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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, Oct. 19, 2010

Kansas Geological Survey Receives Award to Create Geothermal Energy Database

LAWRENCE--The Kansas Geological Survey has received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to compile data on geothermal energy--heat from the Earth's interior that is already being used to generate electricity west of the Rocky Mountains.

Based at the University of Kansas, the Survey is receiving nearly $200,000 over three years to create a database that will help government and industry locate and assess the potential of the state's geothermal resources. The award is part of a $17.8 million nation-wide project.

As a member of a 46-state coalition, the Kansas Geological Survey will gather data on the temperature, water content, and permeability of underground rocks from a number of sources, including maps, cores from oil and gas wells, and water well records. Other agencies and industries also will be encouraged to contribute data.

"Temperature information routinely collected when oil and gas wells are drilled is already on file at the Survey, but it takes diligence and persistence to compile and analyze the data," said Survey geologist David Newell. "Once it is compiled into this new statewide database, it can be used to map the temperature of individual geological layers or regional increases in temperature with depth, which will be useful for geothermal as well as oil and gas exploration."

Exploitable geothermal energy resources in the United States range in temperature from over 300°F, usually a mile or more deep, to 50° near the surface.

Geothermal fields contain water-bearing rocks hot enough, 300°F or more, to produce significant quantities of electricity. Like oil and gas fields, they have to be discovered and defined through drilling. Water drilled from the fields transports the heat to the surface.

Relatively shallow geothermal fields discovered in the western United States have been used to generate electricity since 1960. Although such high-temperature resources are deeper and currently too costly to recover in Kansas, future drilling and technological developments could make them economically accessible. The Survey database will help identify the location of those resources.

Water from geothermal resources not hot enough to generate electricity is used in some parts of the United States to directly heat buildings and industrial processes. In addition, low-level, near-surface geothermal heat is being increasingly used in Kansas and throughout the country to operate geothermal heat pump systems in homes and other buildings.

The Association of American State Geologists organized the coalition of state geological surveys and other agencies that will contribute to the integrated, web-based National Geothermal Data System. The data are currently available only on paper or individual databases at hundreds of locations.

The $17.8 million award is the second largest given by the U.S. Department of Energy for geothermal energy research using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding. Geothermal power plants emit little carbon dioxide and, unlike solar and wind energy, geothermal energy is available 24 hours a day.

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Story by Cathy Evans, (785) 864-2195.
For more information, contact Rex Buchanan, (785) 864-2106.

Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach