Geothermal project managers exploring other options
Managers of the geothermal project are now looking at other options to make the project viable, among them, a closed loop system.
Project director of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Geothermal Project, Ellsworth Dacon told SVGTV News on Tuesday that while the geothermal project at Bamboo Range generated enough heat for geothermal energy, the project is not economically viable.
“The results weren’t as expected. We got permeability, but not sufficient enough for it to be commercially viable,” Dacon said.
For geothermal energy to produce electricity, two things are needed – heat, as well as permeability, which is the flow of water through porous rocks.
While there is undoubtedly a geothermal source at Bamboo Range, the inadequacy of the permeability of the rocks means that the heat cannot pass through the rocks at the needed rate.
Dacon said that despite this problem, the project has not been abandoned as other options are being considered.
“We are looking at some closed loop systems and speaking to three companies so we will see how it goes,” Dacon said.
Closed loop geothermal systems are different from open loop geothermal systems in that they use water which cycles through pipes buried in the ground instead of using fresh groundwater to transfer heat. There are also different types of closed loop geothermal systems.
Since 2012, over US$35 million has been spent on the project, the project director said.
The government contributed about 2 per cent or over US$700,000 of that cost. US$29 million was grant funding, while over US$7 million was contributed as private equity.
“We haven’t abandoned the project. We are discussing with some other companies,” said Dacon who noted that capital will have to be secured and the economics considered.
He said moving forward, they will not look for permeability, but at using the closed loop system.
“So instead of using the water which will eventually turn to steam that will turn a turbine, we are not going to do that, we are going to do it a different way, so we wouldn’t require the permeability from the rock because we would actually be using a working fluid in a closed loop system.
Dacon said he is disappointed that the initial plans did not work out and as a nation we should all be disappointed.
“This is a project we all were looking forward to that was supposed to be a game changer and the results weren’t as expected, so it is something to be disappointed about,” Dacon said.
He noted that he knows there will be a lot of “political football” on the issue, but the project team will still give it their best efforts.
Dacon said there are 15 local staff members on site that provide security while he and a member of the Reykjavik team are still employed by the project.
On August 18, police informed the public that beginning Wednesday, August 19 at 4:30 am, heavy equipment from the geothermal site in Georgetown would be transported to Kingstown. The transfer of the equipment to Kingstown is expected to take several days to complete, after which it will be shipped overseas.
The exploratory drilling was done under the direction of the St Vincent Geothermal Company Limited, which is owned by the Icelandic company Reykjavik Geothermal and the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines.