Wairakei geothermal power station manager Murray Stanley said the wells were planned to evaluate the potential of the geothermal resource in the southern Tauhara area.
Well locations had not yet been finalised but sites would be selected once resource consents were acquired from the Taupo District Council and other government authorities. Drilling would start soon afterwards.
Stanley said the wells were part of an ongoing and successful exploration program at Tauhara and the larger Wairakei field, which had already led to increased incremental renewable electricity generation for New Zealand.
Recent geothermal additions include the 16MW Wairakei binary plant, more production wells at the nearby Te Mihi field that now produce more than 10MW, and an earlier Tauhara production well which, together with an existing well, now supplies about 20MW of direct heat to a nearby Tenon forestry mill.
“Drilling in south Tauhara will enable Contact to better understand the potential of the geothermal resource,” Stanley said.
“While exploratory wells are impossible to predict accurately, this is an exciting project that could potentially lead to the future development of new renewable, reliable energy generation. Once we have drilled these wells and evaluated the strength of the resource, we will then consider possible further applications.”
Stanley said Contact and the Taupo Council believed there was further scope for sustainable development of the region’s geothermal resource for electricity generation and direct heat applications.
The nearby Wairakei field produces from geothermal reservoirs at depths of about 1200m and drilling costs are likely to be several million dollars.
NZX-listed Contact and government-owned Mighty River Power dominate the New Zealand geothermal scene. Each company plans to spend tens of millions of dollars over the next few years to perhaps double their geothermal contribution to New Zealand’s power-generation capacity.
The country’s present geothermal activity is centred largely in and around the central North Island’s Volcanic Plateau. The six major fields currently used for geothermal electricity generation provide 7% of New Zealand’s power generation capacity, or 900MW.