Blind Geothermal System Exploration in Active Volcanic Environments; Multi-phase Geophysical and Geochemical Surveys in Overt and Subtle Volcanic Systems, Hawaii and Maui Geothermal Project

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Last modified on July 22, 2011.

Project Title Blind Geothermal System Exploration in Active Volcanic Environments; Multi-phase Geophysical and Geochemical Surveys in Overt and Subtle Volcanic Systems, Hawai'i and Maui
Project Type / Topic 1 Recovery Act: Geothermal Technologies Program
Project Type / Topic 2 Validation of Innovative Exploration Technologies
Project Description The project will perform a suite of stepped geophysical and geochemical surveys and syntheses at both a known, active volcanic system at Puna, Hawai’i and a blind geothermal system in Maui, Hawai’i. Established geophysical and geochemical techniques for geothermal exploration including gravity, major cations/anions and gas analysis will be combined with atypical implementations of additional geophysics (aeromagnetics) and geochemistry (CO2 flux, 14C measurements, helium isotopes and imaging spectroscopy). Importantly, the combination of detailed CO2 flux, 14C measurements and helium isotopes will provide the ability to directly map geothermal fluid upflow as expressed at the surface. Advantageously, the similar though active volcanic and hydrothermal systems on the east flanks of Kilauea have historically been the subject of both proposed geophysical surveys and some geochemistry; the Puna Geothermal Field (Puna) (operated by Puna Geothermal Venture [PGV], an Ormat subsidiary) will be used as a standard by which to compare both geophysical and geochemical results.
State Hawaii
Objectives - Combine traditional geothermal exploration geophysics (gravity) with non-traditional (heli based aeromagnetics) in order to define the surface and sub-surface structure within the Haleakala Southwest Rift Zone (HSWRZ); the faults of which are the main drilling targets

- Demonstrate viability, usefulness and cost-effectiveness of merged gravity-helimagnetics for geothermal exploration
- Build a structural model from the merged geophysical datasets that will be used to guide the application of comprehensive surface gas flux, soil temperature, imaging spectroscopy and geochemical surveys in mapping the spatial distribution of geothermal fluid and heat flow as expressed at the surface
- Demonstrate usefulness of merged geophysical/geochemical exploration toolkit for siting geothermal wells by application at a known geothermal field (Puna, Hawai’i) and an unknown, ‘blind’ system (Ulupalakua Ranch, Maui)
- Determine overall usefulness of the proposed toolkit and whether the techniques contained within it are required or simply desired for greenfields geothermal exploration

Awardees (Company / Institution) Ormat Nevada, Inc.
Awardee Website
Partner 1 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Partner 2 University of California, Santa Cruz

Funding Opportunity Announcement DE-FOA-0000109
DOE Funding Level (total award amount) $4,911,330.00
Awardee Cost Share $5,595,464.00
Total Project Cost $10,506,794.00

Principal Investigator(s) Brigette A. Martini, Ormat Technologies, Inc
Other Principal Investigators Jennifer L. Lewicki, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Targets / Milestones While some proposed geochemistry has yet to be completed at PGF, its’ completion there will serve to 1) derive geochemical benchmarks for how an active hydrothermal system ‘should’ look in the Hawaiian chain and 2) enhance the understanding of the geothermal system at Puna. When completed, the goals will produce an end-to-end toolkit of geophysically-derived 3-D structural and lithologic maps that guide advanced geochemical surveys and ultimately prioritize targets for drilling at Ulupalakua Ranch, Maui.

Location of Project Maui, HI

Impacts Demonstration that this new combination of technologies can be effectively utilized in a volcanic environment.
Funding Source American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
References EERE Geothermal Technologies Programs[1]


  1. EERE Geothermal Technologies Programs