Colorado: Pioneer Natural Resources exploring Raton Basin

Nathrop post office, Mt Princeton in the back, Colorado (source:
Alexander Richter 15 Aug 2010

In Colorado, company Pioneer Natural Resources is currently exploring the potential pros and cons of harvesting geothermal power in the Raton Basin.

Having reported on geothermal research done in Colorado before, I thought that this piece of news reported locally already in late July could be interesting.

The company “Pioneer Natural Resources is currently exploring the potential pros and cons of harvesting geothermal power in the Raton Basin, which has its sources as heat energy stored in the earth.

According to Pioneer Geoscience Advisor Hal Macartney, Pioneer’s research into the geothermal energy potential of the Raton Basin is currently in a preliminary phase. “The basin is a recognized hot basin at shallow depths – referred to as a thermal resource. We are investigating just how hot the basin is, how deep we have to drill to access the heat, and whether the rock at these depths is suitable for a geothermal project,” Maccartney said. “The work being done to date is basic fact gathering and any commitment to actually develop geothermal energy would require a detailed assessment of the physical and economic potential before seeking approval to move forward with an actual project.” Adding, “Because of the high risk involved and the fact that geothermal energy development is in its infancy, we would probably apply for federal government core funding for any project.”

Maccartney noted that all current geothermal projects around the world tend to rely on natural formations such as hot springs and are usually “small and localized” in geological formations such as volcanic fields, though the company is looking to explore the potential of other, non-hot springs related heat sources. “Geothermal is a very attractive alternative to fossil fuels as it is potentially inexhaustible, clean, and offers 24/7 base-load energy which other popular alternatives like solar and wind cannot. Developing this renewable resource would also add power to local grids and help meet energy portfolio goals and develop carbon-free alternatives,” Maccartney said. “Our research project will help Pioneer assess the viability of the geothermal resources in the Raton Basin…Pioneer’s skills, knowledge and resources in drilling and operating wells in the Raton Basin leave it uniquely positioned to conduct this research.”

Tom Sheffield, Vice President of Pioneer Natural Resources’ Rockies Asset Team, had announced in May to the Las Animas County Board of Commissioners that the company was researching the alternative energy’s potential.

Additionally, Gov. Bill Ritter signed Senate Bill 10-174 in April, which regulates geothermal energy for the commercial production of energy and established the geothermal resource leasing fund which would be used to supply monies for a grants program to schools, districts and agencies in areas affected by geothermal energy developments. The program would be administered by the Department of Local Affairs.

Maccartney said that Pioneer’s research on geothermal energy had started prior to the signing of SB 10-174. “Although the bill itself was not the catalyst for Pioneer’s interest, we have had a lot of support from the Governor’s Energy Office as well as the Colorado Geological Survey, with whom we are working very closely on this preliminary evaluation phase,” he said. “In an effort to further enhance our base knowledge and help assess the Raton Basin potential, we are also working with the Colorado School of Mines and Southern Methodist University; each school has experts who can add to the evaluation effort.”

The energy industry in Las Animas County has been in a state of decline since the end of 2008. According to data compiled by County Oil and Gas Inspector Bob Lucero, a total of 25 drilling permits were issued by the county government for drilling in 2009, an amount almost one-tenth the 232 permits issued in 2008. The state’s oil and gas commission had issued about 78 permits, resulting in a total 2009 number of permits for drilling in the county of 103. Sheffield had informed the county commissioners in May that the company was currently seeking a way to reduce production costs to offset the currently-lower level of commodity prices before it would increase its drilling of new wells in the Raton Basin.

Maccartney also told The Times Independent that Pioneer had presented the prospect of geothermal energy explorations in the Raton Basin in an energy forum last year in Trinidad that had been organized by Trinidad-Las Animas County Economic Development, Inc., adding that the response had been “a lot of interest.”

Source: The Trinidad Times