There Was Movement In The Basin...

The 7:30 report on the ABC had a segment yesterday on the impact of the Garnaut report on two Cooper basin projects - GeoDynamics' HFR geothermal power experiment (covered before in Geothermia) and Santos' proposal to use carbon dioxide injection into Cooper Basin oil and gas fields to enhance recovery rates - the Moomba Carbon Storage project (pdf).

GeoDynamics have also been in the news (The Australian) as it conducted flow tests over the weekend to determine if there is any pressure loss between the Habanero 1 and Habaenro 3 wells. The results are to be announced later this week. The company has also commenced drilling another test well, 9km from Habanero, to test the extent of hot granite rocks within the company's operating permits.

MIKE SEXTON: Deep beneath the hostile desert that straddles the South Australia, Queensland border lies the Cooper Basin. A 130,000 square kilometre geological formation that provides gas and oil to Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide. And may give Australia a great leap forward in combating climate change. ... In the Simpson desert, not far from where explorers Burke and Wills perished in 1861, Geodynamics is building the most remote power station in the country, one that could provide large amounts of green electricity.

ADRIAN WILLIAMS, GEODYNAMICS: Our first commercial project we're shooting for 500 mega watts, approximately. That will have the annual power output comparable to about one Snowy scheme. That's a significant first project in anybody's language.

MIKE SEXTON: The power will be generated by the heat contained in layers of granite that lie three kilometres underground.... Once the plant is completed water will be pumped into the granite where it will turn into steam. The steam is brought up other shafts with enough pressure to drive turbines and generate emission free power.

ADRIAN WILLIAMS: One of the things I think that's exciting about geo thermal energy is its materiality, sheer size. We know under our feet we have a resource that will support 10,000 mega watts of generating capacity with an annual output of around 15 snowy schemes. We know that resource is here. We've measured temperatures. There's no doubt about that.

PROFESSOR ROSS GARNAUT, CLIMATE CHANGE ECONOMIST: There will have to be large changes about the way we use and generate energy. This will not be costless.

MIKE SEXTON: When Professor Ross Garnaut released his interim report on climate change last month he pulled no punches. Arguing for a 90 per cent cut in emissions by 2050. If this is achieved it had will be a radical turn around for a country so reliant on cheap power from coal. And Professor Garnaut believes geothermal energy will play a role.

PROFESSOR ROSS GARNAUT: The interim report puts a lot of emphasis on support for research and innovation. Work in this area involves companies taking risks, doing a lot of learning, the benefits not only to them, those that spend the money but benefits everyone who is watching them as well. So I think there should be more support for innovation in the low technology industries.

MIKE SEXTON: There is another project in the Cooper Basin that could cut emissions without shutting down the coal fired power plants. For 45 years Santos has pumped oil and gas out of the basin along the way drilling almost 2,500 wells. The company now proposes a bold type of reverse engineering to counter climate change by using the old wells to store carbon dioxide.

JOHN ANDERSON, SANTOS: It's proven technology today. There are a number of projects throughout the world, for example, Algeria, Norway, there is a leading project in Canada, in which C02 is being stored.

MIKE SEXTON: Initially Santos intends storing C02 from its own plant but believes it has the storage capacity to hold one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. A network of pipelines could bring emissions from coal power generation plants from the eastern sea board inland to Moomba.

JOHN ANDERSON: We are seeing a policy setting unfold in Australia at the moment. The Garnaut report certainly alludes to the Federal Court that carbon capture and storage will play a vital role in addressing Australia's needs. Very early days but it appears to be heading in the right direction.

MIKE SEXTON: Santos is not the only company positioning itself for carbon storage, but the project all hinges on a price being put on carbon. It is a significant investment. We're looking at 750 million to a billion dollars of investment. It is having the surety that in fact Australia is up for the challenge in the longer term, that there will ultimately be those pipelines taking C02 back to the Cooper Basin. It's building confidence around that end game that is vital for us. That involves having a very strong partnership with Australian Government to make this a reality.

MIKE SEXTON: It's a similar story across the Basin at Innamincka where Geodynamics admits it can't compete with coal in the current economic climate.

ADRIAN WILLIAMS: As soon as there is any form of impost on carbon emissions, whether that's through emissions trading or taxes, however that impost takes place, both geothermal energy and gas will be two very attractive options for this country.

MIKE SEXTON: But there are some who believe Governments can't just let the free market dictate industry responses. Ian Dunlop is a former senior executive in the coal, oil and gas industry, he chaired the Australian greenhouse office experts group on emissions training. He believes governments must use incentives and regulation where necessary to bring about change.

IAN DUNLOP, FMR INDUSTRY EXECUTIVE: The risk we're run something very high, we have to look at the science, decide what direction we have to go in, then use the economics to achieve the best mechanism for doing that.

MIKE SEXTON: Professor Garnaut's final recommendations in September will frame a car been trading policy. Whatever form that takes it will have major impact on activity in the Cooper Basin.

IAN DUNLOP: I believe we can make this change, it's going to require a very major turn around in attitude and enormous investment. It becomes essentially a nation building project, a little bit akin to a 21st century equivalent of the Snowy scheme in the 50s where we really have to radically change the concepts of energy in this country.

The attractiveness of gas for power generation once carbon costs are accounted for is an interesting issue - just how long will Australia's gas reserves hold out if we make a large scale switch from coal to gas ?

Does anyone know if there is adequate transmission capacity for 500MW from Cooper Basin to a viable customer base or will this have to be built?

No doubt it will need to be built.

Its hard to find a map of the grid - GENI used to have one but the ESAA seems to have made them take it down.

You can buy one for $72 though...

Any transmission facilities will have to be built. The initial customer could be the BHP-B Olympic Dam mine and copper smelter which has huge electrical requirements which would require a significant expansion of the SA electrical generation capacity + grid.

The 15,000 tonnes per year of Uranium +(silver + gold) is nice earner on the side of the major play - copper.

[Reposted from Gav's blog]

Australia's emissions due to coal-fired electricity generation are currently around 195Mt CO2e annually. There are a few projects going on that'll take it up to 215Mt.

So Santos' storage for "a billion tonnes" would take it all up for a bit under five years.

After that...?

Our natural gas reserves are, nationmaster says, about 2.4 trillion cubic feet. This is 68 billion cubic metres. Natural gas gives us 38.8MJ/m3, and 38.8MJ are 10.78Kwh. So our natural gas reserves are equivalent to 733 billion kWh if we got 100% conversion.

In practice, we're lucky to end up with 30% conversion - natural gas usually manages 35-40% in the turbines, but 5-10% of the stuff leaks out before it ever gets to a machine.

So, call it 220 billion kWh as a generous figure.

Aussie electricity use is about 11,000kWh each. So, 21 million people will use 230 billion kWh annually.

Thus if all electricity generation in Australia were natural gas, our reserves would last us a year at our current electricity rate of use.

PS: so the CO2 can be stored up for five years, and the natural gas supply electricity for one year; spreading it out over a decade or two of buggerising about in the usual government and corporate fashion gives us about ten years where the company gets to make big $$$. And really that's the question they ask themselves, "how long can we make heaps of money from it?"

Pumping it underground... whatever Tim Flannery reckons this week (he keeps changing his mind, hard to keep track of), I don't fancy any Lake Nyos events in my country, thanks very much.

I have a wondrous new technique to deal with carbon emissions. Monbiot came up with it first but the lazy bastard didn't patent it, so I claim it. It's this: quit burning stuff.

It's amazing, isn't it? Such a simple invention. If we stop burning fossil fuels, then 55% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions stop instantly.

If we're really stupid and stingy and slow about it, it might take us until 2050 to achieve this.

I s'pose life's too simple for some people.

I think there are good reasons why neither Innamincka hot rocks nor Cooper Basin CO2 storage may 'get off the ground'. Just on hot rocks I'd point out the global mean geothermal near-surface conductive flux is something like 0.2 watts per square metre while deserts can get over 850 w/m2 daytime solar radiation. Here's a rehash of earlier comments on hot rock problems;

small and declining temperature difference
The starting temperature difference might be 200K which is low for a steam cycle plant hence the need for the less efficient Kalina cycle. As the rock cools (ie sucks out trapped heat) new holes will need to be drilled within piping distance of the original surface plant. A dust storm could smother the cooling towers, though nights might be OK.
remoteness from transmission lines
The nearest heavy line appears to be the 275 kva from Pt Augusta - Adelaide, some 300 km away. Budget tens of millions for a feeder line.
water must be closed loop
The steam contains radon gas from radioactive decay. It would also be expensive to vent for pressure regulation as mud free replacement clean water will have to brought in to the site.
lack of control of undergound water passages
You hope the dynamite will open up fractures between the down and up pipes. Too big and they don't warm enough, too small and they create back pressure. Plastic creep can also squeeze cavities shut like a sphincter.
equivalent kwh used in re-drilling
I'd guess a 200kw rig operating for a fortnight with reused pipe casing might use more than 20 Mwh of energy. This will be needed on a repeat basis to reopen unsatisfactory holes or shift the whole shebang sideways. I wouldn't let the rig out of sight.
dependence on 'carbon credits'
Something will be seriously wrong if sale of credits is a necessary revenue item. Politicians can't see the idiocy of 'clean development' offsets whereby cleantech entitles someone else to burn coal. Moreover they may not be compatible with Garnaut's full auction system.

In short I would be very surprised if hot rocks is a goer without massive subsidies.

Here is a link to the European Hot Dry Rock project:

They drilled three holes, two to get the water in and one out, but unfortunately one of the 'in' wells did not connect up - they hope when they do these things that the rock will fraction and allow the water to flow through, and so at the moment they look like getting half the power they had hoped for - similar problems led to the end of an earlier English HDR project.

The precise geology of the area is very important.

Geothermal from old oil wells could probably work great.

It works like this. the oil wells run dry and we tap those for there geothermal energy to power our electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. kind of ironic that old oil wells could produce green and renewable energy for cars that would use electricity to create less pollution.

Hey did you see the "network of pipelines" that Santos is proposing (about 3:27 into the 7:30 report video)? Hilarious! How much solar thermal and wind capacity would that buy us? We'd never have to worry about escalating coal and gas prices, and we'd never have to worry about a few megatonnes of C02 burping out centuries from now, Lake Nyos style.

When oh when will TPTB knock CCS on the head? I heard Garnaut last night saying that he was "optimistic" about CCS?

When oh when will TPTB knock CCS on the head? I heard Garnaut last night saying that he was "optimistic" about CCS?

He has to say that to satisfy his political masters. The rule of politics is never set up an enquiry that you don't already know the answers to.Garnaut was told to come up with a recomendation of how to implement carbon trading as where there is trade there is money to be made and that is what state premiers are most interested in. Garnaut is an economist after all not a scientist so it will be entirely plausible to dismiss his call for 90% reduction as being "not science based" and therfore requiring more study.

We ahve made truckloads of money from messing the palce up and Garnauts job was to figure out how, at the turning point, Australia can make truckloads of money cleaning it up. CCS was one way to ensure someone makes a lot of money trying if not succeeding.

Well to continue the "put things in perspective" theme, with the low efficiency from the HDR scheme, even a 2% rate of water loss would lead to unacceptable water requirements deep in the desert. I believe the best that been achieved elsewhere in the world is around 5%.

As for piping supercritical CO2 from the Eastern Seaboard to the Cooper basin, they can't be serious!

Finally a few hundred k's down the down the road Olympic Dam will supply 15,000 tonnes of Uranium per year to the rest of the world for something like a century. That would supply well over all Australia's electrical needs. But we're no longer allowed to mention Nuclear in Australia. It's politically incorrect again.

My guess is that all these attempts have to allowed to fail until the Greenies will admit it. We need nuclear power or coal to keep oz running. Which do they want?

Do we really need nuclear? If we stopped exporting coal we would have heaps of the stuff for Oz to run for at least this current generation and maybe the next. Add to that the dinky toy renewables that may be added in the next fifty years as well as a liberal dose of efficency gains and it may just be possible to avoid nuclear power for the forseeable future.

This may actually work in our favour in terms of technology advances that may come along in the future. Australia has always followed this pattern which tends to maen that we get second or third generation technology which has usually been tested out thoroughly on someone else and a lot of the bugs ironed out. We should hasten slowly in regards to nuclear power for this reason alone.

On the other hand, Asutralia could do much to lay the groundwork and build up our skills in nuclear power related industry such as uranium enrichment, manufacture of fuel rods and pellets, fuel rod leasing where we price the production, enrichment, maufacture, energy content, and disposal costs. An enrichment and fuel rod industry alone would give our engineers and scientists good exposure to honing uclear skills without the political risks of building a nuclear power industry on shore. Of course it may get to the point where not having a nuclear generator becomes ridiculous for teh worlds leading producer of a vital nuclear component but that is a side issue.

Regardless of the source of electricity it still does not solve the problem of declining petroleum and it's place in transportation. Only a concerted and informed reconstruction of our urban environment which enables people to drastically reduce the distances both they and the goods they consume are conveyed will get us anywhere near a sustainable future. All talk of electric cars and PHEVS is IMHO seriosuly deluded. We will need to rearrange how we live, huddling together for warmth, light and ease of trade, education and social welfare. At least in Australia we have plenty of wide open spaces to escape to (on the train) when the city gets to much for us.

Australia also might have the worlds best geology for storing nuclear waste.

I actually agree Magnus. Australias uranium industry should include an permanent nuclear waste disposal facility, somwhere deep in the outback. We can't keep digging up ore, processing it to yellowcake, exporting and then wahing our hands of responsibility for what happens to it. We either have a uranium industry or we should shut it all down and keep selling coal and gas as fast as we can shovel it out.

Why people want to shift from depending on one depleting resource to another is beyond me.

There is a huge desert with some of the best solar insolation available on the planet out there, and you guys are talking about digging more holes and shoveling radioactive material offshore and then back on again.


There is so much Light here it's f* amazing. Might as well use it. Welcome to the Solar Age.

You burn it, you store it.

This creates an incentive in the users not to use too much, to store it safely, or even to reprocess it to remove any danger at all.

If nuclear is safe then you can deal with the waste where it's produced, in your country. If nuclear is unsafe then you shouldn't have it at all.

If we stopped exporting coal we would have heaps of the stuff for Oz to run for at least this current generation and maybe the next

We can sit on the highest mountain of coal, nature will not allow us to burn it all. The CO2 absorption capacity of the atmosphere isn't there.

Read here:
Climate Code Red: The Case for a Sustainability Emergency

To answer your question TheTransition, what I want is neither coal nor nuclear but a transition to solar. Technically feasible with today's technology.

Solar-thermal power plants in more arid regions - but spread around the 5 mainland states and NT and within cooeee of the grid - these can produce baseload power by heat storage for overnight and through a couple of cloudy days (and in Australia it won't be cloudy over all the solar-thermal power stations at once).

The cities become acres of rooftop photovoltaics to provide peak power through heatwaves and daytime usage.

No need for much water if any.
Big start up costs - but no ongoing mining, transport costs and no climate change terra-costs and no peak-oil or later peak-coal costs.

Solar is the future.

Great if Geothermal can back this up. Fair enough if some coal or gas power plants are used as back up in depths of winter - at least a world relying on solar will delay peak-coal issues (most of the world can do much of the above with solar - Africa, Nth America, Sth America, China, Indian subcontinent, Middle East have plenty of deserts).

I'm not an Aussie and I'm not altogether clear about what "a Snowy scheme" is, as used above to mean a measure of power output. One allusion above said 500 MW, another said

a resource that will support 10,000 mega watts of generating capacity with an annual output of around 15 snowy schemes

..but the Snowyhydro fact sheet says:

3756 megawatt (MW) Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme

How many megawatts are we talking here, for the Snowy scheme or the potential of this formation, or both?

The 3756MW refers to the installed generating capacity. Like most Hydro schemes, the annual output is limited by the water available. It cannot generate at full power continuously. Geothermal schemes usually can, at least initially, generate near full power throughout the year. Except in exceptional places like Iceland the geothermal flow is not sufficient to replenish the heat energy extracted and the rock gradually cool, although often with multi-decade time constants.

Back in the 60s when the hydro schemes were built the renewable percentage of installed electrical capacity was bigger than today, even with the current wind and solar which didn't exist then. It's just that King Coal has grown even mightier.

The interesting thing is that hydro is the one energy resource that wasn't frittered away in Australia. We export 80% of our coal and 100% of our uranium. In return we get plasma TVs. By the time the Australian public decides they want a crash building program for other renewables or nukes there may not be enough spare cash. Unlike Cuba the country is too big and barren for a soft energy descent.

If the current precipitation trends continue in Australia the value of a "Snowy" denominated in watts will continue to shrink. As with most non-glacial fed projects in Canada, hydro-electric is a somewhat seasonal thing. Even rivers fed by glacial melt have a seasonal aspect and are threatened by changing climate.
If the .2 watts/sq meter figure is correct a 500MW plant operating at 100% efficiency would require a heat transfer surface area of 2.5 billion sq meters. I have searched in vain for any actual detailed engineering numbers related to this issue. Also I can't find any public production records for exisiting geo-thermal sites. If anyone has these links please forward them. As well, if you look at the map of existing generation sites most are located on volcanic magma structures where the source rock is much hotter and somewhat shallower than these proposals. Interesting proposals but looking for more detail.

Crikey, this is interesting, thanks for posting it. I think that the limiting factor will be water, especially during drought conditions.

In the San Francisco Bay area water pressures in their geothermal field (The Geysers) was relatively quickly lowered. The facilities there began to inject "grey water", partially treated waste water and subsurface gas and water pressures were significantly increased.

This issue was discussed on the original Geothermia post, without any concrete conclusion being reached.

I think the plant is designed to have minimal water loss, and I assume that they would use water from the Great Artesian Basin (underground) - its always "drought" out there - its the middle of the desert.

With the Geysers, I see that various groups are now competing for the Santa Rosa greywater, which will presumably increase costs over time.

Not sure if Gav had this link in his Geothermia article...

This is reproduced from the Geothermal Resources website.
The indicated hot areas are to a depth of 5 km.
You can see from the lumpy smoothing (in places) that there are unexplored areas...

There are some areas closer to both water and main transmission lines.
The small site at Portland on the border between Vic and SA provides hot water for the towns pool and some heating

Curiously Boof, George Town may also be located near a hotspot!

(NB I don't vouch for the accuracy of this map)

I used a map similar to that in Geothermia (not sure if it was the same).

There is still plenty of prospecting work to be done (as we can see from the work GeoDynamics, Torrens and the mob in Tasmania are doing).

The lower region of South Australia seems quite promising - one company (Torrens ?) is drilling in the Adelaide area, which would be handy. As would the northern Tassie stuff - no problems plugging into the grid for these, and they are in energy deficient NEM regions in any case.