The Geopressured/Geothermal Resource Opportunity

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) established a geopressured-geothermal energy program in the mid 1970's as one response to America's need to develop alternate energy resources in view of the increasing dependence on imported fossil fuel energy. This program continued for seventeen years and approximately two hundred million dollars were expended for various types of research and well testing to thoroughly investigate this alternate energy resource. The main goals of this program were to define the extent of the geopressured reservoirs, determine the technical feasibility of reservoir development including downhole, surface and disposal technologies, establish the economics of production, identify and mitigate adverse environmental impacts, identify and resolve legal and institutional barriers and determine the viability of commercial exploitation of this resource.

Geopressured-geothermal reservoirs occur in the United States most prominently along the northern Gulf of Mexico basin and the Pacific West Coast. Various estimates have been made regarding the recoverable natural gas from the geopressured-geothermal resources of the northern Gulf of Mexico basin and Dorfinan (1988) states that on an average approximately 250Tcf, equivalent to about 137% of known conventional methane reserves in the United States can be potentially extracted from this resource. The DOE program proved that long term high volume brine production was feasible and that gas-extracted brine could be successfully disposed by subsurface injection.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s geopressured-geothermal research program recommended that the ideal situation would involve the development of a total energy system in which all three associated forms of energy - chemical, thermal and mechanical are utilized. This U.S. DOE’S visionary research program has essentially laid the foundations for characterization of this resource and all aspects connected with its development.