar ratepayers.
The new rate structure for rooftop solar customers remains controversial. Although the PUC reversed course last week when it voted to grandfather thousands of existing customers under their prior rates, the more taxing rate structure continues to apply for future solar customers.
National installers Sunrun and SolarCity halted sales in Nevada this year, arguing that the new rate structure made a long-term investment in rooftop solar disadvantageous. The commission is expected to reconsider the costs and benefits of rooftop solar during a proceeding this fall, which means a change in the PUC’s makeup could affect how solar is valued going forward.
A Sandoval spokeswoman in July thanked Noble for his service but said that the governor believed that the utilities commission needed “a fresh perspective and new direction.”
The governor’s choices are unique in that neither appointee comes directly from the PUC. Both Burtenshaw and Noble had worked at the PUC prior to being appointed commissioners.
In October, Burtenshaw, who started working at the PUC in 1992 and has served as a commissioner since 2010, will become the chairwoman of the Nevada Transportation Authority.
“I appreciate Alaina’s willingness to continue her service to our state in this new assignment,” Sandoval said. “The (NTA) will continue to maintain the safety and integrity of the companies and operators that move the Nevadans and the millions who travel to our state annually.”
Daniel Stewart, who served as chief policy adviser to the Assembly Republican Caucus during the 2015 legislative session, will start as Sandoval’s general counsel on Oct. 3
Cornell Wants to Heat Its Campus With Geothermal Energy
Cornell University has unveiled plans to heat the university with geothermal energy, drilling deep into the earth to warm the buildings on their campus in upstate New York.
Harvesting geothermal energy involves tapping into the earth’s internal heat. This is a common practice in the western U.S. due to the abundance of mountains and volcanoes, but on the east coast, geothermal plants are more difficult to build and are thus rare.
Cornell’s project, called Earth Source Heat, will research technologies for employing geothermal heat on Cornell’s campus. The first phase of the project will span the next five years and will involve small-scale testing to heat a few campus buildings. The testing involves drilling a pair of wells that will reach down to a heat reservoir more than two miles below the surface. If these tests are successful, Cornell will expand the experiment to heat all the buildings on campus.
A success at Cornell could help to make geothermal energy more mainstream in the northeastern U.S. This region tends to have very cold winters, and relying more on geothermal energy for heating would dramatically cut carbon emissions. A survey by Cornell Engineering found that many areas of New York and Pennsylvania are highly conducive to the type of geothermal project that Cornell is researching.
Cornell hopes that their geothermal system, once fully implemented, will reduce the university’s carbon emissions by almost 40 percent. In the future, it could also be used to heat residential homes, where it would drastically cut carbon emissions and save money.
Munich Aims High on Renewable District Heating
The German city of Munich is planning to be powered 100 per cent by renewable district heating by 2040, with geothermal energy set to play its part.
Local newspaper Abendzeitung Muenchen and thinkgeoenergy website have reported on the presence of large white trucks in the city, specifically being used to analyse Munich’s geothermal suitability.
In the state of Bavaria, the geological nature of the soil is ideal for geothermal. According to analysts conditions are favourable, with especially hot water at the relevant depths. Much of southern Bavaria is located on the layers of the so-called Malm: There are porous, karst and therefore particularly permeable rock layers.
Over the last two decades smaller Bavarian cities have developed geothermal projects but Munich would be the first large city to embrace geothermal district heating to this extent.
For now seismic surveys of the city’s subsurface have been done and the city is planning to start drilling in 2018 to depths of 4,000 meters, with preparations to start this autumn.
Surveyors used the trucks involved to perform 3D seismic tests in order to fully appreciate Munich’s geothermal potential. The measurements are integrated into the research project GRAME, which is funded by the Federal Department of Energy of Germany.
Drilling Completed at Te Ahi O Maui
Drilling of the production well and two injection wells has been completed at the Te Ahi O Maui geothermal project, near Kawerau.
Project manager, Ben Gibson, said today that the drill rig and associated equipment have now completely demobilised from site, where they had been working since May.
The drilling process targetted known sources of geothermal fluid, which could be as hot as 200-300 degrees Celsius, he said.
“The drilling was successful – we located the high-temperature fluid that will ultimately fuel the geothermal power plant, and the injection capacity necessary to manage the cooler fluids that have passed through geothermal power plant.”
Well pads were constructed on site and the Old Coach Road, near Kawerau, was upgraded in preparation for the drilling rig’s arrival in late April. Drilling began in May following assembly, inspections, and karakia and blessings from local kaumatua.
Mr Gibson paid tribute to the internationally recognised drilling specialists who have worked on the project including rig contractor, MB Century; ancillary service provider, Halliburton; and supervising engineers, Jacobs, together with a number of smaller contractors based locally and further afield.
Mr Gibson noted that drilling was completed without any major incidents or harm to any person or the environment. “Drilling these wells to plan, without any major incidents, is testament to the professionalism, skill and experience of the entire team.”
The project focus now shifts to the construction of the power plant, transmission line and steamfield. Mr Tomairangi Fox, Cultural Adviser to the project, said “We are very happy to have completed drilling and the next stage is very exciting too.”
He reminded anyone who may have once come onto the block to hunt or get firewood that the area is now closed off. “This is for the safety and security of everyone working on the project.”
The Te Ahi O Maui project has engaged Israeli company Ormat for the next phase of the development. Ormat is a world-leader in the development and construction of state of the art and environmentally sound geothermal power solutions. Listed on the New York Stock Exchange and employing over 1,000 people worldwide, Ormat has supplied geothermal power to over 23 countries.
Matt Todd, chairman of the Te Ahi O Maui board and chief executive of Eastland Group, says he is pleased the project has partnered with Ormat for construction of the power plant. “Ormat has over 30 years’ experience in the New Zealand geothermal energy industry and is involved in 12 geothermal projects around the country. They have the necessary skills and knowledge that we can rely on for the successful delivery of the Te Ahi Ō Maui project.”
Resource consent for the project allows for the transfer of 15,000 tonnes of geothermal fluid each day from the Kawerau reservoir for 35 years, with the new plant on track to be operational in 2018.
The Te Ahi O Maui geothermal project is a New Zealand partnership between Eastland Generation and Kawerau A8D Ahu Whenua Trust.
Eastland Generation is an Eastland Group business, which owns and operates various electricity generation projects. These include the 9MW Geothermal Developments (GDL) plant in Kawerau, the 5MW Waihi hydroelectricity scheme near Wairoa and six 1MW diesel gensets.
Eastland Group’s focus is on building strong, long-term, mutually beneficial relationships from the ground up – together with the owners of the land on which the plant will operate. Te Ahi O Maui represents a very large and long-term investment ($120 million) for Eastland Group and the company hopes to return significant dividends to the Gisborne/Tairawhiti community and the A8D block owners.
The Kawerau A8D Ahu Whenua Trust is the owner of the 165 ha of land, which sits above the Kawerau geothermal reservoir.
The Trust members are excited about the potential to use the land for the benefit of their people. The A8D Trust views the Te Ahi o Maui project as an investment in sustainable generation of energy for the local and national community, a way to foster local employment and education opportunities, as well as creating a further revenue source to support its investments and growth into the future.
The project began in 2012 and was issued resource consent by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council in 2015.
Cornell Wants to Drill 2 to 4 miles Underground for Enhanced Geothermal Heating
Geothermal energy-energy drawn from the internal heat of the Earth-has long been the purview of mountainous, volcano- and earthquake-prone regions like the western United States or Iceland. The US’ eastern states, on the other hand, have been generally disregarded as geologically unfit for geothermal projects because the rock beneath them rarely has the natural fractures or water sources necessary to easily build a geothermal system. But that’s not stopping Cornell University, based in upstate New York, from thinking it can warm its Ithaca campus in winter by tapping into heat from “basement rock,” two to four miles underground.
Cornell announced a new project, called “Earth Source Heat,” this month. The university will research and potentially execute a system that will involve drilling deep into the rock near the campus, circulating fluid to capture the naturally occurring underground heat, and using that fluid to directly heat the campus (rather than change the heat into electricity, as many geothermal plants do).
The project would be considered an “enhanced geothermal system,” or an EGS, which differs from a regular geothermal system in that the reservoir of hot rock into which fluid is injected is man-made, rather than naturally created. EGS projects have been very limited in the US. In 2014, when Ars toured a geothermal plant outside of Reno, Nevada, Karl Gawell, the executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association, called EGS a “tough business” because funding for projects was difficult to come by, and private companies found such an endeavor far too expensive to be economically feasible.
But Cornell wants to change that. “A recent survey of the upper Appalachian basin conducted by Cornell Engineering revealed that subsurface heat deep in portions of New York and Pennsylvania is likely of sufficient quality to provide district heating to residential and commercial buildings,” the university wrote in a press release. “This is especially significant given the Northeast’s cold winters and dense population centers.” If Earth Source Heat is successful, it could light the way for other institutions to develop a similar heating system.
Because of Ithaca’s cold winters, Cornell expects to supplement the EGS with heat from biofuel made from wood or non-food crops. The biofuel component would only kick in during times of peak load.
The grand vision for Earth Source Heat is not a guarantee, however. Cornell will start with a demonstration project, which will include building two wells, as well as heat-exchange technology, to heat targeted areas of the campus. A Cornell spokesperson told Ars that such a small-scale demonstration would likely cost $12 million to 15 million in initial research. Currently, the university is trying to build support among community members and assemble researchers and investors from higher education, private business, and government agencies. If the demonstration is successful, then the university will move toward a “full-scale geothermal project.”
Ars e-mailed Gawell for his opinion on the enhanced geothermal project proposal. In his response, he told Ars that he had high hopes for Cornell’s project. “It’s exciting to see their sense of investing in the future, and I’m sure given their location their heating needs must be substantial. Like many renewable technology ventures, it may cost more upfront but will pay dividends for decades.”
“The project will also make Cornell a technology leader,” he added. “There are a number of schools and universities using geothermal. Oregon Institute of Technology uses higher temperature geothermal for heating and power on campus, Ball State University uses geothermal heat pumps to heat buildings across its campus, but Cornell is the first to propose combining EGS techniques for heating in the Eastern US.”
Clearly, there are a lot of hurdles to clear here; even if Cornell clears them, EGS heating of the whole university will be years, if not decades, away. But the project is more than just pie-in-the-sky dreaming, too, because Cornell has done similar upgrades for cooling. In 1998, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation approved the university’s Lake Source Cooling project, which uses chilled water from nearby Cayuga Lake to provide cooling to the campus. The project cost the university $58.5 million, but since 2000, it has saved the campus 25,000,000 kWh per year in cooling and allowed Cornell to eliminate refrigeration equipment that contained chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and needed to be replaced.
The EGS plan comes at a time when Cornell is still trying to figure out ways to reduce its carbon footprint to meet a self-imposed emissions reduction goal that the university committed to in 2009. “Since that time, Cornell has reduced its emissions by more than 30 percent through several initiatives, including the construction of solar farms and the decommissioning of its coal-powered energy plant,” the university’s press release stated. “Cornell is pursuing the Earth Source Heat project to eliminate up to an additional 38 percent of its emissions.”
“Cornell cannot reach climate neutrality without eliminating the fossil fuels that are used to heat campus, and there are very few potential technologies (utilizing the resources we have here in Ithaca) to do so,” the university wrote in an informational sheet. At the moment, renewable geothermal energy might be the school’s most economical path to such dramatic reductions in carbon output.
Geothermal Energy Plant Will Produce 25 Megawatts of Energy
The Burley Bureau of Land Management approved the Walker Ranch Geothermal Project, which will be 13 miles south of Malta in Raft River.
The project was proposed in 2015 to drill up to 22 wells on BLM land and the associated infrastructure.
The project is proposed to generate up to 25 megawatts of power using geothermal resources.
According to BLM geologist Steven Lubinski, there are some environmental impacts, but it`s generally fairly clean.
“After the plant is in operation, there`s very little impact to the environment, because there`s no emissions. It`s clean energy as far as that`s concerned. So once the construction`s complete, it`s a good thing,” said Lubinski.
This is the second power plant in Raft River, but the first on federal land.
The Burley Bureau of Land Management permits the wells and the activity that takes place, but where the energy actually goes is up to the company.
OPIC Board of Directors Approves Over $1 Billion in Support for Investments in Developing Countries
WASHINGTON – The Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, today approved support for new development projects totaling just over $1 billion. These private sector-led development projects will invest in Sub-Saharan Africa, India, the Caribbean, and Central America in a variety of sectors including transportation, financial services, clean energy, and infrastructure.
“Today, OPIC approved over $1 billion in projects that will provide underserved populations with access to transportation, energy, and the financial tools needed to advance their businesses and improve their lives,” said Elizabeth L. Littlefield, OPIC President and CEO. “By supporting projects in various sectors, we will continue to showcase the impact that private sector-led development can have in fast-growing markets around the globe.”
The board of directors’ approval for OPIC support of these projects include:
Chevron Said to Narrow Bids for $3 Billion Asian Geothermal Sale
China General Nuclear Power Corp., the country’s biggest nuclear power operator, has been invited to make a second-round bid for Chevron Corp.’s Asian geothermal energy assets, which could fetch $3 billion, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Jakarta-based PT Medco Power Indonesia is considering joining a separate shortlisted consortium that includes Japanese trading house Marubeni Corp. and Philippine energy producer Aboitiz Power Corp., said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Citigroup Inc., Chevron’s adviser on the sale, will call for second-round bids later this month, the people said.
Chevron, the largest U.S. oil producer after Exxon Mobil Corp., has slashed jobs, canceled drilling projects and sought assets sales to counter a slump in energy prices. The San Ramon, California-based company is aiming to sell its main Asian geothermal holdings, which generate energy from the earth’s heat, in Indonesia and the Philippines.
Chevron’s Indonesia Salak field, one of the world’s largest geothermal operations, supplies a power plant that has 377 megawatts of total capacity, according to its website. It also has a 40 percent stake in Philippine Geothermal Production Co.
“Medco Group is considering partnering with a Japanese company and a Philippine company,” Medco Power President Director Fazil Alfitri said by phone Friday. He declined to name the potential partners.
Representatives for Marubeni, Aboitiz and Citigroup declined to comment, while a representative for China General Nuclear didn’t respond to a Bloomberg inquiry. A Singapore-based spokesman for Chevron said the company doesn’t comment on market rumor or speculation concerning mergers, acquisitions, or divestitures of its assets.
Aboitiz said earlier this month that it partnered with Marubeni, while Medco said in August the Indonesian firm had submitted a bid to buy a stake in the Chevron assets. Sovereign fund China Investment Corp., Malaysia’s power producer Malakoff Corp., Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp. and Ormat Technologies Inc.were among companies that considered making offers, people familiar with the situation said in April.
Chevron has said it plans to raise $5 billion to $10 billion through next year from sales including the geothermal unit and assets in Hawaii, Canada, Myanmar and South Africa.
In July, the company reported its third straight quarterly loss, the longest slump since at least 1989, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The industry is struggling with a persistent glut of oil that’s sunk prices and forced companies to shrink drilling programs and cut spending.
Indonesia Rejects Plans for Development in Rainforest
The Indonesian environment ministry has denied the Aceh provincial government’s proposal to rezone part of Mount Leuser National Park for geothermal development, saving the lives of the tigers, orangutans, elephants and rhinos who co-exist there.
According to the environmental conservation group Mongobay, the ministry rejected Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah’s plea that 8,000 hectares of the park’s “core zone” be changed to a “utilization zone” so that a Turkish company, Hitay Holdings, could pursue geothermal energy development there. In an August letter, Abdullah noted that the project would help President Joko Widodo, who has pledged to add 35,000 megawatts of electricity to Indonesia’s skimpy energy grid by 2020.
Environmentalists, however, worried that such development would start a chain reaction leading to Leuser’s collapse – one authorities would be powerless to stop.
“Anywhere you put roads, destruction follows,” said Farwiza Farhan, chairwoman of Forest, Nature and Environment of Aceh, a nongovernmental organization. She said timber interests and small farmers used such roads to exploit forests previously inaccessible, leading to habitat loss.
“Right now it is geothermal, but what’s next? Even now, they [the authorities] can’t protect Leuser,” Farhan said.
Despite federal conservation laws, recent decades have seen illegal encroachment and logging whittle Leuser by about 5,500 hectares a year.
The Aceh government’s geothermal plans had focused on part of the Kappi Plateau, a 150,000-hectare expanse considered Leuser’s most indispensable landscape.
“Kappi contains some of the best forests remaining in the world,” said Rudi Putra, founder of the Leuser Conservation Forum.
The area’s many salt lakes and fruit-bearing trees, he added, make it an ideal habitat for creatures large and small. Some 200 endangered Sumatran elephants that occupy the plateau – about 10 percent of the world’s remaining population – would be imperiled if the geothermal plans were to go through.
Increasing International Interest in Geothermal Development in Indonesia
The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) in Indonesia is reporting an increasing interest by foreign investors for the development of geothermal projects in the country. This, so the Ministry, is shown by eight auctions for Geothermal Working Areas opened this year, as reported by CNN Indonesia.
Director of Geothermal, Directorate General of Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation (EBTKE) Ministry of Energy, Yunus Saefulhak explained, the companies with interest are are from China, the United States (US), Italy and more. This, he added, is progress compared to the previous period, which only saw PT Pertamina Geothermal Energy (PGE) bidding for the working areas auctioned.
“The auctions being prepared show that more companies than PGE are interested. Where once only PGE was interested, there are now more developers interested in bidding for geothermal working areas and the development of projects.”said Yunus this week.
He named geothermal companies like Hitay, originating from Turkey, which is interested in participating in the auction WKP Mount Talang and an American company, Ormat, which is participating in the process auction at WKP Simbolon Samosir.
But there is interest beyond the development of new projects. Yunus calls foreign companies are also of interest to complete stalled geothermal power projects.
In addition, he said that the Chinese company, KS Orka Renewables Pte Ltd has acquired 95 percent of geothermal power management Sukoria, East Nusa Tenggara. According to him, this proves that the company intends to work on geothermal power plant in Indonesia, having previously acquired 100 percent ownership in Sorik Marapi geothermal power plant at the beginning of last month.
“There is though not only KS Orka, but there are also other companies from China that want to get into the management of the Cisolok geothermal power plants,” he said.
The government of Indonesia plans to auction eight Geothermal Working Areas this year. So far two auctions for working areas have been concluded, the working area of Lawu with capacity of 165 MW, which was won by PT Pertamina (Persero) and the working area Way Ratai with a capacity of 55 MW, which was won Consortium PT Optima Nusantara Energy and Enel Green Power SPA.
Meanwhile, two auctions have closed for Mount Talang-Bukit Kili (65 MW) and Marana (36 MW), the following groups seem to have won those, a consortium between PT Hitay Daya Energy and PT Pertamina and Dyfco Energy. There are still the following auctions outstanding: Grahonyabu (110 MW), Galunggung (110 MW), Mount Pandan (40 MW), Simbolon Samosir (110 MW), and Mount Ciremai (110 MW).
Tanzanian Volcanoes May Hoard Helium Ready for the Taking
Volcanologist Peter Barry spent years in the Great Rift Valley of Tanzania as a graduate student studying the noble gases released at hot springs, asking broad scientific questions about the region’s nearby volcanoes. But unbeknownst to Barry, beneath his feet lay a precious supply of helium gas potentially more concentrated than any reservoir of the element previously discovered.
“The helium was under our noses the whole time, but we weren’t thinking about developing resources and were instead asking broader scientific questions about the volcanoes themselves,” said Barry, now a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Earth Sciences at University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
The helium was under our noses the whole time, but we weren’t thinking about developing resources and were instead asking broader scientific questions about the volcanoes themselves.A team led by Barry recently found evidence for unusually rich helium deposits across the Rift Valley. One apparent reservoir of the gas offers the unheard-of helium concentration of more than 10% by volume. At sites around the valley, the researchers more commonly found helium in the 1.5%-2.5% range.
The world’s 33 helium plants extract the element from natural gas, and helium rarely composes more than 0.7% of the total volume. At large natural gas plants in Qatar, helium concentrations sometimes barely reach 0.05%. In contrast, the more highly concentrated helium in Tanzania appears to be mixed mainly with nitrogen, from which helium is more easily separated.
Helium finds wide use as an ultracold liquid in MRI equipment and other medical devices, spacecraft, and scientific facilities such as particle accelerators. The gas changes to a liquid at the extraordinarily low temperature of −269°C and therefore can be used to cool superconducting magnets and other devices. An MRI scanner contains about 1500-2000 liters of liquid helium to cool its magnets.
The new findings of high-concentration helium may profoundly alter the way the element is extracted from the Earth, according to Barry and other helium experts.
“In Tanzania we can drill a well to target just helium. This is … unique-no one else is doing this,” said Barry. His team presented evidence of the high-concentration helium reservoirs on 27 June at the Goldschmidt Conference in Yokohama, Japan. The findings also may clarify how volcanic activity influences the richness and locations of natural helium reservoirs.
The Goldilocks Zone
A geologist with Helium One takes gas samples at a hot spring using a funnel that feeds into an impermeable copper tube. Credit: Peter Barry
Barry returned to Tanzania to survey helium reserves at the request of Helium One Ltd., a start-up mining company that was registered in the British Virgin Islands in 2015. The company had found a 1967 scientific paper indicating rich helium deposits in the Rift Valley’s thermal springs and wanted Barry and his colleagues to verify the findings.
To test helium concentrations, the researchers took samples of gas bubbling from the hot springs reservoirs by means of a funnel connected to a copper tube. Surface gas samples typically reflect true subsurface concentrations, Barry told Eos.
Samples taken within 20-30 kilometers of a trio of active volcanoes contained helium at a concentration of only 0.0005%, according to Barry. However, helium concentrations in samples taken in the Rungwe area of the Rift Valley, about 150 kilometers from those volcanoes, reached as high as 2.5% helium. Less than 50 kilometers from the Hanang and Labait volcanoes, in another Rift Valley region called Balangida, the team measured the extraordinary concentrations of 10.2% helium.
On the basis of the findings, Barry and his colleagues suggest that most deposits of concentrated helium gas occupy a Goldilocks zone that lies at a “just right” distance from volcanoes. Volcanic heat can liberate helium from ancient rock. However, the researchers speculate, volcanic gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), abundant near erupting volcanoes, may then dilute the helium, driving concentrations down. The location of the Goldilocks zone would depend on factors such as how active the volcanoes are and which volcanic gases are present, Barry said.
“If volcanic gases are causing dilution, then you will see high CO2 and low helium closest to the active volcano. Farther away, the helium will dominate. This is what we are seeing,” said Diveena Danabalan, a Ph.D. student from Durham University, also in the United Kingdom, who worked with Barry on the sampling. Because Hanang and Labait are relatively inactive volcanoes for the region, they might not greatly dilute helium by producing large amounts of CO2, Danabalan added.
The Tanzania find comes on the heels of a period of severe instability in the global helium market, which was valued in 2015 at $700 million. Contrary to the popular perception that helium stocks are running out, the world supply currently significantly outstrips demand. That abundance follows a shortage from 2011 to 2013 when several new helium production sites delayed opening, maintenance work at natural gas plants idled some existing suppliers, and remaining sites held production steady because they lacked costly cold-temperature storage to hold additional output.
In response to the shortage, producers of MRI scanners began recovering and recycling helium. Recession in Europe and Asia also reduced demand just as the delayed sites began to increase supply. Adding to the oversupply, new producers have recently come online in the United States and Algeria. Today, most helium production sites are only running at 50% capacity, said Ralf Gubler, a senior principal analyst covering industrial gases at IHS Chemical in Zurich, Switzerland.
“It is the high helium concentrations [that] are significant, as opposed to the total amount of gas, which is not huge compared to other helium-producing regions.”If the Tanzanian measurements lead to accessible reservoirs of helium not mixed with natural gas, those new sources may prevent future price shocks like the ones that debilitated past markets, according to Gubler. When a liquefied natural gas plant that’s also a helium source requires maintenance or if production stalls, the helium market loses some of its supply, he noted. Tapping reservoirs of helium gas rather than natural gas containing helium might also prove more profitable. “If the helium concentration at the new source in Tanzania is really high, the producers will benefit from lower costs,” said Gubler.
The discoveries in Tanzania aren’t expected to make a big difference to the world reserves. The estimated 1.53 billion cubic meters of helium gas there would meet only about 9 years of global helium demand, according to Robert Jolley, field manager at the U.S. Federal Helium Reserve in Amarillo, Texas. Rather, “it is the high helium concentrations [that] are significant, as opposed to the total amount of gas, which is not huge compared to other helium-producing regions,” said David Hilton, an isotope geochemist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.
For now, Josh Bluett, technical director at Helium One Ltd., hesitates to claim too much, noting that “it will require further geophysical surveys and drilling to prove up the potential and to ultimately realize productive helium reserves.”