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Chevron looks to Nevada for a geothermal energy opportunity

The companies aim to pursue development opportunities in Esmeralda County where geothermal research and advanced exploration already exist.

Oil major Chevron has plans to turn its drilling expertise to geothermal energy appliations.

Chevron New Energies business and Sweden-based Baseload Capital announced a joint venture to develop geothermal projects in the United States, with an initial project slated for Weepah Hills, Nevada. The companies said they will pursue development opportunities in Esmeralda County where previous geothermal research and advanced exploration already exist.

The companies said they will collaborate to drive geothermal opportunities, including identifying development prospects, ongoing operations and moving geothermal technologies from pilot to commercial scale. 

The joint venture aims to leverage the companies’ core competencies from the traditional oil and gas sector, especially around subsurface, wells, drilling and completions, to advance scalable novel geothermal technologies. Baseload Capital specializes in funding geothermal projects.

Nevada’s geothermal electrical generation plants are located mostly in the northern portion of the state. Nevada’s geothermal plants can theoretically generate up to 827 MW of power collectively in any given hour. Nevada has 26 plants in 17 different locations. The 2018 gross electrical output for Nevada’s 25 geothermal plants was 4,544,175 MWh, with net output (sales) being 3,587,219 MWh. Nevada’s electrical generation capacity from its geothermal plants is second only to California.

Chevron Technology Ventures first invested in Baseload Capital in 2021 and began a pilot using waste heat from existing oilfield operations at Chevron’s San Ardo oil and gas field in California. The pilot started operations in July and is intended to demonstrate the potential of using existing oil and gas wells and process heat for lower-carbon power production.

Esmeralda County is around 150 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Site characterization work more than a decade ago at the county’s Silver Peak property estimated a geothermal resource capacity of 15-40 MW of power. Geothermal features included geothermal vents, silica sinter deposits and algae mats. Also present were shallow warm to hot wells with temperatures up to 75 degrees Celsius (167 degrees Fahrenheit) at depths less than 21 metres (70 feet). Chemical geothermometers applied to the thermal waters suggested that temperatures may reach 200-230 degrees Celsius (400-440 degrees Fahrenheit) at depth.

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