Hot rocks to power South Australian mines?

The booming mining sector in South Australia’s more remote areas has the potential to have its future mainstream power needs supplied by geothermal energy, according to one of Australia’s most advanced ‘hot rock’ energy developers. Addressing the first day on April 30 of the 2008 Paydirt South Australian Resources and Energy Investment Conference in Adelaide, Petratherm’s Managing Director, Terry Kallis, said the emerging energy source could eventually service large-scale power needs of up to 520 MW.

“Our own Paralana project in the northern Flinders Ranges has the potential capacity to inject large increments of competitive generation supply into mainstream electricity grids,” Kallis said. “We propose two basic network solutions, which would not only service the emerging and high demand mining sector requirements but the broader regional communities in South Australia reliant on high cost, off grid power supplies.”

As one of the most advanced geothermal projects close to an existing mine and main power routes, Petratherm today proposed to Conference delegates two alternative transmission options, based on emerging hot rock sources, comprising either.

  • A double circuit 275 kV transmission line from Paralana to Port Augusta capable of delivering 520 MW into the National Electricity Market (NEM) at Port Augusta
  • A single circuit 275 kV transmission line from Paralana to Port Augusta and a single circuit 275 kV transmission line from Paralana to Olympic Dam, each capable of delivering 260MW to those entry points.

“The latter network arrangement can create a ‘meshed’ transmission network in the north of the State and provide a backbone of electricity infrastructure for the remote community, but in particular the State’s growing resources sector,” Kallis said. “Importantly, the meshed network solution has the potential to provide substantial broader community benefits and hence has the potential for the inclusion of a proportion of assets (and costs) into the regulated asset base of a registered transmission owner under the Australian National Electricity Rules (NER). Accordingly, there is unique opportunity for substantially reducing the overall project network connection costs.”

Kallis also told the Conference Petratherm remained on target to start producing the country’s first commercially viable geothermal energy at Paralana no later than the middle of 2010. “We will spud the first deep injection well (up to 4 km) in the second half of this year and the second production well three to six months after the first well to establish the underground heat exchanger” Kallis said.

“Petratherm will also applying for Federal Government geothermal drilling funding for the second deep well and a grant from the Federal Renewable Energy Fund to develop the maiden 30 MW demonstration plant at Paralana over the next three years,” he said. This would ensure Paralana, a commercially Engineered Geothermal System (EGS) power plant, 300 km northwest of Port Augusta – would produce first power for the nearby Beverley uranium mine in 2010.