United States, Australia, and Iceland to Promote Geothermal Energy

August 28, 2008

Photo of an industrial complex in a desert setting, with mountains in the background. The complex consists of several small buildings and a jumbled tangle of large industrial pipes and other equipment. Behind the complex are three square structures, each holding four cooling towers, which are emitting slight wisps of steam.

DOE is performing long-term flow testing of an enhanced geothermal reservoir at the Navy 1 geothermal power plant near Coso Hot Springs, California. Enlarge this image.
Credit: J.L. Renner, INL

The United States, Australia, and Iceland signed a charter on August 28 to launch the International Partnership for Geothermal Technology (IPGT), which will foster and promote cutting-edge geothermal technologies and help address energy security and address global climate change. DOE will work with Australia's Ministry of Resources, Energy, and Tourism and Iceland's Ministry of Industry, Energy, and Tourism to identify and encourage research, development, and deployment projects critical to the widespread deployment of enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) and deep drilling technologies. The countries will also exchange best practices, support education and training programs, and share information on their work to promote understanding of geothermal technologies in different geologic settings. The IPGT is open to expansion and may include members from other countries in the future.

EGS employs rock fracturing technologies in high-temperature geological formations deep underground, and it can be used to either create a geothermal reservoir of hot water or steam where none existed before or to extend and enhance an existing geothermal reservoir. DOE is testing EGS technologies at a variety of locations in California and Nevada, while Iceland—known for its ample geothermal resources and significant geothermal development—is involved in a project to drill into high-temperature resources located about 3 miles below its surface. South Australia has ample high-temperature resources that will require EGS technologies to exploit. The Australian federal government runs a research project called Geoscience Australia, and more than a dozen companies are intending to develop EGS projects in South Australia. See the EGS Web page on DOE's Geothermal Technologies Program Web site, the Iceland Deep Drilling Project Web site, the Geoscience Australia Web site, and the industry list from the Australian Geothermal Energy Association.

The IPGT charter was signed by Katharine Fredriksen, DOE's acting assistant secretary for policy and international affairs; Sharyn Minahan, Australia's ambassador to Iceland; and Ossur Skarphedinsson, Iceland's minister of industry, energy, and tourism. In addition to establishing the IPGT, the representatives of the three countries held a two-day workshop that brought together experts from government, industry, and academia to discuss research, development, and deployment priorities for geothermal energy. See the DOE press release.