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Current U.S. geothermal rig count not promising for further growth

ThinkGeoEnergy Geothermal Drilling Rig Count May 2012 (source: Baker Hughes)
Alexander Richter 14 May 2012

With currently only four drilling rigs active on geothermal projects in the U.S., this doesn´t provide a rosy picture for further geothermal growth in the U.S., despite the large number of projects.

With the release of the latest Annual Power Production and Development Report by the U.S. Geothermal Energy Association in April this year, there are increasing voices over concerns as they relate to the growth of the U.S. geothermal market.

Geothermal project development takes comparably longer than other renewable energy projects, which has been for years a concern. So uncertainties about government support and incentives schemes, but also lack in financing for projects are resulting in time delayed development and plants coming online.

While the industry has seen an increasing interest and growth in recent years, the lack of drilling finance for the last few years is resulting in rather slow growth in the U.S. So there are concerns that with the ever decreasing government support in the U.S. as laid out in a recent article by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (see article) that growth might stagnate or simply not happen.

So while there are a large number of projects in development with a potential of adding up to 4,900 MW to the grid in the U.S., the current number of drilling rigs drilling on geothermal projects in the U.S. today is rather devastating for any outlook made at the moment.

Currently the rig count is the lowest in the last five years, with currently only four drilling rigs drilling active on geothermal projects in the U.S.

In its monthly oil & gas drilling rig count, Baker Hughes provides an update on drilling rigs active in the North American and international markets. So while 2008 to 2010 saw some growth and stable number of rigs drilling on geothermal projects, the trend of 2011 and continuing into 2012 continues. It is a downward spiral.

No drilling means also no further growth in MW coming online.

Source: Baker Hughes Drilling Rig Count, ThinkGeoEnergy evaluation