Geothermal resources of California sedimentary basins

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The 2004 Department of Energy (DOE) Strategic Plan for geothermal energy calls for expanding the geothermal resource base of the United States to 40,000 MW of electric power generating potential. This will require advances in technologies for exploiting unconventional geothermal resources, including Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) and geopressured geothermal. An investigation of thermal conditions in California sedimentary basins through new temperature and heat flow measurements reveals significant geothermal potential in some areas. In many of the basins, the combined cooling effects of recent tectonic and sedimentary processes result in relatively low (<60 mW/m2) heat flow and geothermal gradients. For example, temperatures in the upper 3 km of San Joaquin, Sacramento and Ventura basins are typically less than 125??C and do not reach 200??c by 5 km. By contrast, in the Cuyama, Santa Maria and western Los Angeles basins, heat flow exceeds 80 mW/m2 and temperatures near or above 200??C occur at 4 to 5 km depth, which represents thermal conditions equivalent to or hotter than those encountered at the Soultz EGS geothermal site in Europe. Although the extractable geothermal energy contained in these basins is not large relative to the major California producing geothermal fields at The Geysers or Salton Sea, the collocation in the Los Angeles basin of a substantial petroleum extraction infrastructure and a major metropolitan area may make it attractive for eventual geothermal development as EGS technology matures.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Conference Paper
Publication Subtype:
Conference Paper
Geothermal resources of California sedimentary basins
Year Published:
Larger Work Title:
Transactions - Geothermal Resources Council
First page:
Last page:
Conference Title:
Geothermal Energy: The Reliable Renewable - Geothermal Resources Council 2004 Annual Meeting, GRC
Conference Location:
Indian Wells, CA
Conference Date:
29 August 2004 through 1 September 2004