The plant, located in the remote Queensland town of Birdsville, is also one of the few low-temperature geothermal stations in the world. It draws water that has a temperature of 98C from a free-flowing bore that taps into a geothermal reservoir in the Great Artesian Basin.
Under the deal with plant-operator Ergon, Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) will undertake an investigation of the hot water resource to determine its electricity generation capabilities.
Community consultation and geotechnical investigations on the proposal have begun, and the study is due to be completed by the end of next March.
Ergon corporate communications manager Gaylene Whenmouth told PetroleumNews.net several months ago that the existing plant, which stated operating 14 years ago, is nearing the end of its working life and needs to be replaced.
“Three quarters of Birdsville’s energy is supplied by LPG and diesel, so we looked at this and thought, why can’t geothermal power produce 100% of the town’s energy requirements?” she said.
Whenmouth said the study would investigate building a new plant capable of generating four times more power to supply all of the town’s needs. Birdsville has a population of about 100.
Ergon principal engineer generation David Smyth said SKM was chosen to undertake this project due to its extensive experience with geothermal power in various parts of the world.
“The study will investigate the location and depth of a new bore, potential artesian water flow rate and temperature, electricity generating potential, potential impacts on the artesian basin and what kind of geothermal power station technology would be most appropriate and effective,” Smyth said.
SKM has been involved in the development of geothermal power projects in New Zealand, the Philippines, Central America and Indonesia. Ergon said it also has an excellent understanding of the issues on the Great Artesian Basin.