Geothermal power in Australia is little used but growing. There are known and potential locations near the centre of the country that have been shown to contain hot granites at depth which hold good potential for development of geothermal energy. Exploratory geothermal wells have been drilled to test for the presence of high temperature geothermal reservoir rocks and such hot granites were detected. As a result, projects will eventuate in the coming years and more exploration is expected to find new locations.
There is exploration being conducted in all states and the Northern Territory but there is no commercial production of geothermal energy in Australia. Exploration involves finding vast blocks of "hot rocks" with fracture systems that could generate electricity through water being injected, circulated through the fractures, and being returned to surface as steam which could then be used to rotate steam turbines.
There are vast deep-seated granite systems in Central Australia that have high temperatures at depth and these are being drilled by companies such as Panax Geothermal, Geodynamics Ltd, Petratherm, Green Rock Energy and Pacific Hydro to depths of more than four kilometres.
South Australia has been described as "Australia's hot rock haven" and this renewable energy form could provide an estimated 6.8% of Australia's base load power needs by 2030. According to a conservative estimate by the Centre for International Economics, Australia has enough geothermal energy to contribute electricity for 450 years.
The 25 MW Cooper Basin demonstration project will demonstrate the potential of hot-rock geothermal energy for zero-emission, base-load power. The project is owned by Geodynamics and will be the world’s first multi-well hot fractured rock power project. Geodynamics has assessed its resource as holding geothermal energy sufficient to support several thousand megawatts of electricity generating capacity.
The Jurien-Woodada project, owned by New World Energy Limited, is the most advanced geothermal play in Western Australia for electricity production. The project is adjacent to transmission infrastructure and large resource-driven energy markets in the mid-west region. The project area has the potential to contain both hot sedimentary aquifer and EGS styles and is being assessed for delivery of electricity into Western Australia's South West Interconnected System.
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The Penola Project is part of Panax’s Limestone Coast Project and is the largest of only four known Measured Geothermal Resources in Australia. An independent assessment has estimated the geothermal resource potential at 11,000 petajoules.
The Penola Project has an extensive database with 28 petroleum wells. The deepest petroleum exploration well is approximately 4,000 metres and intersects more than 1,000 metres of the target reservoir, the Pretty Hill Sandstone.
Panax’s Salamander-1 well, drilled in 2010 is the first deep geothermal well drilled in the Otway Basin. It was completed in record time and is the first to demonstrate conventional geothermal technology in Australia. First steam was produced and the well-testing programme was also completed on the project in 2010.
The Salamander-1 well met its primary objectives. At 4,000 metres projected geothermal temperatures were exceeded by more than 10°C and target reservoir rocks met the requirements for the development of a geothermal demonstration plant. An in-house pre-feasibility study found the project has the potential to generate power at $83 per megawatt hour, which is cheaper than wind power. Complications with the well were found during well-testing. Reservoir engineers have been engaged to examine the well and carry out remediation works.
Panax a conventional geothermal technology in Australia with its Salamander-1 well and is securing funding from the Australian Federal Government to progress the Penola Project.
|Company Name||Area of operations||Furthest project advancement||Geothermal only||ASX code|
|Geodynamics||Hunter Region, Innamincka||Advanced pilot plant development||Yes||GDY|
|Earth Heat Resources||South Australia||Current focus is on foreign developments||Yes||EHR|
|New World Energy||Pilbara, Perth basin||Resource drilling||Yes|
|Green Rock Energy||Roxby Downs, Perth basin||Resource drilling||Yes||GRK|
|Pacific Hydro||Tenement appraisals||No|
|Panax Geothermal||Limestone Coast||Pilot plant production wells||Yes||PAX|
|Greenearth Energy||Anglesea, Gippsland||Pilot plant planning||Yes||GER|
|Torrens Energy||Parachilna||Validation drilling||No||TEY|
|Southern Gold Ltd||Roxby Downs||Temperature mapping||No||SAU|
|Hot Rock Ltd||Penola, Otway Basin||Validation drilling||Yes||HRL|
|Origin Energy||Joint venture partner||No||ORG|