Geothermal industry welcomes support

Geothermal energy potential in much of Australia is uncertain because of the great depths at which most of the hot rocks exist, and the difficulties of fracturing them to be able to inject water to capture their heat. Geothermal resources in Victoria, such as the project near Geelong, are of a more conventional type, but if the potential in South Australia’s deep Hot Dry Rock (HDR) resources can be tapped then it will be a significant source of energy.

This article highlights the support for the carbon price package from many sectors of the renewables industry. Friends of the Earth Australia has criticised the carbon price overall, for its generous handouts to polluters and for its limited impact on greenhouse gas emissions, but also welcomes the new infrastructure to deliver renewable energy contained within it.

Geothermal power heats up with newfound certainty

Adam Morton, The Age, July 12, 2011

SCIENTISTS estimate there is enough energy stored in hot rocks beneath Australia’s surface to meet its power demands millions of times over, but bold prognostications have not been enough for the geothermal industry.

Kevin Rudd’s abandonment of Labor’s first proposed emissions trading scheme hit the industry hard, with share prices plummeting and investors baulking. “That policy backflip has hurt the industry, no doubt,” says Terry Kallis, managing director of South Australian company geothermal Petratherm. Hot rocks power remains a highly speculative industry, but things are slowly looking up for Petratherm.

Last month, it began fracturing rock four kilometres beneath the Earth’s surface in the North Flinders Ranges using part of a $7 million federal government drilling grant — the key step in proving a geothermal reservoir can be created deep underground and the project has a future. Mr Kallis said he believes his is the only company with an active hot rocks project.

Yesterday Petrotherm’s shares leapt 16 per cent, reaching a high of 23.5¢ before closing at 19¢. It is a far cry from its high of 92¢, but is an important reflection of the role the carbon price package — and a new $10 billion clean energy finance corporation, largely paid for with carbon tax revenue — could play in developing the industry.

“It has put us back on track, which is very important,” Mr Kallis says.

(Read the remainder of the article at The Age’s website)

One thought on “Geothermal industry welcomes support

  1. Geothermal is an exciting prospect. If environmental issues are secure, then it is a brilliant form of clean energy. Importantly it provides base-load power and has very few emissions. For a picture of an operating geothermal site go here:

    Notice the rain-forested environment appears unaffected by the power station.

    One issue with hot rock sites is the fracturing of rock. US experience has used an exotic blend of chemicals (kept secret until recently) that is believed to be very toxic. Hopefully toxic fracking materials will not be permitted in Australia as they can ruin underground water supplies.

    Another issue is that even where the same water (or a large percentage of it) is re-used, inevitably it dissolves unwanted minerals and brings these to the surface. Some of this material can be radio active, so disposal can be an issue.

    Mr. Kallis may be mistaken about being the only active hot rock project, although he would likely be better informed than me. But to my knowledge Geodynamics is still active in northern SA. They have had some encouraging outcomes. See:
    http://www.geodynamics.com.au/IRM/content/about_progresstodate.html

    Let us hope that the industry can regain some confidence in the future now that a carbon price is set to go. What we don’t want now is a withdrawal of that policy by a new government, presumably the one formed by the current Opposition. Even if the Gillard scheme is not optimal (yet) at least it is a start, and it will serve (hopefully) to further the use of safe geothermal energy.

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