Exploring Australia’s geothermal potential

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing $450,000 support for the University of Adelaide to map geothermal resources in Australia.

The $1.62 million project, led by Professor Martin Hand and Dr Ros King, will produce maps of the distribution, orientation and connectivity of fractures in four key sedimentary basins around Australia to better understand the structural permeability in these regions.

Permeability affects how easily liquids and gases can move through and be extracted from the earth, including hot water that can be used to generate geothermal power.

Geothermal projects in Australia face major headwinds due to the high cost and risk involved with drilling deep underground. This is in contrast to projects in some other countries that benefit from tapping into geothermal heat far closer to the surface.

The University of Adelaide’s South Australian Centre for Geothermal Energy Research, part of its Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources, will also develop a “toolkit” to assist developers to predict permeability pathways within critical Australian sedimentary basins and reduce the risks associated with drilling operations.

This information will join other knowledge discovered through ARENA-supported geothermal projects and serve as a go-to source for future developments, providing a head start on viability and risk assessments.

This latest project is consistent with the 2014 International Geothermal Expert Group forward looking report that recommended ‘rebooting’ Australia’s geothermal industry. ARENA established the International Geothermal Expert Group to investigate and report on the prospects for the commercial development of geothermal energy in Australia.