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South Australian Centre for Geothermal Energy Research (SACGER)
The University of Adelaide
SA 5005

Research Highlights

Development of geophysical (electromagnetic) tools and methods to image prospective geothermal reservoirs.

Synopsis: The University of Adelaide is internationally recognised for its expertise in the use and development of magnetotelluric (MT) techniques, and is uniquely positioned to become an international leader in the development of electromagnetically based tools for the geothermal industry. (Read more of the synopsis)

Project leader: Prof Graham Heinson.

Better characterisation of fluid-rock interactions in geothermal reservoirs

Synopsis: Corrosion and Scaling in EGS Systems. This work follows on from a pilot study using a hydrothermal cell at representative reservoir temperatures (100-250°C) to study fluid-rock interactions in geothermal reservoirs. However, the pilot study cell operated at pressures (roughly 50 bar, the  saturation pressure of fluid) well below pressures (~ 300 bars) typical of EGS reservoirs in South Australia.

Project co-leaders: Dr Yung Ngothai, Prof Allan Pring, Dr Joël Brugger and DrBrian O'Neil.

Better simulation of fracture and fluid flow networks in geothermal reservoirs

Synopsis: Australia's three flagship geothermal projects are all located in South Australia (Geodynamics' Cooper Basin project; Petratherm's Paralana project; and Panax's Salamander (Penola) project. The Geodynamics and Petratherm projects represent two of the world's most significant Engineered Geothermal Systems (EGS) projects. Both projects entail the enhancement of naturally fractured rocks with hydraulic fracture stimulation.

Project co-leaders: Dr Chaoshui Xu and Prof Peter Dowd.

Developing world-class trace element micro-analytical imaging facilities for South Australia through key analytical infrastructure advances.

Synopsis: South Australia's strategic plan outlines a Renewable Energy target of 20% of the state's electricity production and consumption by 2014. This target and future long-term carbon footprint reduction targets are best accomplished by utilising a variety of Renewable Energy technologies, one of which is geothermal energy. The geological characteristics of South Australia mean that it is well suited to power generation through Engineered or Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) such as those currently under development by Geodynamics (Cooper Basin) and Petratherm (Paralana). Additionally the state's southeast contains significant geothermal resources within Hot Sedimentary Aquifers (HSA) such as those targeted by Panax. EGS and HSA utilise a combination of natural and stimulated/engineered fractures to circulate water through rock at great depth (45km) to heat the water for power generation in a surface heat exchanger. In all geothermal power generation systems, pipe scale is a major issue resulting from the precipitation of minerals on pipe interiors out of the heated fluid either as it cools or resulting from changes in pressure. Due to the pioneering nature of the South Australian geothermal projects, the extent to which pipe scale will occur is relatively unknown due to the lack of knowledge concerning fluid rock interactions under the pressure and temperature conditions of the EGS projects. This creates uncertainty concerning the lifetime of individual EGS reservoirs. (Read more of the synopsis)

Project Leaders: Prof Martin Hand and Dr Justin Payne.