Hidden treasure

The geothermal industry is tapping into research uncovered by a University of Nevada, Reno project. Researchers and several grad students through UNR’s Bureau of Mines and Geology are studying and cataloguing the geothermal potential of 463 sites throughout the Great Basin, using a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Most, about two-thirds, of the geothermal resources in the Great Basin are blind—that is, there are no surface expressions, such as hot springs, to indicate what’s perhaps 1,500 feet below the surface,” said principal investigator and UNR professor Jim Faulds (pictured) in a prepared statement.

In the past year, the team has assessed 250 of the sites using existing records and on-site analysis. The project is intended to help the industry better understand geothermal processes and to identify where to drill, thereby saving time, money and resources.

“The geothermal industry doesn’t have the same depth of knowledge for geothermal exploration as the mineral and oil industries,” said Faulds. “Mineral and oil companies conducted extensive research years ago that helps them to characterize favorable settings and determine where to drill. With geothermal, it’s studies like this that will enhance understanding of what controls hot fluids in the Earth’s crust and thus provide an exploration basis for industry to use in discovering and developing resources.”