Manchin Questions Witnesses about Geothermal Development Opportunities

June 20, 2019

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks click here

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning click here

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing to examine opportunities and challenges for advanced geothermal energy development in the United States. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, questioned witnesses about commercial production of geothermal energy and the development of geothermal energy in abandoned underground mines. 

“Where are you now with commercial development? We saw firsthand in Iceland, it was a mammoth operation. How far are we either behind or are we progressing well? When can we get into commercial production?” Senator Manchin asked.

“Where we are, both Fervo Energy as a company and also the geothermal industry, I think we have the right technology and we’ve developed the right things on the drilling side that we can start accessing that next more challenging tier of resource. In the GeoVision study they refer to this as the infield resource and the nearfield resource. These are not quite the very large numbers of gigawatts that are outlined in the report but these are opportunities that are hundreds of megawatts or a few gigawatts that could probably be commercially viable on a very short timeframe. I don’t think we’re behind Iceland. I think we’re the leader in drilling and we’re at a great point to attack these resources,” said Mr. Tim Latimer, CEO of Fervo Energy.

Senator Manchin also questioned witnesses about operations to develop geothermal energy in abandoned underground mines in West Virginia. 

“In Michigan and Germany they’ve proposed tapping abandoned underground mines as sources for geothermal energy. We’ve had some hot spots in the northern parts of West Virginia and of course, we have a lot of mines everywhere. How promising is that?” Senator Manchin asked.

“Ormat participated in a co-production well at the Rocky Mountain Oil Test Center in Wyoming. They were producing oil and had a water break. The water break was about 250 degrees of water being produced from the oil well. Instead of just wasting that water they ran in threw a geothermal heat exchanger, were able to produce electricity and use that electricity to help power the well-field operations making it incredibly more efficient and reducing their costs from not having to purchase that power from the nearby utility. That’s a source of innovation that can be applied to West Virginia and what you’re doing with mining. Anywhere you have heat and water we can run that through a heat exchanger and start producing power,” said Paul A. Thomsen, Vice President, Business Development – Americas at Ormat Technologies, Inc.

The hearing also featured testimony from representatives from the geothermal energy industry, Department of Energy, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. To read their testimonies click here.

To watch the hearing in full click here.