Geothermal on Mars, and Around the World

In this post:
*Why Geothermal Energy Will Be Key To Mars Colonization
*Sacramento Geothermal Events Gathering Steam!
*U.S. Renewables Now Outpace Nuclear Power in Energy Production and Electrical Capacity
*Paris Agreement Ratified by 70 Countries, Showing International Support for Clean Energy
*Examining the Technological Overlap Between Oil, Gas and Geothermal
*Alberta Government Eyes Geothermal Fix to Abandoned Well Crisis
*Reasons to Switch to a Geothermal Power
*Exergy Reports Start of 12 MW Saraykoy 2 Geothermal Plant in Turkey
*First 110 MW Unit of Sarulla Geothermal Project Reaching Completion
*Globally-applicable Geothermal Reporting Standard is Now Effective
*New High-Temperature Downhole Hammer Designed for Geothermal Drilling
*Kenya: Geothermal Development’s Turn to Profit Tilts Energy Mix
*Mayor to Hold Another Forum on 60 MW Geothermal Project
*Roundtable to Explore Potential of Geothermal Energy at Cornell
*Kenya: Why More Steam Power Will Not Drive Down Fuel Charges
*Geothermal Heating to Save Cobble Hill Hall Big Money
*City Utility Buys Two Operating Geothermal Power Plants in Munich
*Construction of New Zealand Geothermal Power Plant to Begin
*Geothermal to Cover 50% of Energy Supply on St. Vincent & the Grenadines
*Sawmill Fire Burning in The Geysers 90% Contained
*Governor Brown Signs Geothermal Bill in California
*Turboden to Install Large 16 MW Single Turbine at Croatian Project
*Oil and Gas Wells Prove Useful for Geothermal Energy Generation
*AboitizPower to Supply Energy Needs of 2 Cebu Companies
*Supreme Energy Moving Forward on Three Projects in Indonesia


Is this the final destination of geothermal energy – Mars?
Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Why Geothermal Energy Will Be Key To Mars Colonization

If SpaceX founder Elon Musk truly wants to die a natural death on the Martian surface he’s not only going to have to get there, he’s going to have to survive there for years, if not decades.
The latter arguably requires some sort of long-term source of energy. Initially, such energy could be provided by solar and radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), but over a generation, Mars colonists will require some sort of in situ heat and electricity generated from the planet itself. Thus, why not tap into Mars’ potentially abundant sources of geothermal energy?

That’s a question I posed to longtime Mars advocate Robert Zubrin, an aerospace engineer and author of the 1996 book, “The Case for Mars.”
“The first human bases on Mars could carry a 100 kilowatt nuclear reactor,” said Zubrin. “But to have a Mars settlement, you’re going to want 10 megawatts and for that kind of power, you need to develop Mars’ geothermal potential.”

Artificial life support is a complex and energy-intensive process, as Martyn Fogg noted in a 1996 Martian geothermal energy paper published in The Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. In his paper, Fogg noted that each resident of Mars would probably require anywhere between 1 to 100 kilowatts of electric capacity each.
The prime real estate for a Martian colony will be right next to such a geothermal power source.

“There are [likely] places on Mars where the water table is much closer to the surface than a kilometer,” said Zubrin.
Why not solar, nuclear, wind or radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs)?

At Mars’ distance from the Sun and with today’s limited photovoltaic robotic technology, solar power generation on Mars would be tenuous at best. RTGs are fine for generating tens of watts but are not suitable for powering Martian villages with hundreds of residents, much less cities with thousands of residents that Musk envisions there.

Wind energy on Mars is negligible. With an atmosphere that is only 2% that of Earth’s, as previously noted here, a 100 mph wind would feel like being struck by a feather.
Large-scale nuclear power production will be a long-term option when Mars has a robust infrastructure.

Nuclear power requires an elaborate infrastructure in place, Fogg writes. Fuels must be prospected, mined, purified and then consumed in reactors that are themselves the products of sophisticated manufacturing, he writes. Their spent nuclear fuel must be disposed of properly and reprocessed.

In contrast, geothermal energy, in the form of geothermal heat or either electricity generated via steam turbines from potentially hot geothermal reservoirs is the most viable option for near term Martian colonization.

Zubrin points out in his book that in some places a liquid water table probably exists within a kilometer of the surface.

“I have to think there’s some geothermal power potential maybe 100 miles from NASA’s Curiosity rover and Gale Crater,” said Zubrin. That’s because these methane puffs that it’s detecting are intermittent, he says. On the other hand, if the methane detected by the Curiosity were a global source it would have long been diffused.

Zubrin writes in his book that the planet’s low gravity, a third that of Earth, should make it much easier to drill on Mars. That’s because the planet’s lower gravity will compact the soil less forcefully. And then once hot water is brought to the surface, he notes it would be flashed to steam and used to power a turbine to generate electric power. Zubrin also says that the planet’s low atmospheric pressure will also allow steam to be much more fully expanded before it is condensed.

Since the book was written it has become clear that there is underground liquid water on Mars, says Zubrin.

“We have also detected methane, which is either the product of hydrothermal activity, or of bacteria living in geothermally heated environments,” said Zubrin, noting that if it’s there, deep drilling is also the key to finding past or extant Martian life.

“The closer to the surface it is, the easier geothermal will be to develop,” said Zubrin.

But more likely, access to geothermal energy would require drilling down several kilometers.

“If you can drill deep enough to get the heat, then you have to work out some way to get the heat out,” said Paul Morgan, a geothermal geologist at the Colorado School of Mines. “Traditionally on Earth that’s been with water, but that’s surely in short supply on Mars.”

There’s plenty of carbon dioxide (CO2) trapped in Martian ice, says Morgan. That CO2 can be compressed and liquefied. Once you’ve got it liquefied, Morgan says, it works quite well as a geothermal exchange fluid. Although the CO2 would be pumped into a geothermal well in a liquefied state, the CO2 would bring heat back to the surface on its own and would quickly evaporate. Electricity generated by the well itself, however, could then be used to re-liquefy the evaporating CO2 so that it could be used again.

As to likely geothermal energy-rich sites on the Martian surface?

Mars’ Cerebus plains, its Northwestern Tharsis region and the canyons of Valles Marineris are all possibilities as geothermal hotspots.

With humans on Mars by 2024, Zubrin says the goal would be to create a base with the equipment necessary to drill a geothermal well.

“With 500 kilowatts of nuclear power, they could start drilling and creating a 10 megawatt geothermal power supply,” said Zubrin. “That would be enough for a town of 10,000 people on Earth.”
But that still depends on how accessible Martian geothermal energy proves to be.

“If it’s easy to get at, well get at it with equipment from Earth,” said Zubrin. “If it’s difficult to get at, it may have to wait until we can turn Mars’ iron oxide to Martian steel for drilling pipe.”

In any event, Morgan asserts that Mars colonists would need to drill down 10 kilometers to hit geothermal pay dirt.

“The challenge is to figure out a way to drill with low power; you only can drill as fast as the power you have,” said Brian Derkowski, a mechanical engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
I’m confident the tech will develop to get geothermal energy from deep within Mars says Morgan. But he says it just won’t be a straight Earth-based tech exchange to Mars.
“Twenty years after the first humans on Mars, we could have [Martian] geothermal energy,” said Zubrin.


Sacramento Geothermal Events Gathering Steam!

Sacramento, CA (October 3, 2016) – From October 23-26, the dynamic  GEA GEOEXPO+ and GRC Annual Meeting and will take place in the City of Trees – Sacramento, CA where geothermal leaders, developers, and exhibitors will congregate to exchange expertise and take part in sessions geared towards geothermal development, education, and expanding opportunities at home and abroad.

A new exciting feature of the GEA GEOEXPO+ is the industry-tailored Marketing Forum organized by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA).  Sessions, led by key players like the IADB, KfW Development Bank and  Global Geothermal Alliance, cover everything from development operations in nations with high geothermal potential to Agency Briefing Sessions with the US DOE GTO, USAID, IADB, USTDA, Ex-Im Bank, World Bank-ESMAP, and OPIC.  Mark your calendars for the Exhibitors Leading Innovation Session and the topical USEA-East Africa Geothermal Partnership Event.

GEA’s Trade Show Hall will feature roughly 100 diverse exhibitors spanning the range of geothermal interests – from developers and drillers to environmental services firms and government agencies .   New technologies and emerging opportunities in the industry will be on display.

The home state of the GEA GEOEXPO+ and GRC Annual Meeting, sunny California, is in many ways the American frontier of geothermal thanks to Obama’s recent Salton Sea Initiative and California’s new 50% RPS.  Building on this, GEA is hosting a dynamic GEA Roundtable entitled “Geothermal in CA – the Path Forward” at the 2016 Annual GEA Members Meeting.  With new opportunities arising for geothermal yet remaining challenges to be overcome, how can California put this valuable renewable to work for the power system and society?

GEA’s GEOEXPO+ is also facilitating Agency Matchmaking Sessions!  Agencies in attendance are the IADB, USTDA, OPIC, Ex-Im Bank, and ITA.  In this unique opportunity, company representatives can meet with agency officials one-on-one to discuss opportunities available. The goal is to bridge the gap between private sector needs and available agency support.  The Agency Matchmaking Sessions will take place October 24-25 in GEA’s Trade Show Hall A, Sacramento Convention Center.  Individuals or companies interested in attending should RSVP to as meetings will be arranged prior to the event.

Only twenty days left to register for the largest annual gathering of geothermal stakeholders in the world!  Register here and don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity to forge industry connections that will last a lifetime and discover new opportunities to expand your geothermal business, knowledge, and network.

For more information including questions about registration please contact Rani Chatrath at To request press credentials, please contact Allie Nelson at

U.S. Renewables Now Outpace Nuclear Power in Energy Production and Electrical Capacity

Contact: Ken Bossong, 301-270-6477 x.11

Washington DC – Two new reports from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) confirm that nuclear power is rapidly losing the race with renewable energy sources.

EIA’s latest “Monthly Energy Review” (with data for the first half of 2016) notes that during the first six months of this year, renewable sources (i.e., biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind) accounted for 5.242 quadrillion Btus (quads) of domestic energy production. This includes thermal, liquid, and electrical forms of energy. By comparison, nuclear power provided only 4.188 quads. That is, renewables outpaced nuclear by more than 25%.

Meanwhile, FERC’s latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” (with data through the end of August 2016), states that the total available installed generating capacity in the U.S. from the combination of utility-scale (i.e., greater than 1-MW) hydropower, wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal is now 215.82 gigawatts (GW) or 18.39% of total generating capacity. Nuclear power’s installed capacity is only107.06 GW or 9.12% of the total. Thus, renewable energy generating capacity is now more than double that of nuclear.

However, actual electrical generation by nuclear plants for the first seven months of 2016 is 19.9% of total generation. That is still higher than that provided by renewable sources which contributed 15.8% (a figure that does not include electricity produced by distributed renewables such as rooftop solar).

But while nuclear power’s share of net electrical generation has remained essentially flat over the past decade — e.g., it was 19.4% in 2006, renewable energy’s share is growing rapidly — increasing from 9.5% ten years ago to 15.8% today [4] — with EIA forecasting continued strong growth in the years ahead.

“If renewable sources maintain their current growth rates, they could fully eclipse nuclear in the trifecta of not only energy supply and generating capacity but also electricity production within the next five or six years,” concluded Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign.

Record-Fast Ratification of Paris Agreement Shows Global Solidarity and Resolve

For more information, contact: Amaury Laporte at (202) 662-1884 or

Paris Agreement Ratified by 70 Countries, Showing International Support for Clean Energy

The Paris Agreement was recently ratified at spitfire speed, displaying a joint international goal to combat climate change and reduce carbon emissions, in which renewable technologies like geothermal are sure to play a part. The Paris Agreement sets a goal of keeping rising global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius and will be fully executed at the beginning of November thanks to a majority country ratification – 70 countries voted in favor, all comprising nearly 60% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

Countries involved have submitted lofty pledges to cut their emissions via a transition to green energy sources and the promotion of energy efficiency. In fact, this is an issue in the US Presidenetnial elections with current Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has built part of her platform around promoting clean energy, while Republican nominee charging she is part of a war on coal and fossil fuels.

The US led as one of the first developed nations to ratify the agreement, meaning that regardless of who sits in the Oval Office come next year, the US will have to abide by its pledge to cut emissions and invest in renewable energy. The US is one of the leading polluters of carbon into the atmosphere despite being smaller population-wise than China, another leading emitter. Together, with the collaboration of 70 key nations, the Paris Agreement is predicted to make a major dent in greenhouse gas emissions and secure the planet’s future for coming generations.
“This is a major commitment to clean energies like geothermal from the world’s leading superpowers,” GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell said. “Renewable energy has a critical role to play in reducing carbon emissions and making the goals set forth by the Paris Climate Agreement a reality. We expect this will open new opportunities for geothermal around the world to be a key part of the clean energy grid of the future.”

Examining the Technological Overlap Between Oil, Gas and Geothermal

The possibilities for the exchange of technologies between oil and gas and geothermal are becoming clear as creative applications, such as geothermal fluid extraction and advanced drilling, are being put to the test.

October 5, 2016

By Allie Nelson

The intersection of the oil and gas and geothermal industries is one that is rich in unexpected ways, be it in drilling technologies or the new frontier of co-production of both fossil fuels and geothermal power from the same well. The revolutionary drilling technology oil and gas companies employ while creating critically-deep wells has migrated over to geothermal, allowing new, difficult to access renewable resources to be harnessed. Meanwhile, in Canada and the U.S., the potential of geothermal energy coproduction at scores of previously existing oil and gas drilling sites is a hot topic — a potential way for oil and gas companies to diversify their energy portfolios and invest in clean baseload energy.

Geothermal in Oil and Gas Fields

Maria Richards, head of Southern Methodist University’s Geothermal Lab and a lead researcher on the intersection of oil and gas and geothermal, views geothermal as an opportunity for the oil and gas industry to eventually transition — following layoffs in the oil and gas industry after fossil fuel prices plummeted, Richards observed many industry professionals reaching out to SMU’s lab about opportunities in the geothermal field due to similar technical skillsets. At SMU’s annual “Power Plays: Geothermal Energy in Oil and Gas Fields” conference, many players in the oil and gas industry were represented, including major oil companies like Shell.

However, for a smooth transition in areas like coproduction, certain criterion must be met, Richards explained. Technology at the surface must evolve, and for the next five years, Richards believes the oil and gas industry will be a resource for collecting data and lithology. Research into the occurrence of geothermal resources overlapping fossil fuels will be a focus. Their intersection, including coal plants like President and Chief Technology Officer at AltaRock, Susan Petty’s, area of expertise “must be further explored,” Richards stressed. In Petty’s assessment, currently, 50,000 MW of aging coal-fired generation needs to be repowered or shut down as they fail current emissions standards. Repowering with Enhanced Geothermal Systems, or EGS, would take advantage of existing infrastructure, producing zero emissions with very low cost to operate and keeps jobs.

Their synergies are still being recognized. Richards highlighted Will Gosnold of the University of North Dakota’s (UND) demonstration site in the Williston Basin, where Gosnold developed a concept known as waterflooding. At a significant depth, fresh hot water is pulled out alongside oil without mixing. Following that, eight cooling fans on the oil and gas pad cool the water and then reinject it into the rock formations. This lubricates the oil, allowing it to flow, while Access Energy’s two turbines generate a gross 250 kw of power, creating a hybrid of geothermal and oil technology. This system is applicable for the oil and gas industry’s future utilizing already existing geothermal fluid at fossil fuel sites.

Richards views the future of oil and gas and geothermal overlap as lying in EGS, where geothermal fluid is pumped into cracks in the ground to create a geothermal system. Unfortunately, Richards noted, from 2004-2006 the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) didn’t allow for EGS studies in sedimentary basins — the geology for most oil and gas resources. Richards explained there is a missing opportunity for EGS/sedimentary basin geothermal projects at sites where the oil and gas industries are already creating EGS-suitable environments. Richards characterized this as “frustration and disappointment from the research side,” but believes that if payoff issues are overcome and economic incentives for geothermal development at oil and gas sites are created, more hybrid technologies like Will Gosnold’s waterflooding can be created and instituted on a permanent basis.

New Technologies from the Department of Energy

As highlighted by a DOE spokesperson, the DOE division of geothermal expertise, the Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO), has long been involved in exploring innovative links between fossil fuels and geothermal and promoting technologies like EGS through the FORGE program. The GTO is currently exploring opportunities to partner with industry to deploy binary geothermal power systems in operating commercial oil and gas fields and also exploring coproduction.

A hot topic is the search for in demand mineral resources such as lithium. Mineral recovery activities within the GTO program are exploring approaches to remove the dissolved valuable, strategic or critical materials from elevated temperature fluids. Once demonstrated, these advancements may be applicable to recovering potential resources from the produced fluids from oil and gas. The DOE program is also conducting an evaluation of elevated temperature fluids to assess the potential for these dissolved minerals within geo-fluids and oil and gas fluids to establish a resource estimate for the U.S.

As touched on in Will Gosnold’s project, in May 2016, DOE announced the launch of the nation’s first commercial enterprise to co-produce electricity from geothermal resources at an oil and gas field. With support from GTO, researchers including Will Gosnold at UND successfully generated geothermal power from hot water that flows from wells in the Williston Basin in western North Dakota. This technology can offset the need for costly transmission construction and reduces energy costs at remote oil fields. The facility started generating electricity for the first time in late April, with a nameplate capacity of 250 kW.

Additionally, the project received the Geothermal Energy Association Honors award for Technological Advancement. This award recognizes the development of a new, innovative, or pioneering technology to further geothermal development. The DOE and UND partnership earned this award for launching the first commercial project that produces geothermal power from an oil and gas well.

A final area of overlap between oil and gas and geothermal, the DOE spokesperson explained, is in technology. A significant number of subsurface technologies utilized by O&G industries can and are utilized by the geothermal industry for EGS, but technological advances in either sector accrue benefits to both, as the subsurface challenges and needs facing both the oil and gas and EGS industries are similar. As an example, high temperature tools developed by industry, with operating parameters that allow those tools to be deployed in extremely hot subsurface conditions, can be utilized by the oil and gas industry as they expand to deeper and hotter commodity extraction, as well as the EGS industry as they develop hot geothermal reservoirs. Similarly, stimulation and drilling technologies are used by both industries, so advancements in this area benefit both sectors. Finally, improved wellbore integrity technologies, zonal isolation technologies, and lower cost fiber optic cables would profit both industries.

The Future of Coproduction

Loy Sneary, president and CEO of Gulf Coast Green Energy, partnered with ElectraTherm, SMU, and the DOE in 2011 at a site in Denbury, Mississippi, to demonstrate the power of geothermal coproduction at oil and gas sites using the aptly-titled Green Machine. Oil and gas companies typically separate oil and hot, briny water that comes up with the fossil fuels and pump them into separate wells. “In other countries, companies produce electricity from the hot water,” Sneary explained.

At the Denbury demonstration site, the water was funneled into a separator tank from the oil and, using Electratherm’s Green Machine, the diverted hot water had its heat removed to generate 32 kWh and was then reinjected. The water temperature at Denbury was not as hot as other oil and gas areas, which can generate more (65 kw) when there is hotter water, enough to power about 60 homes. There are even potential wells with 500 kW in certain geologic areas.

“We are offsetting electric consumption on the site with power generated from hot water,” said Sneary during the time of the demonstration. “It has been talked about for a long time, people have been researching it and there have been a lot of concepts tested — this is the first time it’s really been done with a modular solution, installed in 50 hours and with the entire system mounted to a tractor-trailer skid.”

Halley Dickey, Vice President of Industrial Builders, Inc. said of coproduction: “It is feasible wherever there is existing oil and gas infrastructure, and we may see more applications utilizing existing infrastructure in the future, particularly as electricity prices rise over time.”

However, there is a question whether coproduction is currently profitable, Dickey noted: “Is it economically viable to pursue coproduced fluids as a viable business model for (coproduced) geothermal developers or O&G companies?” Dickey concluded that as we see electricity prices rise over time, these “alternative approaches” to geothermal such as utilizing coproduced fluids or geopressured resources will potentially become economically viable. Eventually, it may be possible to have many small coproduced projects that can be economically justified, if offtakers — utility or corporate — would get some special rate/tariff that shifts their economics to positive — similar to initiatives that have spurred off-grid solar.

The potential for new development at the intersection of geothermal and fossil fuels is substantial, and the opportunities are plentiful. Just one — coproduction — could add substantially to our energy supply with DOE estimating that an average of 25 billion barrels of hot water are produced annually from oil and gas wells within the U.S. But in the final analysis, Dickey would say “it really is all about the money.”

The geothermal industry is entering a brave new world of technological exchange with the oil and gas industry and pulling in many existing technologies to create innovations or build upon the geothermal fluid already extant in oil and gas fields with systems like the Green Machine. Advanced drilling technology is allowing geothermal players to access richer resources, and there is a major opportunity for oil and gas corporations looking to expand into renewables like geothermal. In the wake of COP21 and a shifting energy landscape, the overlap of geothermal and oil and gas may prove a ripe ground for both industries looking to move forward in new and creative ways.


Alberta Government Eyes Geothermal Fix to Abandoned Well Crisis

Alberta Energy may promote the conversion of disused oil and gas wells into geothermal systems as a partial solution to the province’s abandoned well crisis.

“Using abandoned wells for geothermal is a complex issue that requires further input and consultation from a broad range of stakeholders,” says Alberta energy minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd. “I have asked government staff to consider this option as we move forward with our climate plan and also in our considerations of the entire liability management system.” A government official says the province aims to have policies in place before April, which may include tax and carbon credits.

Mitchell Pomphrey, CEO of Pomphrey Industries, who is a key figure in Canada’s first abandoned oil well-to-geothermal heating system conversion, has navigated his way through the byzantine overlapping regulations of Alberta Energy and Alberta Energy Regulator. “In Alberta, the regulatory pathway for converting a hydrocarbon well is complex as geothermal simply doesn’t exist as a regulated resource,” he says.

The Alberta government is expected to separately address other abandonment solutions following an appeal of the Redwater Energy bankruptcy decision by the AER next year. In May, an Alberta court awarded lending institutions the right to a bankrupt company’s profitable oil and gas wells, leaving the province and taxpayers holding the bag on the company’s suspended and abandoned assets. The AER’s interim response was to double its Liability Management Rating—a solvency test for oil firms looking to buy a well— to 2.0.

The majority of Alberta’s oil companies—70 percent—have an LMR below 2.0 and will now have to pay a deposit when buying a well. This will slow down the cascade of majors selling low-producing wells to junior and mid-cap firms. Clifford Johnson QC of Field Law’s energy group says the changes to the LMR, “may well have a chilling effect on investment in the energy industry, and lead to more insolvencies and thus more orphan wells.”

Some oil firms see converting their wells to geothermal systems as a solution to the abandonment question. Sundial Energy is central to a feasibility study into developing Canada’s first geothermal heating project from a producing oil well. “In the short term, in the case of an active well, a producer adds value by heating a greenhouse,” says Sundial CEO and former rig hand, Jason Edwards. “In the long term, at the end of a well’s life, it avoids abandonment costs—so long as the government recognizes the change of use—by continuing as a geothermal system.” The study indicates that geothermal could generate $1 million in revenue annually from heating facilities for year-round tomato growing. The Calgary-based oil firm that is spearheading this pilot on one of its Saskatchewan wells asked not to be named in this story.

Geothermal power generation is another option for coproduction of oil and geothermal energy. Texas is a hotbed of well-to-geothermal conversions, including a 1 mw coproduction project. In Mississippi, coproduction from an oil field water flood injection system produces 19 kw of power. In North Dakota, coproduction powers a 250 kw system. The power supply is lower-cost than other available sources. Mobile, 125-kw, off-the-shelf power generation units can be moved to another pad when the flow rate decreases over a well’s lifetime.

The North Dakota project is in the Williston Basin—where across the border in Saskatchewan, Deep Earth Energy Production (DEEP) is developing Canada’s first commercial geothermal power system. Its $40-million purpose-drilled geothermal project will pilot a 10-mw plant with a 5 mw net output—half of the power is consumed by the system. Studies in Alberta, near the Rockies where hot rock oil wells are located, indicate that similar plants could be built for $10 million plus by using abandoned wells instead of drilling one. A 10-mw plant could power a town the size of Hinton, population 10,000. Dan Claypool, a veteran rig manager, says “One well out there even produced boiling mud.”

Geothermal power is nothing new in the oil industry. Chevron has been a global leader in geothermal power generation since the 1960s, operating plants in Asia and North America. But the company only uses it for sites where hot rocks are close to the surface, which is not the case in the prairies. So far, only a handful of wells have been identified that have bottom hole temperatures of 120 – 130 degrees Celsius, are three to 3.5 kilometers deep and near to a market and a transmission line tie-in station—the criteria needed for conventional geothermal power production.

Tom Ogryzlo, a director of Toronto-based Polaris Infrastructure, which operates a 72 mw geothermal project in Nicaragua, says: “Heating is probably the best use of geothermal energy in most of Western Canada considering the amount of high temperature fluids normally required for power generation.” There are, however, low-temperature (80 degrees Celsius) power modules, such as those being brought to commercialization stage next month by Thermal Electronics Corp based in Aurora, Ontario. But many of Alberta’s wells have down hole temperatures as low as 30 degrees Celsius, which works only for geothermal heating systems.

Converting just 10 percent of Alberta’s 78,000 suspended wells to geothermal heating systems could create work for hundreds of service firms and defer the cost of abandonment for producers. By November, eight service firms, including a drilling crew, will start a three-day work over program to prepare an abandoned well in Leduc, Alberta—the living-energy-project—for geothermal conversion. This space heating pilot will provide open-source data.

“Repurposing existing oil and gas wells to generate geothermal energy would require much of the same services required to complete or work over oil and gas wells,” says Petroleum Services Association of Canada CEO, Mark Salkeld. It would put people and equipment to work without having to re-invent the wheel to develop new equipment or expertise, he says. “It would mean jobs and the retention of expertise and skilled labor that many PSAC member companies are struggling to retain during this downturn.” Furthermore, it would further establish Albertan and Canadian well decommissioning expertise as world class, potentially boosting oil service exports. It would also provide export opportunities for Canadian drilling firms in countries that have geothermal potential, yet lack an oil industry. Dr Faisal al-Thani of the Qatar Society of Petroleum Engineers says, “Canada’s technology and innovation is world class and is highly regarded in the Middle East.”

Mark Scholz of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors agrees. “These types of innovations, once proven, are just another example of the forward thinking in the Canadian oil and gas industry,” he says. “Removing the burden of abandonment, while creating renewable thermal energy, could prove beneficial for both the industry and the environment. It means viable work for service rigs and other service contractors while at the same time providing lower costs for their customers.”

If the two Canadian well-conversion pilots prove the technology to be economically viable for space heating and help create regulatory blueprints, they could create a new agro-oil industry, potentially reducing our reliance on imported produce. Converting 10 percent of Alberta’s suspended wells, according to one estimate, would boost the area under greenhouse glass in Alberta by 440 percent, creating 5,000 permanent, year-round jobs in agriculture.

The economics vary greatly from well to well depending on depth, heat and permeability of the rocks, and well condition, structure and location. Wells can produce up to three times more heat energy than the electrical energy needed to pump the water around the pipeline loop. However, the electrical energy is more expensive per unit than the natural gas or propane that would otherwise be used for heating greenhouses.

Pomphrey, whose company designs and installs solar power and storage systems, including greenhouse technology, says, “Most disused wells are on remote, off-grid sites where trucking in diesel to power a greenhouse or a geothermal system pump is prohibitively expensive. Solar systems and storage—especially in southern Alberta, which gets more sun than anywhere else in Canada—is significantly more cost competitive.” Recent advances in LED lighting technology—cutting to one sixth the power conventional bulbs need—make year-round illumination possible. Pomphrey Industries has co-designed a renewables system, made by oil service workers, to power the geo system of what will be Canada’s first abandoned oil well conversion.
Another option for powering geothermal systems is cogeneration—when its waste heat supplements geothermal heat, cogeneration efficiency for methane or propane fueled units is up to 90 percent. They could be used in regions of low solarity or in conjunction with solar power in winter.

Fluid output is also central to the geothermal viability. Claypool says: “The volume of fluids produced and well depth are key to temperature loss as they rise to the surface.” He cites 6,500 feet deep wells at Wizard Lake (50 kilometers south of Edmonton) he worked at, which produced 15,000 b/d and the temperature only dropped from 77 degrees Celsius to 63 degrees. “Had they only produced 2,000 b/d they would have lost far more heat,” he says. This is crucial to circulating water from a disused well, which incurs the pumping costs. It’s less important in a producing well that’s being converted to coproduction as the power costs are already factored in to oil production.

Flow rates also impact the use of disused gas wells—most producing gas wells don’t have the lift to bring enough water to surface, so can’t be used for coproduction—as they have smaller bores than oil wells. A typical abandoned gas well, once it’s filled with water will only produce 20 liters/second, but geothermal power production requires 60-70 liters of water per second.
Many of the well owners who stand to gain the most from geothermal energy coproduction are those operating stripper oil wells—some produce up to 99 percent water. Turner Valley south of Calgary has such wells, and being at 5,000 to 7,000 feet depth they have temperatures that are excellent for space heating, although probably not for conventional geothermal power systems. Stripper wells are among the hardest hit by low prices, so additional revenue from geothermal energy, and potential carbon and tax credits for such conversions, could be the lifeline that many operators desperately need. Once a stripper well shuts down it is unlikely to start up again. These wells typically only produce two to 15 b/d, yet are very important to the industry— in the U.S. they account for more than 500,000 b/d and impact North American oil prices. Converting them to coproduce heat—or even power that’s cheaper than the current source that drives the oil well and operations—might tip the balance of profitability, keeping them in production and their operators out of bankruptcy.

The flow rate of water in the rocks themselves is also key to geothermal systems—over-extraction can lead to the rocks near the well cooling faster than the heat is replaced. A geothermal system has to be designed to produce at a replenishable rate to achieve sustainability Low permeability is less of an issue for greenhouses whose temperatures have to be below 40 degrees Celsius. In summer, the geothermal heat exchanger system becomes a coolant pumping hot water underground to replenish the rocks’ heat.

If regulations changed to recognize change of use over a well’s lifetime, suspended and zonal abandoned wells would avoid the $100,000 to $300,000 surface abandonment costs of removing a road and well head and plugging the well bore just below the surface. Banks won’t lend to abandon wells but they will lend to build greenhouses. Furthermore, oil companies could form joint ventures with farmers who own the land where the wells are located. To be converted to a geothermal system a suspended well would only need the deeper, concrete plug to be put in place just above the casing perforations making it into a zonal abandoned well. In the future, as oil prices rise and the well is brought back into production, the geothermal system would coproduce heat alongside oil, if the regulations were changed to permit such multiple change of use over a well’s lifetime.

Suspended, producing and zonal abandoned wells look more economically attractive for conversion than fully abandoned wells. In the case of fully abandoned wells, instead of offsetting abandonment costs, drillers have to go through their second cement plug just below the surface, followed by a wireline checking for obstacles and measuring the temperature gradient, and pressure testing to confirm the casing integrity, which would cost $100,000 plus.

Another financial advantage in the face of coming federal and provincial methane regulations and carbon pricing is that geothermal systems put a pair of eyes on potential leaks from disused wells. Any venting would instantly trigger a sudden pressure change in a geothermal system, and methane-grabbing technology can neutralize it or put it to use.
Field Law’s Johnson says the private initiative to convert disused wells to geothermal could have two very positive impacts: A potential reduction in orphan well numbers and heat generation without burning fossil fuels. “Hopefully this innovative initiative will get the support it deserves,” he says.


Reasons to Switch to a Geothermal Power

“Environmentally friendly” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot these days. In terms of electricity, people everywhere are looking for the best eco-friendly alternatives to power their homes. Energy costs are rising rapidly and the need for renewable power is at an all-time high.

Geothermal systems are a popular route people are using as an alternative energy source. Geothermal systems transfer heat from the earth while only using electricity when absolutely necessary. These systems do wonders to lower energy dependency and can reduce usage of up to 75%! Here are some of the best reasons to switch to geothermal power:

It Saves Money

When considering switching to geothermal, saving money is the name of the game. Even though conventional energy costs might fluctuate, in the long run, prices have steadily increased and will most likely continue to do so. Geothermal systems are energy misers designed to meet the exact space conditioning of a home and only need to use a small amount of power. With geothermal energy, homeowners are able to see a positive return on their investment as the cost of the system basically pays off itself in savings. Do the math! Nothing will save money like geothermal.
Long Life Span

Out of all the different types of electric generators, geothermal systems are one of the most durable and long lasting. Due to the fact they are not exposed to elements of the outside environment, most heat pumps are rated to last more than 25 years while the mechanism that exchanges ground energy is made to last over 100! Using geothermal power, homeowners can enjoy a lifetime of clean, affordable energy.


Being that geothermal power is renewable energy from the earth, users are able to predict the power output with outstanding accuracy. This is a huge advantage geothermal energy has over the wind and solar as the weather plays a crucial role in their output.

It Helps the Environment

“Going green” is a trend that has picked up a lot of steam in the past few decades. Geothermal has been recognized as the most environmentally safe energy available. One of the biggest eco-friendly advantages geothermal energy boasts is that it does not require the burning of fossil fuels which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emission. Geothermal systems run on power that is proven clean and renewable.

It’s Very Safe and Comfortable

As there is no burning of fossil fuels with a geothermal system, there is no danger of a gas leak or carbon monoxide poisoning. Having peace of mind is priceless.
Geothermal systems are designed to heat and cool homes evenly. This eliminates the hot and cold blasts of air found in conventionally powered homes. Geothermal systems are also able to dehumidify air in the summer months while doing the opposite in the winter making the in-home temperature perfect at all times of the year.

Net Zero

As discussed earlier, switching to geothermal energy is an investment. Going geothermal is an extremely effective way to achieve a net zero home. A net zero home is still connected to the power grid that serves the community. However, a geothermal powered home only borrows electricity when it needs to and can sell it back to the grid when it produces more energy than it uses. This makes their net energy bill zero. A geothermal powered home is instrumental in getting the most out of every unit of energy bought or generated.

Bonus! Free Hot Water!

As icing on the cake, geothermal systems can produce some, if not all of a home’s hot water! With a simple connection, the geothermal pump can transfer the heat removed from the home and deliver it to the hot water heater making it virtually free to operate. Now you can stay in the shower until your heart’s content!

It Has a Lot of Potential

On a commercial level, geothermal is not yet competitive with the wind and solar energy. However, there is a lot of room for growth. The investment costs of geothermal energy are high. But as discussed earlier, with a low cost of operation, there will be a large return. The current installed capacity of geothermal power in the United States is around 3,190 megawatts. According to a study done by MIT, there is potential to install more than 100,000 megawatts in the next 50 years! Even though significant investments will need to be made, switching to geothermal power is a renewable and easily predictable path to take.

Geothermal energy is a very green, economically smart choice. In addition to saving a lot of money, you can help reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The United States Environmental Protection Agency recognizes geothermal energy as the most environmentally safe source of power. Putting a system in your home is equivalent to taking 2 cars off the road or planning over 700 trees!


Exergy Reports Start of 12 MW Saraykoy 2 Geothermal Plant in Turkey

EXERGY is glad to announce that on 30th September 2016 Sarayköy 2 geothermal ORC unit installed for the client GreenEco Enerji has received the acceptance by the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resouces confirming that the plant meets the required performance targets.

This plant is the second of two 12 MW units that EXERGY has provided to the client. The first unit started up in February has been in successful operation since. The important achievement of on schedule Ministry acceptance for this plant, following the one already achieved for the first unit, proves once more the validity of EXERGY’s team and technology to meet the required targets.

Exergy extend their congratulations to the Customer, and acknowledge their hard work required to meet this important milestone.


First 110 MW Unit of Sarulla Geothermal Project Reaching Completion

Reported from Indonesia, PT Pertamina Geothermal Energy (PGE) expects the first 110 MW unit of the Sarulla geothermal power plant in Silangkitang, North Tapanuli (Taput) to start operation before the end of the year.

Corporate Secretary of PT PGE Tafif Azimudin revealed that “In early September 2016 physical construction of geothermal power plants Silangkitang Unit 1 1 × 110 MW (SIL) has reached more than 95%. This is a remarkable achievement, “said Tafif.

It is planned to expand the plant with additional 2 units to reach a total installed capacity of 330 MW when finalized.

“Sarulla Operations Ltd (SOL) will build and operate three units of geothermal power plant (3x110MW) which will be entirely channeled to PT PLN (Persero),” he said.

The plant will provide much needed power to the grid in North Sumatra.


Globally-applicable Geothermal Reporting Standard is Now Effective

A harmonized standard for reporting geothermal resources has become operational.

UNFC is now applicable to geothermal energy resources

Geothermal energy could play a significant role in ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, but production today is only at 7% of the estimated global potential. Geothermal energy exists in almost 90 countries, but only 24 of them produce electricity from geothermal sources. In 2011 the International Energy Agency (IEA) produced a Technology Roadmap for Geothermal Heat and Power that showed that the world could increase production of heat and electricity from geothermal energy at least 10-fold by 2050. Geothermal energy’s potential as a viable energy option with global scale has been constrained to date by a lack of clear global assessment guidelines and standards.

Now, however, a globally-applicable, harmonized standard for reporting geothermal resources has become operational. At its 25th session on 30 September 2016, the UNECE Committee on Sustainable Energy approved the Specifications for Application of the United Nations Framework for Fossil Energy and Mineral Reserves and Resources 2009 (UNFC) to Geothermal Energy Resources.
The Director of the Sustainable Energy Division of UNECE, Scott Foster, noted “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has just celebrated its first anniversary. Application of UNFC to renewable energy resources is a priority for our member States, and inclusion of geothermal energy in UNFC will help to attain Sustainable Development Goal #7 by improving the positioning of geothermal within the policy and investment communities.”

Having an international system and a standardized terminology for reporting geothermal resources will build trust and understanding of the geothermal industry with investors, regulators and the general public alike. The work to develop the UNFC geothermal specifications was carried out under UNECE’s Memorandum of Understanding with the International Geothermal Association (IGA). UNFC is applicable to all extractive activities, renewable energy and injection projects.

The President of IGA, Juliet Newson, stated “The IGA aims to encourage, facilitate and, when appropriate, promote the coordination of activities related to worldwide research, development and application of geothermal resources. In a manner consistent with the aim of the IGA, and led by Professor Gioia Falcone, the UNFC Geothermal Working Group of the IGA Resources and Reserves Committee has now produced a set of Specifications for classifying, comparing and reporting estimates of geothermal potential, resources and reserves. The Specifications will now be maintained through regular review, through a transparent governance structure, and process, that allows input from all stakeholders. On behalf of the IGA, I thank Professor Falcone, and all stakeholders and collaborators involved in the development of the Specifications. In particular, I want to extend our thanks to the Chair of the IGA Resources and Reserves Committee, Dr. Graeme Beardsmore, for his dedication and hard work.”

Achieving a successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society, as called for in SDG17 “Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development”. Professor Gioia Falcone underlined “This work has only been possible due to productive partnerships with all stakeholders. In particular, the collaboration with IGA as the international geothermal umbrella has proven to be of strategic relevance, allowing for a high degree of interaction and engagement with the World Bank-ESMAP, IRENA, IEA-GIA, US DOE, GEA, GRC, EGEC, UGI, and more. After only 20 months from the appointment of a 12-person Working Group of volunteers to draft the geothermal specifications from scratch, we are pleased to see them becoming operational.”

For further information about UNECE, UNFC and IGA, please consult the respective websites:, and
Note to editors:

The United Nations Framework for Fossil Energy and Mineral Reserves and Resources 2009 (UNFC), which is applicable to all extractive activities worldwide and now also renewable energy and injection projects, is developed by the UNECE Expert Group on Resource Classification. The IGA is represented in the Expert Group and its Bureau. The Expert Group provides a forum for stakeholders, including governments, industry, the financial reporting sector, international organizations and professional societies and associations, to assist in defining the needs to be met by the classification, its definitions, specifications and guidelines, and a vehicle for recommending their application.

The work on application of UNFC to renewable energy resources is undertaken by a dedicated Task Force of the Expert Group. The Task Force has developed generic specifications for applying UNFC to renewables and is now focusing on the development of renewable commodity-specific specifications, including for bioenergy, hydropower, solar and wind.

The International Geothermal Association (IGA), founded in 1988, is a scientific, educational and cultural organization established to operate worldwide. It has more than 5,200 members in over 65 countries. The IGA is a non-political, non-profit, non-governmental organization. The objectives of the IGA are to encourage research, the development and utilization of geothermal resources worldwide through the publication of scientific and technical information among the geothermal specialists, the business community, governmental representatives, UN organizations, civil society and the general public.


New High-Temperature Downhole Hammer Designed for Geothermal Drilling

Downhole hammers employ a rapid hammering action, much like a jackhammer, in order to cut through rock. They have been used in the oil, gas, and mining industries since the 1950s, but because of their use of oil-based lubricants and plastic parts, the conventional design is unsuitable for the high temperatures of geothermal drilling.

Like the piston in a car engine, a downhole hammer has moving parts that need to be lubricated. And just as the oil in your car loses its effectiveness over time, conventional hammer lubricants become much less effective as temperature increases. Therefore, one of the critical aspects of the project was developing a lubricant suitable for geothermal drilling.

“The technology behind the new hammer is fundamentally the same, but … [with] material selection and dry lubricant technology that will work in the high-temperature environment,” said Sandia’s Jiann Su, a mechanical engineer.

In order to test the hammer, Sandia engineers constructed the high operating temperature (HOT) test facility, a three-sided open concrete structure that houses a 20-foot-tall drill rig, heating chamber and process gas heater. An engineering challenge in itself, construction of the HOT test facility required integrating electrical, mechanical, pneumatic and control subsystems. But the effort was worthwhile, as the test facility offers realistic operating conditions with temperatures up to 300˚C, almost twice that seen in conventional drilling.

Atlas Copco focused on designing a hammer without plastic parts and ultimately the combined efforts of the two companies proved successful. “We were able to reach our drilling rates, the materials held up, the coatings worked well,” said Su.

“We developed a tool that can be used in high-temperature environments that can help increase the drilling rates and the rate of penetration to maybe 5 to 10 times that of conventional drilling operations, so that’s a big plus for drillers,” Su commented. “It adds to the available options drillers have. This is not necessarily the final option for every drilling situation but it does provide a good option for the right situation.”


Kenya: Geothermal Development’s Turn to Profit Tilts Energy Mix

The Geothermal Development Company (GDC) broke the loss making streak to post Sh1.6 billion net profit in the full year ending June 2015 after inking a deal to sell steam from its Olkaria wells to the government.

The State-owned firm generated its first revenue of Sh2.5 billion in the period under review being earnings from sale of underground steam to the Kenya Electricity Generating (KenGen) Co to produce geothermal power.

GDC sold steam equivalent to 320 megawatts, helping tilt Kenya’s energy mix in favour of geothermal power which is green and cheaper compared to thermal power.

“Affordable energy means better lifestyles for Kenyans and more profits for investors,” said Johnson Ole Nchoe, chief executive at GDC.

“The Olkaria steam revenue has not only reduced GDC’s dependency on exchequer support, but has also ensured that the company is in the right path towards financial independence,” said Ole Nchoe, who took office mid this year.

Grants tripled

GDC made a loss of Sh115 million in the year to June 2014, when it did not have any revenue streams. Grants to the parastatal tripled to Sh1.5 billion last year compared to Sh578 million in June 2014.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is keen to exploit renewable energy sources such as geothermal, wind, biomass, and solar to lower the cost of electricity in Kenya.
At an average of ¢21.6 per kWh, Kenya’s electricity is one of the priciest in the world, compared to Ethiopia’s ¢4.7 per kilowatt hour, according to World Bank data.

GDC was formed in 2008 as a special purpose vehicle to accelerate the development of geothermal resources by bearing the risk of drilling steam wells and providing steam to power producers for electricity generation.


Mayor to Hold Another Forum on 60 MW Geothermal Project

Mayor Edgar Teves of Valencia, Negros Oriental, is proposing another public hearing on a larger scale on the proposed 60-megawatt geothermal power expansion project of the Energy Development Corporation.

Teves said yesterday the planned public consultation would have to be after this month because of the town’s upcoming fiesta celebration on October 12.

The public hearing will be for a larger audience this time, to get a clearer perspective and consensus of the Valencia residents on the proposal of the EDC to expand its geothermal power production by 60MW at its existing Palinpinon geothermal plants.

The proposed project has met with a lot of opposition from civil society organizations that are clamoring against acts that they say would destroy Mt. Talinis, such as the cutting of trees by EDC to pave the way for additional access roads.

On Saturday, about 20 members and representatives of the Kinaiyahan and 350 Pilipinas were present, alongside Teves, the media, an official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and an environmental expert, among others, for a site visit and briefing at the EDC’s Southern Negros Geothermal Project in Valencia.

During a briefing before the site visit, Mayor Teves became exasperated and even raised his voice a bit following a question from a member of the opposing groups regarding a previous public consultation.

Teves stressed it was unfair to describe that public gathering as not genuine.

Apparently piqued by the question from the lady, Teves demanded straight answers from the groups and challenged them to another public consultation with a bigger representation from all the barangays of Valencia.

Teves was irked when a member of the so-called “Kinaiyahan” group commented that the public hearing in March this year at the Vega gymnasium in Valencia was not genuine, and that attendees are pre-positioned, just to promote and to immediately endorse the project instead of asking questions.

The groups acquiesced to Teves’ proposal.

Zeph Repollo of 350 Pilipinas welcomed the suggestion of Teves even as they await the action to be taken by the DENR on this matter. She said up to now, they have not received any invitation from the DENR.

She thanked DENR Secretary Gina Lopez for accommodating their concerns but she said they still have to collate some data and information gathered during the site visit and will issue another press statement later.

Repollo said there will be another site visit to the proposed areas for expansion due to limited time Saturday.

Meanwhile, Repollo clarified that the environmental groups represented in Saturday’s site visit were under the federated Kinaiyahan.

But, another group, Save Mt. Talinis, that is also a strong critique of EDC, was not represented during the weekend activity.

Repollo explained that they are separate from the Save Mt. Talinis movement but she did not elaborate when asked if they shared the same sentiments and objectives.

Meanwhile, SNGP-EDC senior manager Vicente Omandam said the proposed expansion project is within the 5,163 hectares existing development area and that the expansion is in terms of capacity, from 222.5 megawatts to 280.5 megawatts.

He said the application for additional 60-megawatt of power was a result of studies and projections that in late 2018 there will be a shortage of reliable base load power.

As to fears raised by Repollo, there is no stopping EDC to apply for another expansion in the years to come. Omandam said reservoirs have certain limits.

As to the impact, the last 34 years that they have been operating in that area is enough proof of good management and that the forest growth is even increasing compared to that outside of the reservation area.

Omandam again stressed that until today, EDC has not yet receive an Environment Compliance Certificate from the DENR.

EDC added they have already complied with all the requirements for an ECC application.*JFP/JG


Roundtable to Explore Potential of Geothermal Energy at Cornell

An Oct. 17 roundtable discussion will drill deep into the promise of geothermal energy at a time when Cornell is considering a groundbreaking project of its own. It is the latest event organized by the Mario

Einaudi Center for International Studies on the future of renewable energy and is co-organized by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and co-sponsored by the Cornell Energy Institute. The roundtable will take place at 4:30 p.m. at 255 Olin Hall.

“The Potential of Geothermal Energy: Lessons from Iceland” will feature a keynote address by Thorleikur Johannesson, an engineer with more than 20 years of experience designing and operating geothermal facilities in Iceland, where underground heat generates more than one-fourth of all electricity and provides nearly 90 percent of the heat for buildings and houses.

Johannesson will be joined by Kyu-Jung Whang, Cornell vice president for infrastructure, properties and planning, and Edwin A. (Todd) Cowen, professor of civil and environmental engineering. Moderators will be Hirokazu Miyazaki, director of the Einaudi Center, and Jefferson W. Tester, the Croll Professor of Sustainable Energy Systems in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and director of the Cornell Energy Institute.

Inspired in large part by Iceland’s example, Whang, Cowen, Tester and others at Cornell are looking into the feasibility of using geothermal energy to generate electricity and heat buildings on the university’s Ithaca campus. It would be the first project of its kind in the United States.

In November 2014, the Einaudi Center, the Atkinson Center and the Cornell Energy Institute co-hosted the then-president of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who spoke about the benefits of a clean-energy economy. A video of his talk and an article in the Cornell Chronicle are available here.


Kenya: Why More Steam Power Will Not Drive Down Fuel Charges

Energy regulator has ruled out further cuts in the fuel charge in electricity bills despite switching off Aggreko’s costly emergency power and increased generation of geothermal which is cheaper.

The Energy Regulatory Commission says the fuel levy is unlikely to drop because there is a need to use diesel-fired power plants to “stabilise” the national grid, warning that pushing a lot of steam power may collapse the system and cause a nationwide blackout.

Fuel cost charge — linked to the volume of diesel used to run generators supplying power to the grid — has remained unchanged at Sh2.31 per kilowatt-hour since January.

“We want to maintain the fuel levy at where it is. When we have very low thermal power, it makes the system unstable. Pushing too much geothermal will make the system collapse,” said Joseph Oketch, director of electricity at ERC.

“We’re not only looking at cost but reliability also. We want to have an optimum mix,” said Mr Oketch in an interview.The ERC reviews the fuel cost charge, forex adjustment costs and as well as the water levy every month.

He revealed that the August 6 countrywide power failure was blamed on excess supply of geothermal power from Olkaria, which led to the tripping of the supply line to Nairobi. Kenya on July 13 unplugged Aggreko’s 30-megawatt diesel-fired Muhoroni temporary power plant whose electricity was priced at ¢50 (Sh50) per kWh.

Geothermal power now accounts for nearly half or 46 per cent of total energy mix in the month of July, according to official data, up from 33 per cent in July 2014. The ratio of hydro is 40 per cent, thermal (13 per cent) and a small ratio of wind, biomass and solar.

Diesel-fired electricity is priced at ¢20 for each unit. Hydropower, though susceptible to the vagaries of weather, is the cheapest at ¢3 per kWh followed by Mumias co-generation (¢6 per unit), geothermal (¢7 per kWh), Biojoule’s biogas (¢10 per unit), and Strathmore University’s solar power priced at ¢12 per unit.

It was expected that the above developments would drive the fuel levy much lower, but ERC says delays in completing transmission lines will deny consumers benefits of cheaper power.

“Reliability is also due to line constraints,” said Mr Oketch, adding that key lines linking the Coast and Western to cheap steam power remain incomplete.

The Coast region is yet to enjoy the fruits of cheaper geothermal power because there is no line linking Mombasa and Nairobi. As such, the Coast region is largely served by two thermal plants, namely Tsavo Power and Rabai Power.

The Sh14 billion power line linking Nairobi and Mombasa began in August 2011 and was expected to be complete in three years’ time, but remains unfinished due to land acquisition challenges, according to Ketraco.

Boost supply

Western Kenya — notorious for constant outages, instability and low voltage — is also not connected to the Olkaria geothermal system. This is the reason Aggreko was hired to boost supply to the region. The temporary plant has now been replaced by a 30MW thermal plant owned by KenGen.

The 300-kilometre Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu line meant to evacuate power from Olkaria to Western Kenya has suffered multiple delays blamed on land acquisition, forcing Ketraco to set December 2017 as the target completion date for the project.


Geothermal Heating to Save Cobble Hill Hall Big Money

Doug Lockhart is working hard in his efforts to give back to his community.

Lockhart is the owner of Lockhart Industries, which specializes in geothermal systems, and he and his crew have been busy this week installing a geothermal heat exchanger loop at Cobble Hill Community Hall.

The exchanger loop is being placed across the road from the hall in a field, and the exchanger will take the heat from the ground in the field and move it into the hall to provide environmentally efficient heat.

Lockhart said, compared to the oil the hall used to burn for heat, the exchanger is just a fraction of the cost, and there are no emissions to worry about.

He said installing the exchanger loop is equivalent to taking up to four cars off the road.

Lockhart said the Cobble Hill Community Hall won’t be charged for labour in the installation of the exchanger, and he will keep the cost of the materials as low as possible.
He said the new exchanger loop should provide heat to the hall for the next 30 years.

“I’ve lived in the Cobble Hill area for 35 years and have raised my kids here and the community has always been good to us,” Lockhart said.

“This is my way of giving something back. It’s a heritage building, but with the installation of LED lights awhile ago and now the exchanger loop, it’s one of the oldest environmentally friendly buildings in the area.”

Heat-exchange technology, including Lockhart Industries’ geothermal-energy systems, is considered one of the most efficient and effective sources of heat in the world.
It comes in many forms, including having heat-collecting pipes arranged in coils underground, like the system being installed at Cobble Hill Community Hall, or those pipes can be arranged on the floor of the ocean or lake, which gives up the water’s heat to nearby buildings.

Lockhart Industries recently installed an ocean geothermal system at Shawnigan Lake’s Brentwood College, which is saving the school hundreds of thousands of dollars in heating costs.


City Utility Buys Two Operating Geothermal Power Plants in Munich

Reported by German geothermal news platform Tiefe Geothermie, Stadtwerke München (SWM), the local city energy utility, has bought the two geothermal plants Dürrnhaar and Kirchstockach in the southwest of Munich.

In a statement, the Chairman of the SWM Board, Dr. Florian Bieberbach, said: “We are pleased that we could come to an agreement with HOCHTIEF and BayWa. With these two geothermal plants, the number of our renewable assets in the region alone rises to 43 in total.” With the acquisition, SWM now expands its power generation capacity to 11 MW.

The two plants were put into operation in 2012 and 2013. The previous owner of the plants were the Süddeutsche Geothermie-Projekte GmbH & Co. KG, a joint venture of BayWa R.E. and Hochtief PPP Solutions GmbH. Both companies have now sold their shares to SWM.

“We are pleased that we have found an experienced and powerful buyer with Stadtwerke München. It shows that our renewable energy portfolio in Germany is interesting, and highlights our strength of building and designing innovative business models, renewable energy systems, and able to re-sell.” said the CEO of BayWa AG, Klaus Josef Lutz,

Technically, the two systems are similar in design as the geothermal plant in Sauerlach only a few kilometers away. All three power plants are from Turboden. In Sauerlach, Stadtwerke München drilled three wells and built a power plant years ago. In the Bavarian Molasse Basin there are today a total of 23 geothermal plants for heating and electricity in operation and four are under construction. With 50 wells they utilise the geothermal potential of the region. The drilling depths range from 700 meters in the north to over 5,000 meters in the south of Munich.

SWM pursues ambitious goals in the energy transition. As part of its energy expansion campaign, SWM accelerates the use of renewable energy use in electricity as well as in the heating sector.
By 2025, SWM will generate sufficient green electricity in the electricity sector, for all energy needs in the city of Munich. With the campaign started in 2008, SWM could soon feed up to 50% of the city’s electricity needs with renewable energy.

In the heating sector, Munich plans to become the first major German city to cover its district heating needs by 100% renewable energy sources. To realize this vision, SWM puts a primary focus on the development of geothermal energy, as we have reported before.

With geothermal wells in Riem and Freiham delivering geothermal energy to thermal power stations, further drilling at its cogeneration plant in the South are planned. Older existing oil tanks are currently dismantled, showing the spirit of the energy transition.


Construction of New Zealand Geothermal Power Plant to Begin

Construction of the geothermal power plant Te Ahi O Maui, near Kawerau, can now begin after the completion of the drilling stage.

Project manager Ben Gibson said the drill rig and associated equipment had now completely demobilised from site, where they had been working since May.

The drilling process targeted known sources of geothermal fluid, which could be as hot as 200-300C, 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 Rd, near Kawerau, was upgraded in preparation for the drilling rigs arrival in late April.

Drilling began in May following assembly, inspections, and karakia and blessings from local kaumatua.

Mr Gibson said there were no major incidents or harm to any person or the environment during the drilling process.

The project focus now shifts to the construction of the power plant, transmission line and steamfield.

Mr Tomairangi Fox, the project’s cultural adviser, said he was happy to be moving on to the next stage.

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.

Te Ahi O Maui board chairman and chief executive of Eastland Group Matt Todd said he was pleased the project had partnered with Ormat for construction of the power plant.

“Ormat has over 30 years’ experience in the New Zealand geothermal energy industry… They have the necessary skills and knowledge that we can rely on.”

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.


Geothermal to Cover 50% of Energy Supply on St. Vincent & the Grenadines

Speaking at the recent UN General Assembly in New York City, Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, raised issues like the challenges of indebtedness and the need for “de-risking” of his country’s economy.

But he also spoke about his country’s quest for affordable and clean energy. As we reported before, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has invested heavily in developing its geothermal resources,.

The country expects to cover up to 50% of its energy need by geothermal energy. Financed by partners, including the Clinton Global Initiative, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, the Caribbean Development Bank, the International Renewable Energy Agency, it is expected that this can be achieved by 2019. Another 30% of its energy supply is to come from a mix of other renewable energy sources, including hydro and solar.


Sawmill Fire Burning in The Geysers 90% Contained

The four-day-old Sawmill fire burning in The Geysers was 90 percent contained Wednesday night, according to a Cal Fire news release.

Fire crews have been battling the blaze since it erupted Sunday morning in the drought-stricken hills in the northeastern part of Sonoma County. The fire’s footprint was reported at 1,609 acres, up from 1,500 acres due to better mapping of the blaze, a Cal Fire spokeswoman said.

Crews focused their effort Wednesday on strengthening and extending the containment lines as the firefighting force was reduced to four crews and a total of 241 people by 6 p.m., compared with 375 in the morning.

No helicopters or air tankers were involved in the effort Wednesday.
Cal Fire reported two minor injuries and no buildings damaged in the fire
, which was driven by gusting winds and fueled by hot weather affecting the North Bay the past few days.
The fire’s cause remains under investigation.

The Geysers area in the Mayacamas Mountains of Sonoma and Lake counties includes a Calpine complex of 14 geothermal power plants. Evacuation orders and road closures were lifted Monday evening and the fire didn’t damage any of Calpine’s geothermal facilities, officials said.


Governor Brown Signs Geothermal Bill in California

San Diego, CA… State Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) announced that Senate Bill 1074 has been signed into law by the Governor. This bill helps existing geothermal plants operating in disadvantaged communities by funding innovative minerals extraction techniques at those facilities has made its way to the Governor’s desk.

“It is in our best interest to fund projects for mineral recovery from geothermal brines,” stated Senator Hueso. “The signing of this bill has the potential of putting the Salton Sea at the center of the map for companies which highly rely on lithium as part of their electric battery production. I am proud this project may help us reach our energy-efficiency and environmental goals and in turn create more jobs for our state. I am grateful to the Governor for making this a priority. ”

Senate Bill 1074 specifically expands the eligible uses of monies in the Geothermal Resources Development Account (GRDA) to include projects to recover lithium, metals, agricultural products, and other beneficial minerals from highly mineralized geothermal brines at an existing geothermal facility that is in a disadvantaged community and provides local employment opportunities.
During the signage of this bill, the Governor stated, “Senate Bill 1074 directs $2.5 million of Federal Trust Funds for competitive grants in mineral recovery from geothermal brine, such as lithium recovery projects. I am signing this bill because lithium recovery may provide California with a domestic source to help meet our growing demand for electric vehicle batteries. Moreover as we continue to work towards a sustainable Salton Sea, finding markets for geothermal brine can contribute to the combined efforts that will be needed for a healthy Sea.”

The geothermal brine produced by the Salton Sea geothermal resources is highly mineralized and corrosive. Extraction of these minerals from the brine is one of the most significant costs of the geothermal development in the Salton Sea. The state has the potential to help commercialize domestic mineral mining from geothermal brine, which will produce lithium and manganese dioxide necessary for electric battery manufacturing, thereby transforming an economic cost into an economic benefit.

Under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (ARRA), the federal government awarded hundreds of millions of dollars to CEC to administer a variety of innovative energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. At the close of the ARRA program, in 2013, there remained $13 million in unallocated ARRA funds available to CEC for energy-related projects. In addition, CEC continues to receive repayments from loans made from ARRA monies—about $2.5 million per year. This bill provides CEC the authority to continue to use the remaining ARRA funds for additional, innovative energy-efficiency projects.


Turboden to Install Large 16 MW Single Turbine at Croatian Project

In a recent release and a poster at the recent European Geothermal Congress, Italian Turboden announced producing one of the world’s largest Organic Rankine Cycle turbines. The company designed and manufactured a unique single turbine of 16 MW electrical power to be operated in a geothermal power plant in Velika Ciglena (Croatia) by Geoen – MB Holding.

Turboden, a group company of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), is a leader in Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) technology for distributed power generation employing renewable sources and waste heat. As of today, Turboden has 334 ORC plants in 35 countries with about 509 MWe installed, 14 turbo-generators for geothermal power plants around the world, of which 8 are in operation.
The Velika Ciglena project, which will start operating in 2017, will exploit steam and hot water at 170°C to produce electricity to feed the local power grid. The region of Velika Ciglena is situated in Bjelovar subdepression, the north east of Croatia. The reservoir was discovered in 1990 by INA-Naftaplin, during an underground exploration for oil. The oil was never found, instead, a promising potential for geothermal energy was discovered.

The ORC turbogenerator with a 5-stage axial turbine, designed and manufactured by Turboden, optimizes the performance with a rotation speed of 1500 rpm, while guaranteeing minimal vibration values (around 1mm/second) and smooth operation. Thanks to the 5 axial stages of the turbine, the plant will grant a highly efficient behavior in all the environmental conditions as well as at different input levels.

The single pressure level cycle selected by Turboden is the optimum choice according to best match of heat exchange curves and simplest plant configuration. Thanks to this, it is possible to achieve 4% higher net power output with a saving of 8% capex, compared to the possible alternative solutions.

Velika Ciglena project, with the cutting-edge 16 MW ORC turbine, proves the technological reference of Turboden as main producer of large binary ORC plants, while the latest geothermal ORC plants delivered from Europe to Japan, confirm the success of Turboden with field proven performances and reliability.


Oil and Gas Wells Prove Useful for Geothermal Energy Generation

Hot fluid is a byproduct of many oil and gas wells across the country. At least 25 billion barrels of it are produced each year, according the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The hot water has proved burdensome for many oil and gas producers historically, especially with respect to disposal. But research has demonstrated that the fluid itself is capable of producing energy, and it can actually help cut costs for energy producers instead of raising them.

Researchers at the University of North Dakota (UND), with support from the DOE Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO), helped launch the nation’s first commercial enterprise to co-produce electricity from geothermal resources at an oil and gas well earlier this year. UND researchers successfully bred geothermal power from hot water that flows naturally from petroleum wells in the Williston Sedimentary Basin in western North Dakota. The facility started generating electricity for the first time in April.

“If we can capture that energy, it’s almost like free and clean energy, off of an oil and gas production.”

“It’s a definite breakthrough,” says Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA). “People have talked about the potential for years, knowing that there’s hot water in oil wells. Nobody had really put a permanent system in place. … So this is, to me, a really momentous time.”

The research project received the 2016 GEA Technological Advancement award in June and Gawell says it ties in closely with the association’s mission to expand the use of geothermal resources. He says there is an abundance of megawatts of power available from oil and gas wells in the U.S.

“So we’re literally wasting it right now because most of these wells are pumping up hot water,” he says. “What are they doing with it? They’re reinjecting it and not using the heat. So if we can capture that energy, it’s almost like free and clean energy, off of an oil and gas production. I think it’s one more way to get the job done in terms of changing our energy system.”

Cutting Costs

Will Gosnold, professor of geophysics at UND and principal investigator of the research projects, says he has always been interested in this kind of thing. Starting in the late 1970s, he was involved in research that aimed to estimate the amount of thermal energy stored in relatively shallow areas geothermally speaking, not much deeper than three or four kilometers. He found that there is a lot of heat there, but realized it could not do much good without being brought up in some useful form.

“Then along came the idea of producing the fluids from the oil fields. This was others in, I think, about 2005 when it started coming out in the literature,” Gosnold says. “I saw that and got pretty excited about it because I realized that at that time, we could have a use for all of that energy that is there. It’s now coming to fruition; 10 years later, but these things do take time.”

He says his team received the DOE grant in 2009 and they immediately started developing the system. He expected to be done by 2012. Largely because of the oil boom in North Dakota, he says the price of oilfield operations in construction skyrocketed, so a lot of the time was spent raising additional funds.

“I think potentially it’s huge because we could supply an enormous amount of power from the oil fields,” Gosnold says. “I’ve already been contacted by several geothermal developers who want to come in and try to do this themselves as a business.”

He points out that while the oil industry is generally focused solely on pumping oil and gas, and selling it, the drop in oil prices makes the major cost of electricity especially heavy. With the opportunity to generate geothermal energy from existing wells of their own, there is potential for oil and gas producers to power their entire operations at virtually no cost.
Gosnold says this also opens the door to distributed power systems that are immune from the power grid and are not affected if the grid goes down. Should the oil field play out, he says, the geothermal power can be fed into the existing power grid and the power company, the new recipient, can sell it.

Unconventional Resource

The two horizontal wells involved in the research project are about 8,000 feet deep, Gosnold says. Owned and operated by Continental Resources, they were initially drilled for oil and gas production purposes. He explains that pressure in the oil field tends to drop over time, meaning oil does not flow to production wells as it did when production began. The two wells, which together have a flow volume of about 875 gallons per minute, address the slowdown by injecting water into the oil-producing formation, toward the oil production well, and pressurizing it.
One of the challenges Continental Resources was running into, and one reason they were interested in being a part of the research project, is the high temperature of the water, Gosnold says. It created safety hazards around their site and was tough on the injection equipment as well. The company was cooling the water through two large cooling towers, which used a lot of electricity.

Now the water is still primarily used for water-flood oil production, but also secondarily to produce geothermal power. It goes through organic Rankine cycle engines (ORC) prior to going through the cooling tower. So heat is simply being taken from the water as it passes through the system, then the water is sent back to the injection system. The fact that the heat is being taken from the water not only makes the process safer and easier to handle; it also means that instead of using electricity to cool the water down, electricity is being generated by cooling the water down.

Essentially, the technology offsets the need for costly transmission construction and reduces energy costs at remote oil fields. According to the DOE, co-produced geothermal resources like these have the potential to produce significant amounts of baseload electricity at low costs and with near zero emissions.

That said, these energy sources aren’t as deep and hot as traditional geothermal resources. Often referred to as low-temperature, the co-produced resources represent a small but growing sector of hydrothermal development in geothermal resources below 300 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the DOE. They are considered non-conventional hydrothermal resources. Gosnold says these particular wells supply water around 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

Positive Potential

In addition to electrical energy, co-producing geothermal systems could help power up drilling job prospects. In cases like this one, wells may need to be further developed. That could mean drilling deeper — vertically, horizontally or both — or widening hole size. A geothermal production well is typically two or three times larger than an oil or gas well because higher fluid volumes are necessary.

Drilling expertise could also come in handy to repurpose actual oil or gas production wells when they play out and it is no longer economical to use them. Gosnold points out that larger pumps could be installed to pump the wells at much faster rates and produce high volumes of water. What’s more, entirely new wells may need to be drilled altogether.
“In many of these cases, they’re going to have to look at the sedimentary basins where they’re getting this type of oil and gas recovery and realize they might be able to get additional recovery from drilling additional wells,” Gawell says.

He says that geothermal continues to grow in the U.S. and around the world, but that we are still at the front end of the process.

“Today we’re producing in about 28 countries and we’ve got about another 15 or 20 under development. So you’re seeing things move in the right direction. But I think we have to get beyond the slow pace I think we’re facing today,” he says. “It’s a question of human knowledge and ability. I’ve always thought that when the challenges require us to learn how to use our brains and our ingenuity to do things better, we can win those battles.”


AboitizPower to Supply Energy Needs of 2 Cebu Companies

A major resort operator and a metal works company in Cebu have chosen Aboitiz Power’s renewable energy to power their continued growth.

JPark Island Resort and Waterpark and NKC (Nakanishi Metal Works Co. Ltd), both operating on Mactan Island, have signed power supply contracts with Aboitiz Power Corporation under the Retail Competition and Open Access (RCOA) regime, a statement from AboitizPower said.

“We chose renewable energy because we want to help protect the environment,” said JPark Island Resort president Justin Uy.

JPark aims to strengthen its reputation as an environment-friendly and responsible tourist destination and chose AboitizPower based on trust, according to Uy.

Uy said JPark chose AboitizPower to be its sole provider of electricity for two years. The resort’s total monthly demand is 2.5 megawatts (MW), which will be taken mainly from the Tiwi-Makban geothermal plants in Albay and Batangas and brought to Cebu via the Visayas grid.

NKC, manufacturer of bearings, hardware supplies, conveyor and other industrial equipment, also chose Cleanergy, AboitizPower’s brand of renewable energy. NKC, needs 2.3 MW a month to power its operations within the Mactan Economic Zone 2 in Lapu-Lapu City on Mactan Island.

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) requires contestable customers— those with average monthly usage of 1 MW and up — to source power from retail electricity suppliers starting Dec. 26 this year under the RCOA regime.

Starting June 26, 2017, the threshold is set to drop to 750 kwh, allowing more establishments to benefit from competition among power producers that will vie over prices and services.
Competition can drive prices down under the RCOA, AboitizPower chief operations officer Luis Miguel Aboitiz said after the power supply contract signing between AboitizPower and JPark Island Resort and Waterpark.

He said that he expects more big consumers to subscribe to AboitizPower as their retail power supplier.

According to the ERC, there are about 970 contestable customers nationwide. Of the total, more than 120 are in the Visayas.


Supreme Energy Moving Forward on Three Projects in Indonesia

PT Supreme Energy has announced moving forward on three projects this year, preparing for construction activities. The projects the company has are in the 220 MW Rajabasa the 86 MW Rantau Dedap, and the 80 MW project in Muara Laboh.

In a statement to local media, Leila Rima, Corporate Communications & Relations Officer at Supreme Energy, stated that the company has so far spent Rp 2 trillion $230 million) for the three projects.

The company is funding the early construction on these three projects through internal cash. Entering the phase of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC), Supreme Energy is exploring international bank funding, which currently is under due diligence process.

For the Rajabasa project, a port is currently being developed. Infrastructure is being prepared for the Muara Laboh and Rantau Dedap projects.

The Muara Laboh and the Rajabasa projects are a cooperation with French company Engie (formerly GDF Suez) and Japanese Sumitomo Corp. The PLTP Rantau Dedap project is a cooperation with Engie and Marubeni.

“The target for Muara Laboh is to start exploration next year, while the other two will already see a tender for the EPC part. The company is hopeful that Rajabasa can start operation in 2021.


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