Geothermal exploration in Gypsum is still on the table |

Geothermal exploration in Gypsum is still on the table

Derek Franz
Eagle Valley Enterprise
Vail, CO Colorado

GYPSUM, Colorado – It’s taken longer than initially predicted, but the plan to explore geothermal possibilities in Gypsum is still in the works.

Flint Eagle LLC first approached the town of Gypsum in 2010, asking for cooperation in drilling an exploratory well at the Eagle County Regional Airport. The well would be about 4,000 feet deep and 77⁄8 inches in diameter – just enough to test the water temperature, volume and chemistry.

Lee Robinson, of Flint Eagle, hopes to find water in the Rio Grande Rift that’s hot enough to use for heating or energy. The concept of going that deep is a relatively new one. Most geothermal resources that are used today are much closer to the Earth’s surface.

Since he first approached the town of Gypsum, the permitting has become more involved than initially predicted. Mineral and water rights had to be determined first, and now Robinson is working with the Department of Water Resources for permits that clarify and stipulate all the procedures that will be used for the well.

“Right now, it’s a paper process,” Robinson said. “It details how the operation will be conducted but there is nothing that is controversial. Our objective now is to test the volume, chemistry and temperature.”

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Robinson hopes to get a draft permit within the first quarter of 2012. If that happens, he would be drilling the exploratory well within a year.

“The permit would stipulate when the operations occur,” he said. “These things take time. We’re still very much on the radar, though.”

Aspen is drilling for a potential geothermal resource, as well. In July, the Aspen City Council obtained a permit to drill as deep as 1,500 feet. Last week, the exploratory well reached 1,000 feet – where the water was predicted to be – but had yet to reach anything. The company doing the drilling believed it was close, however, according to the Aspen Daily News.

Geothermal and geo-exchange projects are proliferating in this part of Colorado as technology improves.

For example, Glenwood Springs has a “geothermal commission” – a group of engineers, geologists and architects that is looking into using geothermal resources for heating buildings. Dean Moffatt, the owner of Sundesigns Architects in Glenwood Springs, is a member of that commission. He said technology is enabling the ambient heat of the Earth to be used.

“Geothermal refers to any unusual warm source of energy,” he said. “Geo-exchange uses the ambient heat of the Earth to produce energy.”

In other words, a specific resource such as hot water isn’t necessarily needed for some projects.

“In some places, we’ve gone 10 to 100 feet down into the Earth to heat and cool buildings using geo-exchange,” Moffatt said.

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