Remembering Subir K. Sanyal – Appreciating a life-long dedication to geothermal energy

Subir K. Sanyal during a GRC Award ceremony (source: GRC)
Alexander Richter 9 Sep 2019

A special session has been set up during the GRC Annual Meeting in Palm Springs by friends and peers of Subir K. Sanyal, who passed earlier this summer. The event is to remembering Subir K. Sanyal and appreciate his life-long dedication to geothermal energy.

Following the passing of Subir Kumar Sanyal on 28 June 2019, his former colleagues at GeothermEx (James Koenig, Ann Robertson-Tait and James McNitt) shared details of Subir’s life and contribution to the global geothermal energy community.

Born and raised in India, Subir obtained a Master of Science (MS) degree in Applied Geology/Geophysics from the Indian Institute of Technology, followed by a fellowship to the University of Birmingham in the UK where he obtained his second MS in Petroleum Engineering.  He then went on to complete his PhD in Petroleum Engineering at Stanford University in California.  After a short stint in the oil and geothermal sector, he returned to Stanford as a Consulting Professor and Manager of Stanford’s Petroleum Research Institute.

In 1980, Subir left Stanford and joined GeothermEx as Vice President for Engineering, staying with the company for the next 35 years and succeeding Jim Koenig as President upon the latter’s retirement in 1995.  While GeothermEx does not need much introduction in geothermal circles, it is clear that the company’s work has been in much demand, and Subir worked globally, taking a leading role in almost all major projects.

Subir’s former colleagues note that his “greatest contribution to the geothermal industry was his work on geothermal project financing.  This began in the early 1980s, when he convinced Morgan Guaranty Trust Company to make the first-ever non-recourse geothermal loan (to Magma Power for its first power plant at Salton Sea).  Thereafter, GeothermEx provided technical due diligence for the financing of geothermal projects representing thousands of MW of clean power.”

It is in this work that the author met Subir for the first time, and it was remarkable to see the dedication of Subir and his team to push geothermal development and educate the financial sector in dealing with and accepting the unique challenges to financing the global development of geothermal projects.

Throughout his career, Subir co-authored more than 100 papers on aspects of geothermal resources that varied from case histories to cost-benefit analysis to training manuals to practical reservoir engineering issues.  Through his work, his many publications, and the GeothermEx team of which he was a part, Subir’s legacy lives on as a true geothermalist who helped the geothermal energy industry to grow in the United States and many other geothermal countries around the world.

We hope you will be able to join Subir’s peers at a special session planned in conjunction with the upcoming GRC Annual Meeting, 15-18 September 2019 in Palm Springs, California (Tuesday afternoon, 17 September).  Having learned that Subir made and served killer Martinis (and consumed quite a few of them too), this could be a timely opportunity to raise a glass to him with his colleagues and friends in Palm Springs.

We extend our sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues, including those at GeothermEx, where Subir made his greatest contributions to our industry.