In a move that I greet with great enthusiasem DOE has embarked on a project with a number of partners to test Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) technologies at a commercial geothermal power facility near Reno, Nevada.
EGS technology enhances the permeability of underground strata, typically by injecting water into hot underground strata at high pressure. The concept was initially developed to create geothermal reservoirs in hot underground strata where no water existed—a technology called "hot dry rock"—but has since been extended as a means of enhancing the performance of existing geothermal reservoirs.
Under the DOE project, EGS technology will be tested in a well at the 11-megawatt Desert Peak facility, which is owned by Ormat Technologies, Inc. The well is currently not able to produce commercially useful quantities of hot geothermal fluid, but with the help of EGS, the site is thought to have the potential to produce 50 megawatts of power or more.
Meanwhile, an application of EGS in a true hot dry rock application in Australia is continuing to make progress. Geodynamics, Limited (ASX: GDY) announced on February 5th that the company has completed its production well, called Habanero 3. The Company is now moving forward with preparations for an open circulation test, planned to commence 10 to 14 days from the date of the announcement, by injecting water into Habanero 1 and removing the heated geothermal water from Habanero 3. The test should give the company an indication of the potential power production of the artificially created geothermal reservoir.
The drilling of Habanero 3 was a significant achievement in successfully overcoming the challenge of drilling a commercial-scale well through a highly overpressured reservoir at a depth of 4,200m (13,850 ft) and a temperature of 250°C.
Geodynamics is aiming to complete open circulation testing at its Habanero 1 and Habanero 3 wells in early 2008, with closed circulation testing to commence soon after. This Proof of Concept will demonstrate the viability of heat extraction from the hot rock underground heat reservoir, with the geothermal reserves to be signed off by independent geothermal experts from the USA.
Following Proof of Concept, Geodynamics should produce its first megawatts of geothermal power by the end of 2008. A 1 MW power station will enable the company to use geothermal energy to power its field operations, including workers accommodation, warehouses and workshops.