Science Daily: ‘Geothermal Mapping Report Confirms Vast Coast-To-Coast Clean Energy Source in U.S.’

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the map of geothermal resources produced by the mapping project. Here’s a report from Science Daily. From the article:

The results of the new research, from SMU Hamilton Professor of Geophysics David Blackwell and Geothermal Lab Coordinator Maria Richards, confirm and refine locations for resources capable of supporting large-scale commercial geothermal energy production under a wide range of geologic conditions, including significant areas in the eastern two-thirds of the United States. The estimated amounts and locations of heat stored in Earth’s crust included in this study are based on nearly 35,000 data sites — approximately twice the number used for Blackwell and Richards’ 2004 Geothermal Map of North America, leading to improved detail and contouring at a regional level.

Based on the additional data, primarily drawn from oil and gas drilling, larger local variations can be seen in temperatures at depth, highlighting more detail for potential power sites than was previously evident in the eastern portion of the U.S. For example, eastern West Virginia has been identified as part of a larger Appalachian trend of higher heat flow and temperature.

Conventional U.S. geothermal production has been restricted largely to the western third of the country in geographically unique and tectonically active locations. For instance, The Geysers Field north of San Francisco is home to more than a dozen large power plants that have been tapping naturally occurring steam reservoirs to produce electricity for more than 40 years.

However, newer technologies and drilling methods can now be used to develop resources in a wider range of geologic conditions, allowing reliable production of clean energy at temperatures as low as 100˚C (212˚F) — and in regions not previously considered suitable for geothermal energy production. Preliminary data released from the SMU study in October 2010 revealed the existence of a geothermal resource under the state of West Virginia equivalent to the state’s existing (primarily coal-based) power supply…

Areas of particular geothermal interest include the Appalachian trend (Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, to northern Louisiana), the aquifer heated area of South Dakota, and the areas of radioactive basement granites beneath sediments such as those found in northern Illinois and northern Louisiana. The Gulf Coast continues to be outlined as a huge resource area and a promising sedimentary basin for development. The Raton Basin in southeastern Colorado possesses extremely high temperatures and is being evaluated by the State of Colorado along with an area energy company.

Here’s the link to Google’s enhanced geothermal systems website.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

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Here’s the link to the summaries from the Colorado Climate Center. Click on the thumbnail graphic for the precipitation summary.

The San Luis Valley’s first water management sub-district plan fees are being collected for the second year in a row and are being escrowed awaiting the Colorado Supreme Court

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Since the plan is still pending in the courts, the fees collected this year have been held in escrow by the sponsoring district, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD), which continues to upfront the costs of its first sub-district as well as other pending sub-districts throughout the Valley. The purposes of these sub-districts include repairing the damage from well users to surface water rights, helping the state meet its Rio Grande Compact obligations to downstream states and replenishing the Valley’s underground aquifers…

The Valley’s first sub-district, affecting 175,000 irrigated acres and 500 or more individual property owners, lies north of the Rio Grande in what is known as the closed basin area of the San Luis Valley. The sub-district lies in three of the Valley’s six counties (Alamosa, Rio Grande and Saguache.) RGWCD Attorney David Robbins said the Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the sub-district plan of management case on September 28. He expected a ruling from the court in two to four months. Groups forming other water management sub-districts throughout the Valley are waiting for the court’s ruling before finalizing their sub-districts. Meanwhile, they are accumulating data required to form their sub-districts…

[Rio Grange Water Conservancy District Manager Steve Vandiver] reported during the water district board’s quarterly meeting this week that so far expenses for the first sub-district have totaled $1.37 million, with expenses on the other five sub-districts totaling about $350,000. One of the expenses for the first sub-district is water acquisition to replace injurious depletions to surface rights. The sub-district by court order must begin replacing those depletions in 2012. The sub-district is acquiring several options on water that can be used for replacement water in 2012 and is looking at several other possibilities, according to Vandiver. He said the sub-district has options on 3,500 acre feet for 2012 with another 1,500 acre feet being held for the sub-district if it is needed. Until the groundwater model runs are completed, the sub-district does not have a total for the amount of replacement water that will be required in 2012, he explained…

Well users who are not part of management sub-districts face the potential under pending state well regulations of having to shut down their wells or develop individual augmentation plans. Robbins said individual plans are no easier to develop than the sub-district plans, and some Valley residents have already begun that process. “If you are going to change water rights from irrigation to replacement, the same sort of responsibilities exist to surface streams,” [RGWCD Attorney David Robbins] said. “The same standards apply … the same obligation applies to make up projected depletions with the replacement supplies.”

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.

Brighton sanitary sewer rehabilitation project in the works, it should finish by year end

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From The Brighton Blade:

The project is expected to start on the south side of Bridge Street, near Main Street, and work east. This portion should take about two weeks. The project then moves to the north side of that intersection and moves east. The work should be done by the end of the year. When it’s finished, the city says customers will have a new, rehabbed sewer system. Affected customers will get 24 hours notification of pending work from the contractor, Western Slope Utilities.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

The EPA has issued a permit for the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill tailings cell and evaporation ponds

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Kathrine Warren):

The permit approves the construction of a 40-acre tailings impoundment and a 30-acre evaporation pond facility, which will manage the tailings and wastewater the future mill produces…

The permit came with a number of conditions, but Energy Fuels’ Director of Communications and Legal Affairs Curtis Moore said the conditions are reasonable. “We have no problem complying with them,” Moore said. “In a lot of respects it shows how closely the EPA first analyzed our project and they took the comments very seriously.”

The approval requires Energy Fuels to submit a comprehensive ground and surface water-monitoring plan, which will be subject to additional review. The water plan will be subject to additional EPA and state reviews and approval. The conditions also ensure that the mill is in compliance with the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP).

“With the EPA approval, the permitting and environmental risk to our project is now behind us,” Energy Fuels CEO and President said Stephen P. Antony in a press release. “This is significant for Energy Fuels and the domestic uranium industry, as it is the first EPA approval of a conventional mill tailing facility since the NESHAP regulations were revised. Achieving this milestone brings Energy Fuels one big step closer to production of American uranium and vanadium.”

Aside from building permits from Montrose County, Energy Fuels now has just one more government permit pending from the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division for non-radioactive air emissions. If approved, this would be the first uranium/vanadium milling facility built in the United States in 25 years.

More coverage from Katharhynn Heidelberg writing for the Montrose Daily Press. From the article:

This is a major step forward for us,” said Curtis Moore, spokesman for Energy Fuels Corp., which hopes to build the Piñon Ridge uranium mill outside of Paradox. “This is one of the major approvals we needed for the Piñon Ridge mill.”

Montrose County two years ago granted Energy Fuels’ special-use permit to site the mill in an area zoned for general agriculture. Earlier this year, the company received its radioactive materials license from the state.

More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

Thursday’s approval from the EPA gives Energy Fuels permission to build a 30.5-acre tailings cell and up to 40 acres of evaporation ponds. The mill will extract uranium from ore by grinding the rock and mixing it with water. Acid extracts the uranium and vanadium, and the waste rock and water is pumped into a tailings cell. Water that can’t be recycled from the tailings cell is pumped into the evaporation pond, according to the EPA.

More coverage from Nancy Lofholm writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

[Energy Fuels spokesman Curtis Moore] said the recent court ruling that halted the Department of Energy’s uranium leasing program because not enough analysis of potential environmental impacts was done will not have much impact on Energy Fuel’s project. The company has four mines to supply the mill, all on private or state land. The court ruling affects only leases on federal lands. “We only have seven DOE leases, and we had no immediate plans to do anything on those leases,” Moore said. “Our focus has mainly been on private lands.”

Hilary White with the Sheep Mountain Alliance, one of several environmental groups opposing the mill and the comeback of the uranium industry in general, said she thinks Moore is being too optimistic. “I think the court ruling affects all of the uranium industry tremendously,” White said. “It’s another difficulty they (Energy Fuels) will have to deal with as they try to find investors for the mill.”

If the Piñon Ridge mill is built, it will be the first new mill in the country since the Cold War and will be only the second mill operating in the United States. The other is in southeast Utah.

More nuclear coverage here and here.