MIT Technology Review recently published an excellent article about the Newberry EGS Demonstration. Author Kevin Bullis interviewed both Susan Petty, President of AltaRock Energy, Inc., David Stowe, Public Relations representative for AltaRock as well as Jeff Tester, Professor of Sustainable Energy Systems at Cornell University. The article does an excellent job summarizing the Newberry EGS project as well as challenges and developments in the world of EGS today. Enjoy!
While the title Fracking for Geothermal Heat Instead of Gas implies the Newberry EGS demonstration uses hydraulic fracturing techniques, we’d like to clarify that AltaRock uses a process known as hydroshearing, which works at lower pressures and without the fracking chemicals used in the oil and gas industry. For more information on that distinction, please see our FAQ #1 and the blog post “Clarifications to Recent Headlines”, here:
Clarifications to Recent Headlines:
Summer field work has come to a close at the Newberry EGS Demonstration site, and with it we’ve completed the last round of water sampling and analysis. The EGS project was carefully designed to protect the local groundwater system, and our groundwater monitoring program helps us make sure we protect this valuable natural resource. Our water monitoring program was designed to document and report groundwater conditions from up-, down- and cross-gradient locations surrounding the EGS site.
We collect water samples from ten sites, including eight monitoring wells, one domestic water well and the hot springs at both Paulina Lake and East Lake in the Newberry caldera. We measure pH, temperature, electrical conductivity, oxidation-reduction potential and turbidity in the field. Each sample is then filtered to remove sediment and organic matter before being bottled and shipped to laboratories for analysis. The samples are analyzed for 30 different constituents and results are returned to AltaRock for review. Data from these samples are reviewed by AltaRock’s staff geochemist and geologists, and made available to government regulators.
To date we’ve collected and analyzed 45 samples and, as expected, no water quality changes have been detected at any of the monitoring sites. Samples were collected before, during and after stimulation, and sample collection has continued on a monthly basis since December 2012, when stimulation ended. When this summer’s field work came to a close, we spent several days winterizing our sampling wells and closing everything up for the winter months for the winter.
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.
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:
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 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.
As part of our on-going water monitoring plan, wecontinue 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.
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.
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.
Light 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.
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.