Practical Geothermal Study, California | SLB

Detailed report expands geothermal prospects in California

California, Nevada, United States, North America

SLB used its GeothermEx™ geothermal consulting services to produce a publication commissioned by the California Energy Commission (CEC) and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) that has become a primary source for developers, financiers, and government planners to support geothermal growth, plan transmission initiatives, and open new geothermal areas for energy production.

As part of a larger project to evaluate the potential of different renewable energy sources, GeothermEx services were used to  make a thorough assessment of geothermal fields in California and western Nevada, quantifying for each field:

  • the minimum and most likely generating capacity
  • the estimated development costs (expressed as USD per MW), including costs for resource development, power plant construction, and transmission interconnection.

This required gathering and rationalizing a vast array of disparate data and creating an overarching methodology to evaluate and catalog all known geothermal resources in the region, considering the capacities of developed fields and their potential for expansion, along with the potential of undeveloped fields.

Based on data in the public domain and conversations with geothermal developers, GeothermEx methodology and framework were used to synthesize data from more than 80 geothermal fields into an easily understandable set of costs and output potentials. Considering the typical process of developing geothermal resources—from exploration to production and expansion—the consistent GeothermEx cost model included all relevant information in a single, coherent database, enabling comparative analysis of different resources. This was the first time all relevant information about geothermal power production had been assembled in a single source for such a large area.

The study proved that available geothermal capacity represented a significant opportunity for commercial development to meet the needs of the California electricity market. Since its publication as a CEC Public Interest Energy Report (PIER), the GeothermEx report has become a primary source for developers, financiers, transmission planners, and various government agencies in California and Nevada. The accompanying database is a powerful tool for analyzing 155 separate geothermal projects in 83 geothermal fields, offering planners, utilities, and the entire geothermal industry a methodology and informational baseline to increase the production of geothermal power and deliver it to the California market.

Technical details

Lovekin, J. and Pletka, R. 2010. Geothermal Assessment as Part of California's Renewable Energy Initiative (RETI). Proceedings, World Geothermal Congress, Bali, Indonesia, 25–29 April 2010.

Geothermal capital cost estimates for California and western Nevada study.
Geothermal capital cost estimates for California and western Nevada study.
Products Used