Big energy role for central Australia’s hot rocks
A$500 million is likely to be spent on the investigation of hot rocks as a source of energy in Australia over the next five years.
Posted: Wednesday , 02 May 2007
More than Aus$500 million is forecast to be spent by 2012 on the ultra deep quest to generate geothermal power from northern South Australia, and other parts of central Australia taking in the borders of Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory. The Director - Petroleum and Geothermal for Primary Industry & Resources South Australia, Barry Goldstein said this money would be spent on exploration, proof-of-concept and demonstration of "hot rock" alternative energy sources. South Australia has the market leaders in this quest and would dominate the expenditure and likely developments of geothermal energy.
Goldstein said Australia's growth in geothermal licences and expenditure "has been significant and is a pointer to the future."
There are vast deep-seated granite systems that have high temperatures at depth and these are being drilled by companies such as Geodynamics Ltd, Petrotherm Energy, Green Rock Energy and Pacific Hydro to depths of 4 kilometres and deeper.
Australian pioneer Geodynamics had proved flow of geothermal energy from its Habanero 1 and 2 wells and will drill Habenero 3 this year, leading to developing a demonstration project.
Petratherm has drilled two wells and deepened one, Paralana 1B that suggests temperatures of 200 degrees centigrade at 3.6 km and the next step is to take one well Paralana to 3.6 km and flow test for proof-of-concept.
The concept takes in finding vast blocks of "hot rocks" with fracture systems that could generate power generation through water being injected, circulated through the fractures and being returned to surface as steam
Goldstein said there are currently Australia-wide 19 companies in 141 areas spending $A654 million in work programmes, and that excludes up-scale and deployment.
"In South Australia, which will dominate the sector's growth, 12 companies have already applied for 116 areas and can be expected to invest $A524 M ($US435 M) in their projects by the next six years."
Goldstein described South Australia as "Australia's hot rock haven" and this emissions free and renewable energy form could provide about 6.8% of Australia's base load power needs by 2030.
"Geoscience Australia estimates the national indicative geothermal energy resource to be around 1.2 billion petajoules and this estimate will be refined as part of the Federal Government's Onshore Energy Security initiative - and as project knowledge advances, Goldstein said.
"There are several milestones ahead which point the way towards the increasing likelihood of geothermal energy establishing a commercial path.
"These include at least 10 projects expected to achieve successful exploration and proof of concept, that is, heat flows, by 2010, and at least three power generation demonstration projects on stream by 2012."
These milestones, Goldstein said, will help demonstrate to the investment community and equity markets, that geothermal power generation is a compelling success and that hot rock energy is real".
Goldstein said the Australian Geothermal Energy Group (AGEG) recently formed to "share learnings" and move progress towards commercialisation of geothermal energy at maximum pace and minimum cost.
"The terms of reference for the AGEG in, in effect, a declaration of interdependence of the new and vibrant geothermal sector in Australia," he said.