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Update from the Field: Well Logging Completed!

September 16, 2013

It’s been a busy few weeks at the Newberry EGS Demonstration field site, and we’re happy to report that we’ve completed both the injectivity test and well logging activities. Over the next few weeks we’ll be carrying out an additional seismic study, continuing our groundwater monitoring program and buttoning up the site for the winter months ahead.

While we’re still processing data and interpreting the results as data is collected in the field, we’d like to share a few of our favorite photos from this summer.


Setting up well logging equipment at the 55-29 well pad: a pipeline from the on-site water well provided clean groundwater for the injectivity test (lower right). The boom truck (left) was used to remove heavy parts from the wellhead before the logging truck (center) lowered scientific instruments into the well to collect data.




A ‘dummy’ tool was run into and out of the well prior to deploying well logging instruments to be sure the wellbore was free from obstructions (top left). Heat-tolerant camera used to image the inside of the well during logging (top right). Caliper tool used to gather data inside the well and assess the condition of the steel casingthat lines the well to over 6,000 feet below ground surface (bottom).


Laying out a string of geophones prior to lowering into one of the seismic monitoring wells (above), attaching data transmitter cables to a string of geophones (bottom right) and lowering a geophone into a well (bottom right).




August 14, 2013

Yini Nordin works on the wellhead valve at Newberry

We’ve been busy here at AltaRock preparing for additional testing of the EGS well, which is scheduled to begin the last week of August. We’ve been lining up contractors, cranes, well-bore evaluation equipment, and crew for the operations.  Compared to our field activities last summer and fall, the field work planned for 2013 is short and sweet, but it is critical to keep the Newberry Volcano EGS Demonstration moving forward.

This field season we’ll be running a variety of tests on the NWG 55-29 geothermal well. These tests will help us better characterize the outcome of last year’s field operations and help us make decisions about future work at the site. Here’s a short summary of planned activities for the 2013 field season:

Injectivity test

We’ll connect pumps and pipe from the on-site water well to the deep geothermal well. Once the pumps are turned on, the rate at which the groundwater from the local aquifer can be injected into the well at moderate pressure will help us understand how much we improved the permeability of the  zone which was stimulated last year.  Although the pressure won’t be high enough to create any new permeability or generate microseismicity, we will continue to monitor our seismic network, just like we have been doing for the past year.

Well logging

Well logging refers to collecting data about the steel, cement and rock in a well by lowering an instrument or tool down the well bore. This summer we’ll be using a number of well logging tools to gather data on the well. For example, measuring the temperature of the water in the well will tell us whether the rock and water have warmed back up to the pre-stimulation temperatures or remain cooled due to the injected water. The logging data will be processed and used to inform decisions about future work plans at Newberry.

Water testing

As part of our on-going water monitoring plan, we continue to collect surface water and groundwater samples from nine different sites and have them analyzed for a variety of geochemical constituents. Maintaining the water quality of the local aquifer is important to the EGS Demonstration, and also to the public. To date, we’ve analyzed over 40 samples and no significant changes have been found at any of the sites we monitor. As part of the monitoring plan, the Bureau of Land Management has also collected duplicates of several samples and sent them for analysis as well in order to confirm our results. Our previous blog post ‘Groundwater Monitoring: What’s Winter Field Work Like?’ gives more specifics about the process.

StaffBio: Yoda

August 2, 2013

Meet Yoda: A mostly Jack Russell Terrier. At the age of 5, he was adopted 3 years ago from the Seattle Humane Society.

A day in the life of an office dog:

Originally an illegal worker in the Seattle office, Yoda spent his first few days hiding the drawers of Yini Nordin’s desk until he was discovered by AltaRock President Susan Petty and offered a full-time job as a receptionist.

Yoda loves his job, taking it seriously as he roams from office to office implementing the dog petting therapy treatment and making sure everyone is relaxed and happy. If you visit our Seattle office, he will most likely be the first one to greet you.

Yoda’s role in the Newberry EGS Demonstration:

In 2012, Yoda was given the task of field assistant, keeping Yini company during the 4 months they spent at Newberry. He embraced his new role exuberantly, meeting fellow field dogs, running in the snow with glee and packing on the pounds from snack table handouts. The 2013 field season is scheduled to start in a few weeks, and once it does Yoda will be back at Newberry as a full-time field assistant.


StaffBio: Yini Nordin

July 26, 2013

Yini Nordin

Yini Nordin accepted her position as Production Engineer with AltaRock in 2010 after leaving the sunshine of Houston, TX for the cool, wet weather of Seattle, WA.

Her role at Newberry has ranged from engineering assignments to Crockpot chef, keeping the field staff full and happy. Whether she’s barbequing or running the forklift, her canine sidekick Yoda is always nearby.

Role in the Demonstration:

Yini helped design and implement the stimulation plan at Newberry. She was instrumental in wiring the data logging system and helping install all of the sensors, gauges and pumps used on site over the course of the project.

One moment in time stands out in particular for Yini when she thinks about the Newberry project,  “I realized how mentally invested I am in the success of this EGS Demonstration while sitting in two inches of snow chewing ice off sensor wires to prevent cable sagging and data loss”.

Prior to geothermal:

Yini graduated with an B.S. in Petroleum Engineering from Texas A&M University in 2009 and spent a short time working in the west Texas oil and gas fields before moving to Seattle to join AltaRock in 2010.

Why she’s fascinated by geothermal energy:

“…the concept of technology development. Energy sources are abundant, but as demands increase, new ways to economically and safely harness them have to continually evolve to keep up with the trend.”

In her free time:

Yini enjoys making, consuming and thinking about delicious food, and going on adventures with her sidekick, Yoda.

Tools We Use: LiDAR Data

July 8, 2013

LiDAR MapLight Detecting and Ranging (LiDAR) is remotely-sensed data collected by small aircraft equipped with high-tech laser scanners. Laser pulses aimed at the surface are reflected back to a data collector in the plane, and used to create a Digital Elevation Model, or DEM. This data is particularly useful in densely vegetated areas (such as Newberry), because the vegetation can be removed from the final imagery to get a clear view of the true surface of an area. LiDAR data for Newberry Volcano was collected in 2010 by the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.

At Newberry, we’ve used LiDAR data to better understand the geologic structure and the eruptive history of the volcano. LiDAR data has been particularly useful in mapping the fault system, lava flows and cinder cones (buttes) at Newberry Volcano. Understanding the structural geology and volcanic history of an area is useful in determining the best locations for potential geothermal development.

This LiDAR-based image is a DEM of Lava Butte, part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and the site of some of the youngest lava flows produced by the volcano. Some of you might have driven up the road that spirals to the top of Lava Butte and seen the surrounding lava flows before. These flows are about 7,000 years old, and originate from the southern side of Lava Butte.LiDAR image for blog post

Here’s another LiDAR-based DEM image showing most of the Newberry Volcano edifice, including East and Paulina lakes. The orange line shows the area with LiDAR coverage. The surrounding background area is mapped from 10 m DEM data, which is less detailed. Pilot Butte, Lava Butte and Aubrey Butte are all easy to find. These buttes, or cinder cones, are unique geologic features at Newberry. While many volcanoes produce them, very few create as many as Newberry Volcano has. How many buttes can you count? Our last tally came to 451.

Recent Visits and Visitors

May 31, 2013

Spring is here, and with it come new visitors to the field site. On May 16th, AltaRock’s Trenton Cladouhos and Kyla Grasso visited Oregon State University in Corvallis to give an invited lecture in the Geology and Geophysics Seminar series at the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. The lecture was attended by about 100 people, including members of the public as well as OSU faculty and students. The following day we led a field trip to Newberry for about a dozen graduate students taking a course taught by professors John Dilles, Robert Harris and Deborah Pence entitled Geothermal Systems for Earth Scientists and Engineers. We explored the geology of Newberry Volcano and the inner workings of the Newberry EGS Demonstration field site.

Students hike the rim trail around Lava Butte for a view of some of the youngest lava flows from Newberry and a discussion about Newberry’s eruptive history.

Students hike the rim trail around Lava Butte for a view of some of the youngest lava flows from Newberry and a discussion about Newberry’s eruptive history.

The field trip began at the top of Lava Butte with a discussion about the local geologic setting and Newberry’s eruptive history. Subsequent stops included a visit to the stimulation site, watching water sampling take place, visiting one of our field seismometer locations, and a brief trip to a previously constructed drill pad which is now being reclaimed and replanted with trees by the US Forest Service. These stops were followed by a beautiful hike up the snowy Big Obsidian Flow. Some lively discussion about the mineral and biological properties of the hot springs at East Lake, led by economic geologist and OSU Professor Dr. John Dilles, concluded the day’s adventures.

Trenton Cladouhos explains the equipment setup at the stimulation site to OSU students and faculty.

Trenton Cladouhos explains the equipment setup at the stimulation site to OSU students and faculty.

AltaRock also recently visited the OSU Cascades Campus class on Conventional and Alternative Energy Systems. We were pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm, interest and depth of questions that students brought up during our presentation. We look forward to hosting these 21 soon-to-be engineers as well as a group of pre-Energy Systems Engineering students from OSU’s Corvallis campus for field trips next week.

View from the Big Obsidan Flow, which still has patches of deep snow in some place along the hiking trails.

View from the Big Obsidan Flow, which still has patches of deep snow in some place along the hiking trails.

AltaRock Featured in Inc. Magazine

May 14, 2013

We’re excited to share that AltaRock is featured in the May issue of Inc. Magazine with an article about the Newberry EGS Demonstration.

Inc. reporter Sam Wagreich spent quite a bit of time learning about our project and has written a strong, succinct description not only of how EGS works, but why it is poised to make such a difference:

“Geothermal energy holds great promise as a renewable source of round-the-clock electricity. But large-scale geothermal power production, which involves harnessing energy created by the heat of the earth’s interior, has proved difficult and expenseive. AltaRock Energy of Seattle has developed a process that could be a breakthrough.”

Read the full article here.


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