Earth Science Week Trip Guide

combinationTitle: Lode and Behold! Geology and Natural Resources of the Truckee Meadows and Virginia City (Guide for the Earth Science Week Field Trip, October 12, 2019)
Authors: Mike Ressel, Rachel Micander, Jack Hursh, Steve Russell, and Matthew Sophy
Year: 2019
Series: Educational Series 65
Format: 25 pages, color
View/download/purchase the 2019 Earth Science Week field trip guide!

Geoscientists from Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology explain the geology of the Truckee Meadows and Virginia City areas, in celebration of Earth Science Week 2019 and the importance of earth sciences to the people of the state of Nevada.

Major stops on this field trip included the following:

  • Ormat geothermal plant in south Reno
  • Chollar Mine (open pit mine site) in Virginia City

NBMG coordinates annual geology field trips for the public during, or near, Earth Science Week. These field trips are fun, educational, family oriented, and always free. NBMG has been an active participant in Earth Science Week since it began in 1998.

Biggest-Ever BLM Geothermal Lease Sale Reaps $638,000 in Nevada

By Abigail Sawyer, California Energy Markets; September 20, 2019; No. 1557

Abigail Sawyer interviewed Jim Faulds for this news story, and she and California Energy Markets graciously allowed us to print the text of this copyrighted article below.

https://www.newsdata.com/california_energy_markets/southwest/

California Energy Markets; September 20, 2019; No. 1557, page 16

Copyright © 2019, NewsData LLC. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited.

[SUMMARY, page 1]: “Recent research on geothermal potential in Nevada, improved technology, and increasing interest in carbon-free and renewable energy resources is driving geothermal interest in the state, experts say. Geothermal lease sales continue in the largest-ever offering of parcels on federal lands following a Sept. 17 auction that brought in nearly $638,000 in bids in the state. At [18], geothermal heating up in Nevada.”

[STORY, page 16]: “A federal Bureau of Land Management geothermal lease sale in Nevada on Sept. 17 attracted more than three times as many bidders as a similar auction held last year. The auction was the largest, by acreage, of any geothermal lease sale BLM has ever held, according to a news release.

The auction alone brought in nearly $638,000 from lease sales on 102,403 of more than 384,000 acres offered. An additional 64,000 acres were leased in noncompetitive sales the following day, Alex Jensen, geologist and geothermal program lead for BLM Nevada, said in an interview. Parcels offered as part of the original auction remain available for noncompetitive lease-purchase for two years, Jensen said.

In October 2018, BLM sold leases on 2,321 of more than 27,000 acres offered and brought in $26,422 in receipts, according to the bureau’s Nevada office.

Jensen said the auction indicates growing interest in geothermal power generation, which he attributes to interest in renewable generation resources generally and geothermal’s ability to provide zero-emissions baseload power with a lower per-acre disruption footprint than solar and wind.

Advances in research and exploration technology and regulatory pressure to meet renewables portfolio standards and greenhouse gas-reduction goals are other factors that make geothermal attractive, Jim Faulds, director and state geologist with the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology at the University of Nevada, Reno, said in a phone interview.

Geothermal’s main drawback, Jensen said, is upfront costs for exploration. “It costs between $2 million and $7 million” to drill a well between 3,000 and 8,000 feet deep in the hope of finding a system, he said. With Nevada’s fault-controlled systems, he explained, the well must hit a fault precisely in order to generate power.

“If you miss by 200 feet you could have spent $2 to $7 million on an unusable well,” Jensen said. It’s extremely capital-intensive to take a project all the way to production, “but it essentially means you’re buying the next 35 years’ worth of fuel for your power plant,” he said.

The largest bid in this week’s sale, $20 per acre for a 4,800-acre parcel, came from Western States Environment and Resources of Houston, according to the BLM release. WSER beat out Terra-Gen to pay $96,000 for the parcel, located immediately adjacent to Terra-Gen’s 67-MW Dixie Valley Power Plant in Churchill County.

Churchill County is the “epicenter” for geothermal in Nevada, Faulds said. He and his team are nearing completion of a five-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy that resulted in the identification of two new geothermal systems in the state. The three-phase project involved studying the characteristics of known geothermal systems, doing a detailed study of five promising areas, and then drilling preliminary wells to demonstrate the existence of a system.

The area in the Granite Springs Valley system identified in the project received bids in the sale, Faulds said. The second system, in Gabbs Valley, is even more promising from a geothermal perspective, he said, but it runs adjacent to a wilderness area and was not offered in this sale.

Bidders realize that certain parcels come with environmental strings attached, affecting their usefulness, Jensen said. If a parcel is located in a bighorn sheep habitat, for instance, exploration must cease during lambing season. A lot of the unsold parcels were on sage grouse habitat, he said.

As long as bidders diligently explore and develop their parcels, pay their annual rent and comply with BLM rules and environmental regulations, the leases are valid for 10 years with an option to extend. Once a geothermal power plant goes into production on a parcel, that parcel is held as long as the plant is operational. At that point, the leaseholder pays royalties rather than rent.

Interest in geothermal speculation spiked in 2008 and remained high in 2009, Jensen said. Since that time, “a lot of companies learned it was a lot more difficult and expensive than they had realized.”

During that time, DOE distributed “a decent amount of money” for geothermal research, which has remained stable due to congressional support, Faulds said.

The BLM in its release said the Nevada lease sale reflects the Trump administration’s goal of promoting America’s energy independence. DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office 2019 GeoVision report suggests that “improving the tools, technologies, and methodologies used to explore, discover, access, and manage geothermal resources would reduce costs and risks associated with geothermal developments.” Such reductions, the GTO estimates, could increase geothermal generation to 60 GW of capacity by 2050.

Jensen said tremendous geothermal resources exist across the country, particularly in Western states, Alaska and Hawaii. He estimated that as much as 1.5 GW of potential in the Salton Sea area of California could go on line within 10 years if there were incentives to explore and develop the systems.

“You could drill anywhere on Earth, and there’s no chance you won’t hit heat eventually,” he said.”

Awards at GSA, Phoenix—September 22–25, 2019

Craig dePolo Honored with GSA Fellowship
“Society Fellowship is an honor bestowed on the best of our profession by election at the spring GSA Council meeting.”

https://www.geosociety.org/GSA/About/awards/GSA_Fellows/GSA/Awards/Fellows-New.aspx

https://www.geosociety.org/GSA/About/awards/GSA_Fellows/GSA/Awards/Fellows.aspx#D

Craig M. dePolo (Nevada Bureau Mines & Geology): Dr. dePolo is widely recognized by his peers in the areas of neotectonics, paleoseismology, and earthquake preparedness. He has published numerous reports and maps at the NBMG and in peer-reviewed journals. Dr. dePolo has been a driving force for earthquake preparedness in Nevada for more than 30 years. —William Lund

Jason Craig Wins Second Place: Best Student Geologic Map Competition
Jason Craig is a graduate student at University of Nevada, Reno (advisor, Jim Faulds).

“As part of Geologic Map Day (October 18, 2019) and Earth Science Week (October 13-19, 2019, the U.S. Geological Survey invited university-level students to enter its 2019 Best Student Geologic Map Competition. The contest will be judged at the Geological Society of America’s Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, September 22-25, 2019.

The U.S. Geological Survey, in collaboration with AGI, GSA, GSA Foundation, Association of American State Geologists, American Institute of Professional Geologists, and the Journal of Maps, is proud to be hosting the 7th annual Best Student Geologic Map Competition at the GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. The competition will highlight student research from around the world that utilizes field mapping and the creation of geologic maps as a major component.”

https://www.earthsciweek.org/geologic-map-day/contest

Discovery and Analysis of a Blind Geothermal System in Southeastern Gabbs Valley, Western Nevada

CRAIG, Jason W., Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557

GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA – 2019; Paper No. 94-2

https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2019AM/webprogram/Paper337585.html

https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2019AM/webprogram/Session47793.html

This study assessed the potential for high-temperature (≥130°C) blind geothermal systems in southeastern Gabbs Valley, Nevada, an area with no previously known geothermal activity or geothermal exploration, by integration of geologic, geophysical, and geochemical datasets. Gabbs Valley is a complex, tectonically active basin within the Great Basin on the boundary between the transtensional central Walker Lane domain and extensional Basin and Range province. The termination of the Petrified Springs fault, a major dextral fault of the central Walker Lane, into an array of normal faults indicates that the area occupies a displacement transfer zone, which is a favorable structural setting for geothermal activity. A substantial northwest-trending gravity high within the south-central part of the basin is produced from offsets along concealed northwest-striking dextral-normal faults that intersect strands of north-northeast-striking normal faults. Multiple lines of direct and indirect evidence suggest the presence of a blind geothermal system in this area, including collocated intersecting gravity gradients, magnetic-low, low-resistivity, and 2-m temperature anomaly. Potentially related, warm (32°C) water samples from agricultural wells 7 km northwest of the 2-m temperature anomaly yield geothermometers indicating subsurface fluid temperatures of 130-140°C. Six temperature-gradient holes were drilled to target the extent of the shallow-temperature and geophysical anomalies. Two wells contained high temperatures exceeding boiling with bottom-hole temperatures of 114.5°C and 124.9°C, and the remaining wells displayed elevated to background temperatures ranging from 79.2°C to 28.7°C. The observed temperature gradients for the two hottest drill holes necessitate intercepts of hydrothermal fluids and establish the discovery of a blind geothermal system that may be capable of supporting a power plant.

Congratulations to Craig and Jason!

NBMG Earth Science Week Public Field Trip: This Saturday, October 12

Lode and Behold! Geology and Natural Resources of the Truckee Meadows and Virginia City

You are invited to join us on Saturday, October 12 as geoscientists from Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology explain the geology of the Truckee Meadows and Virginia City areas—in celebration of Earth Science Week 2019 and the importance of earth sciences to the people of the state of Nevada.

Here is the sign-up page: http://www.nbmg.unr.edu/ScienceEducation/EarthScienceWeek/index.html

More details will be emailed to those who have signed up.

Major stops on this field trip will include the following:

  • Ormat geothermal plant in south Reno
  • Chollar Mine (open pit mine site) in Virginia City

Trip leaders will be Mike Ressel, Rachel Micander, and Jack Hursh.

Meeting location: 18250 Wedge Parkway in south Reno (off of the Mount Rose Highway). We will be meeting in the parking lot between the Starbucks and Raley’s at 8:00 AM. Look for the Nevada flag.

The trip will end and leave the Virginia City area about 3:30.

We look forward to seeing you on Saturday!

NBMG coordinates annual geology field trips for the public during, or near, Earth Science Week. These field trips are fun, educational, family oriented, and always free. NBMG has been an active participant in Earth Science Week since it began in 1998. See information on previous ESW field trips at this site:

http://www.nbmg.unr.edu/ScienceEducation/Geotripping.html “Since October 1998, the American Geosciences Institute has organized this national and international event to help the public gain a better understanding and appreciation for the Earth sciences and to encourage stewardship of the Earth. This year’s Earth Science Week will be held from October 13–19, 2019 and will celebrate the theme “Geoscience Is for Everyone.” The coming year’s event will emphasize both the inclusive potential and the importance of the geosciences in the lives of all people.” (ESW website)

NPGS Monthly Meeting—Thursday, October 3

Nevada Petroleum and Geothermal Society Monthly Dinner Meeting
Title: The Increasing Value of Geothermal in the West, Get Your Pickaxes Ready
Speaker: Paul Thomsen, Ormat Technologies
Abstract: I will discuss the economic benefits and value of geothermal compared to other renewable resources using actual market data, as well as forecasts for the coming 10-20 years. I will briefly explain how geothermal accrues greater economic benefits than solar PV in the California ISO (CAISO) wholesale energy market and in meeting resource adequacy (RA) requirements. For these reasons and others, significant quantities (GW) of new geothermal are being selected through capacity expansion modeling in California’s integrated resource planning (IRP) proceedings. This will require accelerated geothermal expansion across the Western U.S.

Bio: Paul Thomsen is the Vice President of Business Development for Ormat Technologies. Upon assuming this role in November 2018, he has taken responsibility for expanding Ormat’s existing portfolio of geothermal, solar, and recovered energy generation projects.

Thomsen brings expertise in both the public and private energy sector, previously serving as Commissioner and Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, Director of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy, and Director of Policy and Business Development for Ormat. He also worked for the law firm of Lionel Sawyer and Collins and United States Senators Harry Reid and Richard Bryan. He has advocated for meaningful energy policy as President of the Board of Directors of the Geothermal Energy Association and Chairman of the United States Clean Heat and Power Association.

Thomsen earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Sign-up or more information here:
https://npgs.123signup.com/event/details/rsxbh?mid=5044465

Date: Thursday, Oct 3, 2019
Time: 6:30 PM – 9:30 PM, Pacific Time
Location: Tamarack Junction
13101 South Virginia Street
Reno, NV  89511

Cocktails, wine and beer will be served starting at 6:30 PM, and dinner is served at 7:15 PM. The bar will be jointly sponsored by Krummrich Engineering, and McGinley & Associates

NBMG Earth Science Week Public Field Trip—Saturday, October 12

Sign-up Now Available!

Lode and Behold! Geology and Natural Resources of the Truckee Meadows and Virginia City

You are invited to join us on Saturday, October 12 as geoscientists from Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology explain the geology of the Truckee Meadows and Virginia City areas—in celebration of Earth Science Week 2019 and the importance of earth sciences to the people of the state of Nevada.

Here is the sign-up page:
http://www.nbmg.unr.edu/ScienceEducation/EarthScienceWeek/index.html

Our field trip title is “Lode and Behold! Geology and Natural Resources of the Truckee Meadows and Virginia City.”

Major stops on this field trip will include the following:
·         Ormat geothermal plant in south Reno
·         Chollar Mine in Virginia City

Trip leaders will be Mike ResselRachel Micander, and Jack Hursh.

NBMG coordinates annual geology field trips for the public during, or near, Earth Science Week. These field trips are fun, educational, family oriented, and always free. NBMG has been an active participant in Earth Science Week since it began in 1998. See information on previous ESW field trips at this site:

http://www.nbmg.unr.edu/ScienceEducation/Geotripping.html

“Since October 1998, the American Geosciences Institute has organized this national and international event to help the public gain a better understanding and appreciation for the Earth sciences and to encourage stewardship of the Earth. This year’s Earth Science Week will be held from October 13–19, 2019 and will celebrate the theme “Geoscience Is for Everyone.” The coming year’s event will emphasize both the inclusive potential and the importance of the geosciences in the lives of all people.” (ESW website)

Please stay tuned…more details will follow!

Earth’s Heat Gives States Another Option for Clean Energy Goals

  • Nevada exploring geothermal’s potential for electricity, heating
  • Cost, risk impede development

By Brenna Goth, July 15, 2019 06:01AM ET, Bloomberg Law.
Read the full story here: Earth’s Heat Gives States Another Option for Clean Energy Goals.

“Tapping heat beneath the Earth’s surface for electricity and other uses is gaining ground among policy makers, especially out West, as states seek to expand their options for meeting more aggressive renewable energy goals.

Geothermal energy’s promise lies in its ability to constantly produce power with limited environmental impacts, unlike resources such as wind or solar that are weather-dependent and have other challenges.

It also has the potential “to power the global electric grid many times over” with a nearly unlimited supply, Susan G. Hamm, director of the Energy Department’s geothermal technologies office, says in the introduction to its analysis on the subject.

While geothermal energy represents a small fraction of the power used in the U.S., production could increase by more than 26 times over roughly three decades with the right technology and policy changes, the analysis said. But the risk and cost of developing new projects could hamper the industry’s growth.

One major state player, Nevada, wants to tackle those issues as its utilities move toward getting half their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

A new initiative in the state, which is second only to California in U.S. geothermal electricity generation, directs lawmakers to audit geothermal potential and propose changes that could boost the resource.

Environmental considerations for geothermal projects vary by technology and include water use, greenhouse gas emissions higher than for wind or solar, and seismic hazards. Utilities, though, face few choices for energy sources that both meet their climate change goals and can stabilize the grid, said Paul Thomsen, vice president of business development for the Americas at renewable energy company Ormat Technologies.

“This renewable resource really is a problem solver,” said Thomsen, who also chairs the Geothermal Resources Council policy committee.

Nevada Resort Shows Potential

Nevada is taking a broad approach to analyzing its geothermal potential and impediments. Policy proposals will go to the Legislature for approval.

Lawmakers and researchers will weigh how to map geothermal resources, and the necessary technology and financial support to use them. They will consider applications like using geothermal directly to heat public buildings, and figure out how to integrate the power source with the solar, mining, and lithium industries.

Increasing geothermal use is a matter of national security for state Sen. Pat Spearman (D), who sponsored the initiative. Breaking reliance on foreign oil became a priority following her military career, she said.

“I need the experts working on this with me,” Spearman said.

Some state leaders see potential in a Reno resort’s use of geothermal for heating, which can use underground water at lower temperatures than are needed to produce electricity. The 1,621-room Peppermill Resort Spa Casino produces all of its own heat from its onsite geothermal plant.

Geothermal use at the property dates back to the 1970s. A 4,400-foot-deep production well drilled more than a decade ago replaced boilers and now saves the property $2.2 million per year on its natural gas bills, according to Peppermill representatives. Its carbon dioxide emissions also decreased by 12,000 metric tons per year.

“We were on a known aquifer. So we knew the water was down there and we were able to utilize it,” said John Kassai, the resort’s central plant and geothermal engineering manager.

Risk Reduction, Faster Permitting on Table

Market demand for geothermal is increasing with higher state renewable energy requirements, particularly in places awash with solar, said Thomsen, from the Geothermal Resources Council. The Department of Energy is among agencies looking at how to make development cheaper and faster.

Exploring and developing resources deep underground poses unique challenges. Permitting and land access issues can also increase cost and project length.

The geothermal industry doesn’t have the research and development budget to address those issues, Thomsen said. Legislation proposed in Congress seeks to help, as does federally-funded research.

A project out of Nevada aims to reduce the risk of geothermal exploration to make the energy more economical, said James Faulds, director of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology at the University of Nevada, Reno, that is leading the Energy Department-funded research.

Most geothermal resources are “blind”—they don’t have hot springs or other signs at the surface, said Faulds, who is also a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The research looks at multiple characteristics of known geothermal systems, including fault locations, to find patterns that can indicate potential new resources. The goal is to make it quicker and cheaper to find and drill undiscovered systems; Industry would be responsible for actually developing the resource. Recent exploratory drilling at two areas the research identified found new geothermal systems. That result is an “enormous success” and shows promise for reducing risk, according to a statement from the Energy Department’s Geothermal Technologies Office.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Brenna Goth in Phoenix at bgoth@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com;
Susan Bruninga at sbruninga@bloombergenvironment.com;
Anna Yukhananov at ayukhananov@bloombergenvironment.com