Aotearoa’s Next Generation of Renewable Earth Energy

supercritical geothermal

We will EXPLORE and UNDERSTAND New Zealand’s supercritical resources and INTEGRATE this knowledge to decarbonise industry and power sustainable economic growth opportunities.

Accessing renewable supercritical geothermal resources will transform New Zealand’s energy sector.

Isabelle Chambefort

the project

Fundamental research and technological innovation

Aotearoa’s Central North Island hosts more than 20 world-class geothermal systems, making it one of the rare places where geothermal development is accessible and technically feasible.

Supercritical geothermal fluids (>5 km, >400°C) offer significantly more energy than conventional geothermal fluids found at current depths (~3.5 km) and reservoir temperatures (<350°C).

‘Geothermal: The Next Generation‘ will address geological, geochemical and technological challenges unknown in conventional geothermal use. The team, combining expert geophysicists, geologists, experimental geochemists, modellers and strategic advisors, will investigate New Zealand’s supercritical conditions and learn from international experiences.

photo credit: bruce mountain
photo credit: ally mcfarlane
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photo credit: ally Mcfarlane
photo credit: Alena Yakusheva
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photo credit: Chris Sisarich
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Research Goals

Addressing geological, geochemical and technological challenges

This research programme (2019-2024) will:

  • define heat transfer mechanisms from magma to surface;
  • investigate the composition of supercritical fluids;
  • detail interactions between rocks and fluids;
  • find the best exploration drilling targets for supercritical fluids;
  • map the potential of these resources, and
  • translate the science, making information accessible.

the benefits

Unlocking a ‘frontier’ energy source for Aotearoa’s low-carbon future

Renewable geothermal resources are instrumental to achieving New Zealand’s low-carbon aspirations. The critical challenge is going beyond conventional geothermal systems to tap into deeper supercritical heat resources.

Supercritical resources offer a near-limitless baseload energy supply that will fundamentally transform New Zealand’s energy sector. This future includes a decarbonised electricity system with improved environmental performance.

Supercritical also opens new investment opportunities. Economic development will be supported through commercial applications of supercritical geothermal resources for material processing, industrial scale forestry, dairy and other industrial uses.

photo credit: Dmitry Pichugin
photo credit: Chris SisarIch
photo credit: clsdesign
photo credit: Paul Sutherland
photo credit: NMint
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photo credit: Kletr
photo credit: Greame Murray
photo credit: Chris Sisarich
photo credit: Matt Crawford
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shared endeavour

Harnessing a local, secure and renewable energy source

This research builds on over sixty years of New Zealand’s leadership in geothermal energy, including extensive large scale geothermal energy utilisation for industrial direct heat and electricity generation. 

Māori have significant land holdings that sit above high temperature geothermal reservoirs, creating a prime opportunity to continue their lead role in geothermal innovation and development.

Providing new insights and detailed models of indigenous supercritical resources will minimise exploration and technological risks, unlocking an alternative, sustainable energy for future generations in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

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