Australian goethermal market still at early stages

A new report has found that Australian geothermal is still in its exploration stage and not yet ready for commercial production, although an expansion in production capacity of over 0.075GW will be achieved by 2022.

The report, from describes Australian exploitation of geothermal as ‘modest’ due to the fact that it is still an emerging industry in the country. Exploration for geothermal resources is being conducted in all Australian states, and there is significant potential for exploitation, particularly in South Australia, Tasmania and along the Victorian coastline.

Western Australia also contains prospective areas in the Perth Basin and the Pilbara region, the report concludes.

It has been estimated that just 1% of geothermal shallower than 5km and hotter than 150°C could supply the country’s total energy needs for 26,000 years.

At present, drilling technology places limits on exploitation to a maximum depth of 5km, and so companies are currently exploring particular regions where elevated temperatures at 5km or less may be accessible. The temperature at this depth varies considerably across Australia due to the wide range of geological factors involved. Geoscience data may be able to identify areas of higher potential.

Only a minimal amount of power is currently being extracted from Australian geothermal, but this may change with the increasing pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the face of climate change. As a result of such pressure the Australian government has begun to encourage investment in the geothermal industry.

Australia is not the only country to be looking at the technology. The GEA’s International Market Overview Report finds that although the United States is still the global leader in the exploitation of geothermal energy, more countries around the world look set to develop such resources in the near future with others having great potential to do likewise.

But despite the interest, globally, recent figures published by Renewable Energy Focus in its July/August issue show that 2011 was a poor year for the geothermal market (see page 48).

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