Coretrack: Deeper, faster, cheaper geothermal drilling ?  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , ,

The Climate Spectator has an article on a company looking to make geothermal drilling a lot cheaper - Deeper, faster, cheaper.

The transformation of Australian industry into a low-carbon economy is often said to depend on the development of smart and high technology, but some of the country’s most prospective clean energy resources could be unlocked by some good old-fashioned mining know-how.

A Kalgoorlie-based drilling company, Coretrack, believes new drilling technology that it is has unveiled in the past two months could shave millions of dollars off the costs of drilling for geothermal resources, and enable aspiring developers to prove up resources at a fraction of the cost they currently face.

If proven, it will be a critical breakthrough for the Australian geothermal industry, which has been stranded at the starting gate because of the huge up-front costs of drilling programs, and the reluctance of investors to commit large sums to high-risk new technology.

A total of seven geothermal firms have received promises of $50 million funding grants from the federal government under its Geothermal Drilling Program. But these monies remain largely untouched, because none of the five recipients in round two of the program – allocated in late 2009 – have been able to provide matching funding.

Drilling for geothermal wells can cost $15 to $20 million, and Australian developers have been frustrated by the lack of rigs in the country and the “premium” rates demanded by rig owners to ship to Australia. Only Geodynamics owns its own rigs – at a cost of more than $40 million – and this is now being used by joint venture partner Origin Energy to pursue shallower geothermal resources in the Cooper Basin.

Coretrack has spent four years as a listed R&D company – an adventurous place to be in Australia – but is now looking to cross over into commercialisation. It pocketed its first revenues last month, with a $711,000 contract with Woodside for a 20-day program to build a shallow and wide hole using the GT3000 rig.

The GT3000 is the brainchild of Coretrack director Warren Strange, who in between coming to grief in Dakar rallies on his motorbike, built up a large drilling business before selling out to Brandrill for an estimated $26 million. He kept one subsidiary, Globedrill, and an idea to build the fastest, most compact and manoeuvrable, most affordable deep drilling rig in the world, and one designed specifically for the geothermal industry.

Coretrack says the GT 3000 has been achieving hard rock penetration rates of more than 30 metres an hour, many times faster than the existing platform-based drill rigs. It has used just a three-man crew and consumed only 14.6 litres of diesel per hour, compared to as much as 600 litres per hour used in competing oil and gas rigs.

The Salamander 1 well drilled by Panax Geothermal in South Australia in 2010 reached a depth of 4025 metres after 42 days and at a cost of $15 million. That equates to an average drill rate of 95 metres a day at a cost of $3,750 per metre. It says the GT3000 could have done the same job in half the time and half the cost.

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