NICTA inks third geothermal contract

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NICTA inks third geothermal contract

Adds Otway Basin data to advanced analytics project.

Geothermal explorer Hot Rock Ltd has become the third firm to join a NICTA analytics project that hopes to identify underground energy sources without drilling.

The project was conceived in mid-2011 and kicked off last year with a total of $5 million in funding, including $1.9 million from the Federal Government.

To date, NICTA has delivered a continent-wide data portal, standard data format and sophisticated 3D visualisation software.

The second portion of the project, which commenced this year, will see NICTA use the compiled data to generate models and test them against real-world results from the Cooper Basin, between South Australia and Queensland.

Researcher Marie Connett told iTnews that researchers were so far able to estimate subsurface density and magnetic susceptibility of areas.

“[That] is a critical first step in locating deep granite bodies that may be blanketing heat sources, which are candidates for drilling,” she explained.

NICTA has used data from Geoscience Australia, the South Australian resources department and private sector explorers Petratherm and GeoDynamics since the project commenced last March.

Hot Rock (HRL) told investors last week that it had agreed to contribute “extensive large data sets” on hot sedimentary aquifer targets in the Otway Basin, between Victoria and South Australia.

“This program is an excellent opportunity for HRL to have high-quality researchers, working on state-of-the-art computer processing of large multi-variant databases, to assist us in better defining the best targets in our Otway Basin geothermal reservoirs,” executive chairman Mark Elliott said at the time.

“This is part of HRL’s new Otway Basin strategy of undertaking further work to reduce exploration risk, to identify the best drilling targets and to enhance the opportunity of attracting government and private funding for drilling programs to potentially lead to early discoveries.”

Connett said NICTA was also in discussions with other companies interested in joining the effort.

While industry partners have so far contributed no funds to the project, she said the data they provided would have cost millions of dollars to obtain.

“Australia has enormous reserves of geothermal energy; it has been estimated that only one percent of the reserves could supply our energy needs for 26,000 years,” she said.

“[It’s] much more promising as a sustainable energy source than coal or gas, but it’s more expensive to find and the sector is struggling because of the size of the investment needed, which is a significant barrier.”

“[NICTA’s partner] companies will benefit by the money they expect to save and the risk they expect to diminish.

“As additional companies and states join the effort, the whole amount of data and the models generated become more and more useful.”

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