Greenearth Energy seeking government funding for Geelong project

Alexander Richter 22 Sep 2009

Australian Greenearth Energy (ASX:GER) provides some details about its proposed Geelong Geothermal Power Project in Victoria and its aim to seek government funding covering parts of the drilling cost.

Reported by Cleantech Group, “Melbourne-based Greenearth Energy (ASX:GER) offered details for the first time about its proposed Geelong Geothermal Power Project in Victoria.

The company’s Managing Director Mark Miller told the Cleantech Group that the news could improve the company’s chances of receiving government funding for the project and help get it off the ground.

At its 12 megawatt demonstration stage, the Geelong project is expected to displace about 112,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually, while at full 140 MW commercial scale, the project has the potential to displace 1.3 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

The CO2 results came from technical consultants Sinclair Knight Merz.

Greenearth Energy is developing geothermal projects in Australia, New Zealand and the wider Pacific Rim, with three geothermal exploration permits from the Victorian government in these areas.

Last year, the government said exploration permits for geothermal energy sources by Greenearth Energy and other companies were aimed at helping to generate 10 percent of its power from renewable resources by 2016.

The Australian government is also currently negotiating CO2 reduction legislation, which could be pushed through before the United Nations summit in Copenhagen in December.

The staged Geelong project offers a multiple modular installation approach, which is expected to offer geothermal power generation in the Geelong area, a community of about 250,000 people, as well as delivery of renewable energy to the Victorian electric grid.

Drilling two wells at Geelong is expected to cost a total of A$30 million ($26 million), Miller said.

Greenearth Energy said earlier this month it is seeking $20 million from the Victorian government’s Energy Technology Innovation Strategy program for its demonstration plant.

“We’re basically ready to drill some proof-of-concept wells,” Miller said.

If the company is able to secure funding and a grant application for proof-of-concept drilling, the project’s two wells could be drilled in the second half of 2010, he said.

Miller said his company has applied for AU$7 million of a AU$50 million federal pot for geothermal drilling projects. The company is also seeking cornerstone investors looking to get in at the project level.

He said Greenearth Energy has already secured a rig to dig the wells.

“In Australia, there’s a lot of money going to solar projects, carbon capture and storage and wind,” he said. “And while we don’t want to bag on any of our competitors, they are not base load renewables. They are intermittent technologies.”

He said geothermal plants have the ability to produce emissions-free, base load renewable energy.

Most of the world’s geothermal power comes from volcanic systems, or hydrothermal systems. But Australia does not have any active volcanoes.

Instead, Australia has aquifers—bodies of rock that exist deep in the earth, which are porous, sedimentary and contain water that’s being heated by the earth’s core.

Greenearth’s demonstration plant is expected to use a hot sedimentary aquifer geothermal reservoir.

The water within the aquifers at Geelong is about 180 degrees Celsius and about 170 degrees Celsius when brought to the surface. From there, it could be used to drive a binary geothermal power station, Miller said.

“We specifically target areas where these aquifer systems exist at depth,” he said.

Last year, the New Zealand government-owned GNS Science said it was looking to study low temperature geothermal (see New Zealand funds low temperature geothermal). GNS said natural heat energy sources in New Zealand include springs and borehole fluid discharges, shallow aquifers, water and steam discharges from thermal power plants, warm water associated with oil and gas wells, and flooded underground mines.”

Source: Cleantech Group