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Geodynamics blows some steam at Habanero

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Australian geothermal hopeful Geodynamics delivered some welcome news to the subdued sector on Tuesday with some positive results from a flow test at its Habanero 4 well in the Cooper Basin, the latest in a series of steps that could see the first electricity produced from  enhanced geothermal systems in central Australia early next year.

The listed Brisbane-based company said a “staged open flow test” achieved the planned maximum production rate of 35kg per second. The temperature, more than four kilometres underground (4,130m), was 241°C, with a surface temperature of 191°C and increasing after 82 minutes of flow.

That’s technical stuff, but Geodynamics said it was pleased with the result because it delivered bang on target, critical for a company seeking to slowly regain the confidence and enthusiasm of investors. And the well blew some steam, as the company shows in this video, which is what the wells are designed to deliver to turn the turbines and make electrons. And the company says it shows that with each well, it is producing better and better flow rates – the key to increasing productivity and lowering the cost per megawatt hour of delivering electricity.

“We are coming down the learning curve,” CEO Geoff Ward told RenewEconomy. “We are improving how we design wells, we are getting better in the execution, and we are seeing returns in better well outcome and better results.”

The flow test is the first of three that will take place in coming months. The next will take place after a small “stimulation” program – where the company seeks to create fractures in the rock so it can extract more heat – and the third will take place after a major stimulation program. Each is expected to deliver stronger flows.

Ward said the technical achievements of the well should not be underestimated – and the combination of depth, heat, the hardness of the rock, and the high flow made it unique in the industry. He said the results are being watched with intense interest by the geothermal industry – and the drilling industry – around the world.

The Habanero 4 well is costing the company a total of around $51 million – a massive expense that was too much for its larger joint venture partner, Origin Energy, which withdrew earlier this year to save its money for its LNG projects.

However, the linking of Habanero 4 with the older Habanero 1 well nearby will lead to the establishment of a 1MW pilot plant at nearby Innamincka – the first time electrons will be delivered from more than 4km below the surface in an enhanced geothermal system (also known as hot dry rocks) in Australia.

Ward says that the pilot plant will likely run only around three months – as it won’t be getting money for the project. But that should be enough to give it the data and other information to prepare a commercial proposal to take to clients. Then it is a matter of finding a customer. In the Cooper Basin, there are not a million options, but mining, gas or oil operations in the region could be possibilities.

“The significance of these results is that we are achieving what we said we would achieve, and that is important for us to build a track record,” Ward said. “We are much more focused on what our one year goals are rather than where we might be in five or six years.”

Having said that, Ward said the high flows give him confidence that the technology will achieve the numbers talked about in recent technology assessments, which puts geothermal costs at around $150-$250 MWh. The reality is, however, that it will have to deliver at the lower end of that range.

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  • Zvyozdochka

    The penny pinching over Geodynamics is appalling.

    They’re on the right track, but time is hurting them.

    We really do need them in a renewable future. Geothermal compliments hydro to top up wind and PV intermittency, possibly replacing most of the gas.

  • Brian Harry

    It has been a frustrating wait to see such positive results of this flowtest of “35 kg/second”. Does that mean 35kg of steam? If it does, that would seem to indicate tremendous power is available. What is the theoretical target expected?
    It’s a pity that BHP’s expansion of Olympic Dam to “Open Cut” has been delayed. I’m sure they would have used the electricity generated.
    How much of the Govt grant of $90 Million was used on this well, and does the company foresee any further capital raising in the near future?

  • Mark Phillips

    It took Kaiser steel engineer Tom Price to convince the sceptics here in Australia that the numbers did indeed add up for an Iron ore industry to be born in the Pilbara! Australian Industry is run by visionless people. Ceramic fuelcells Pty Ltd joins an ever growing list of great Australian ideas making there mark somwhere els because of a lack of support here.

    Geodynamics needs a Tom Price to show us there is a going concern there just waiting to be woken up!!

  • Mechman

    I have been waiting several years to see the 1mw plant running, as I am sure the people of Innaminka have been waiting.
    Here we are several years later and they are still waiting. Now we told that the 1mw will only run for three months, what sort of commitment is that to the local community.
    The loss of money appears to be going the wrong way. This plant needs to be up and running for the long term not 3 months.
    The short term goals are great but what are they?
    Does anyone have a program of short and long term goals?
    I’d like to see it.

  • Dave Kimble

    We have been waiting for 10 years to see one electron move, and we are still waiting. When Geodynamics listed in 2002, they said they would have a 13 MW pilot plant operating by June 2006, and a 275 MW commercial plant operating by June 2008. The Federal Government gave them a grant, and lined them up with a second one for when they successfully completed Stage 1. That still has not happened.

    Geodynamics think they could sell 25 MW in the Innamincka area. After that they need to connect to the National Grid to sell any more. The nearest connection point is 600 Km away at Olympic Dam – across Lake Eyre and endless empty desert. They admit this “will require a multi-billion dollar investment”, but they have a solution – they have asked the Government to fund it.

    This project is going nowhere, but it pays the Directors well. Why should they give up now ?