Vol. 28, No.32 Week of August 06, 2023
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Surveying on Augustine

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GeoAlaska collecting geophysical data for geothermal, huge step forward

Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

Following approval of the South Augustine Island Geophysical Exploration and Land Use Permit to collect geophysical data between July 15 and Sept. 30, GeoAlaska LLC mobilized its geophysical survey team from Homer to Augustine Island on the morning of July 26. Mobilization involved three landing craft boatloads of supplies and equipment, a geophysical crew and a helicopter.

Augustine Island is on the lower west side of Cook Inlet. The island is home to Mount Augustine volcano, a stratovolcano that last erupted in 2006.

U.S. Geological Survey researchers have determined that Augustine's magma chamber is relatively shallow. Mount Augustine is believed to have significant geothermal potential.

"We had an extensive face-to-face safety meeting in Homer including everybody involved with mobilization and data collection the day before mobilization -- Tuesday the 25th. Early the next morning, the helicopter and the boats departed to Augustine," Paul Craig, GeoAlaska's CEO and majority owner told Petroleum News July 28.

"Everything is on the island now. There were no glitches. Everything is proceeding according to plan."

Craig said this summer's work program is "a huge step forward: If the data are favorable it opens the way forward to drill temperature gradient wells, which we hope to design to convert to production wells."

Anchorage-based GeoAlaska holds a geothermal prospecting permit (ADL 394080) for South Augustine Island. That permit was issued Aug. 3, 2022, effective Sept. 1, 2022. It is for 3,048 acres of the onshore portions of three tracts, ranging from 320 to 2,240 acres each.

All of Augustine Island is owned by the state of Alaska and lies within the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Both the land use and geothermal prospecting permits were issued by Alaska's Division of Oil and Gas, which is part of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

The division said that if a commercially viable geothermal resource is identified, development could include construction of well pads, wells, pipelines, power plant, roads, personnel housing, transportation and maintenance facilities, and a subsea power cable.

24/7 baseload energy

Geothermal energy is generated by tapping into the earth's heat. That heat is brought to surface and is used to generate electricity. Heat from the earth is concentrated in geological formations adjacent to dormant volcanoes.

Geothermal power is considered a clean and sustainable energy source because geothermal energy does not emit greenhouse gases or pollutants, and it has the potential to provide a reliable source of energy.

The oldest geothermal power plant in the world -- Larderello in Italy -- began production in 1904 and continues to produce green electricity today.

Geothermal energy is one of the few renewable energy sources that can provide 24/7 baseload energy, as it can operate continuously, regardless of weather conditions or time of day.

Other renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, tidal and hydro, are intermittent and dependent on seasonal occurrence and weather conditions.

In a March press release about Ignis H2 Energy Inc. acquiring a minority interest in GeoAlaska, Richard Calleri, CEO and owner of Ignis, was quoted as saying: "Currently, geothermal resources in Alaska are underdeveloped and provide little or no contribution to the state energy mix. Our aim, supported by our sister company Geolog, is to work with GeoAlaska to explore for and generate reliable, carbon zero baseload energy, that is sustainably produced and sensitive to local ESG policies and practices."

Drilling summer 2024

GeoAlaska plans to collect two types of geophysical data on and around its geothermal prospecting permit holdings. The land use permit authorizes the company to conduct a gravity survey and a magnetotelluric (MT) survey, involving approximately five square miles of 3D acquisition.

GeoAlaska is using surface equipment to non-intrusively measure subsurface geophysical structures.

The goal is to gather and interpret the geophysical data needed to reduce subsurface uncertainty and to objectively assess the presence of a working hydrothermal system.

If a geothermal reservoir is suggested by the geophysical data, then GeoAlaska will have the data it needs to finance the drilling of one or more temperature gradient wells on Augustine Island during summer 2024 to confirm subsurface hydrothermal parameters.

The resulting data and interpretations could result in carbon neutral energy production that will provide long term energy security for the Alaska Railbelt region, GeoAlaska has said.

Safety, environment first

Craig said GeoAlaska is "committed to protecting the environment at Augustine Island and will remove everything associated with its geophysical work" during demobilization.

"Other than the buildings and sheds installed by the AVO -- structures GeoAlaska will not be using -- Augustine Island is undeveloped. GeoAlaska will leave the island as pristine as we found it. Private parties - visit Augustine Island occasionally. If we find any trash discarded by such visitors, we will remove it," he said.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory, or AVO, monitors Alaska's volcanoes with a focus on public health and safety.

GeoAlaska is continuously monitoring site conditions including any AVO alerts about changes in the status of the volcano. If Mount Augustine exhibits signs of anything other than its normal background state, the company will evacuate all personnel and will abandon the collection of geophysical data.

"Yes, we need the data we have set out to collect. But even more, we want everybody to return home safely and we want Augustine Island to be in the same condition -- if not better -- than when we arrived," Craig said.

Equipment, contractors

In GeoAlaska's collection of five square miles of data, it will use approximately 192 gravity survey stations and 29 MT stations. The gravity survey equipment consists of Lacoste & Romberg (L&R) Model-G gravity meters and survey grade GPS weighing less than 200 pounds in total.

The MT equipment includes the Geometrics Stratagem EH-5 AMT system, and associated cables, stainless steel electrodes, magnetic coils, a data logger and in-field controller weighing less than 160 pounds in total.

All survey equipment will be placed on the ground, with the exception of small rods measuring less than one centimeter in diameter -- less than half an inch -- that will be inserted into the ground at measuring sites and will be infilled with soil upon removal.

Logic Geophysics is the contractor collecting the MT and gravity data on behalf of GeoAlaska.

Pollux Aviation is providing the helicopter support.

Coldwater Alaska is providing the marine transportation.

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