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Clarifications to recent headlines

October 20, 2012

There have been some rather alarming headlines about our project recently, such as:

Energy Company Plans to Frack a Volcano, Geothermal Company Drills Into A Volcano, New Oil Drilling Technology Used Under Oregon’s Largest Volcano, and Is Disturbing A Sleeping Volcano To Get “Clean” Energy Safe?

As is typical of many media outlets, the headlines are designed to be provocative and grab your attention.  If you read or listen to these stories, you will find that the authors have no evidence to support any claim that our project is unsafe.

We’d like to make three simple points:

1. AltaRock Energy is not drilling into a volcano.  The well on Newberry was drilled in 2008 to a depth of over 10,000 ft about 5 miles from the most recent volcanic flows.  We are pumping cold water into this non-producing geothermal well in an attempt to prove new technology for Enhanced Geothermal Systems developed by AltaRock and many others, and eventually generate renewable energy in central Oregon. We did drill five seismic monitoring boreholes to depths of 700-900 feet, but the temperatures at the bottom of those wells is cold (55F) and their purpose is monitoring not geothermal production.

2. Drilling into volcanoes is not dangerous or uncommon. Worldwide geothermal energy production often occurs on volcanoes.  The Philippines,  Iceland, and El Salvador all produce over 20% of their electricity from the geothermal heat of volcanoes. Geothermal drilling or production has never been responsible for a volcanic eruption. Read more in FAQ#8.

3. We aren’t “fracking.” Hydraulic fracturing is a process used in the oil and gas industry that uses surface water pressures over 5,000 psi to fracture or crack open the rock to extract oil and gas. We are using a different process called hydroshearing to initiate small slips in existing cracks in the rock. We expect surface pressures around 1,600 psi will initiate hydroshearing, or slip on existing fractures — far less than needed to fracture the rock.  Further, hydroshearing does not require injection of the chemical additives used in fracking.   Lastly, we will not be producing fossil fuels, but hot water and steam heated by the hot rock under Newberry Volcano. Read more here and in FAQ#1

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