Geothermal Energy In Butte

The natural mineral resources of Butte have been mined for over 130 years, and now the Mining City has the potential to utilize yet another untapped resource; geothermal energy. Dennis Lester, a Petroleum Engineering Alumni of Montana Tech, and owner of Geothermal Energy Montana LLC, has been creating a plan to develop a geothermal energy power plant in Butte since the late 1980s. 

“This project would be a great step forward for Butte as well as Montana and the United States” said Lester of the project. The only other geothermal project of this kind in the United States exists in New Mexico, but other projects of this kind can be seen in many countries throughout the world, such as Japan, Germany, Australia, and Switzerland. 

The surface portion of the project is located at the existing Bell Diamond Mine site in Butte. The site was acquired from Butte Silver Bow because of its ideal location— a large electrical substation is within 500 feet of the drilling area and an existing three-thousand foot mine shaft is located on the property. The geothermal portion of the project is 10,000 feet below the surface of the Bell Diamond Mine site, and drilling can be cut down considerably if this existing mine shaft is utilized. A set of production and injection wells will be drilled to establish a down hole heat exchanger or heat reservoir. Once the heat reservoir has been established, essentially hot water will be brought back to the surface and pumped through a surface heat exchanger and re-injected back into the heat reservoir as a closed loop system. 

Montana Tech’s Center for Advanced Mineral and Metallurgical Processing (CAMP) has a unique opportunity to collaborate with Geothermal Energy Montana on the development of technology for the project. “We look forward to the opportunity to expand our research with Montana Tech by collaborating with CAMP to develop the technology” said Lester. The development of technology and the testing of the site will prove whether or not this project will be a success for Butte. 

The project has met limitations with funding, which is delaying the testing process and the development of technology. Since this is one of the first geothermal power plants of its kind in the United States, it is difficult to get investors on board with the idea. However, Butte has an advantage over other proposed geothermal locations in the United States because it has access to plenty of water, which is an essential part to the closed loop geothermal process. 
The benefits of geothermal energy are numerous, including economic growth and opportunities for Butte and Montana. Geothermal energy is carbon neutral, and is a clean, sustainable energy source. Eventually geothermal power plants pay for themselves, and can provide low-cost energy to their surrounding areas. 

1 comment:

  1. It was really interesting to learn about this energy project in Butte. Hope the geothermal power system will work out on the site, especially if there are partners for collaboration.