projects

Addressing geological, geochemical and technological challenges to go beyond conventional geothermal systems and tap into hotter, deeper supercritical energy resources.

Our research is studying geological, geophysical and thermodynamic processes in New Zealand’s crust down to 10 km depth. This data will be used to model the supercritical Earth energy and facilitate the next generation of geothermal resource development.

isabelle chambefort

projects

Expert geophysicists, geologists, geochemists, modellers and strategic advisors are investigating the potential of New Zealand’s supercritical resources

To provide sustainable, low-carbon energy for future generations, exploration of the Earth’s energy must move towards hotter and deeper supercritical heat reserves (4 km to 10 km). Our research will find and characterise New Zealand’s supercritical resources, in support of future exploration, drilling and technology development.

We are using specialist techniques to explore the subsurface and understand the interactions between New Zealand’s rocks and fluids under supercritical conditions. We will explore the sources, locations and behaviour of these superheated fluids, and determine the heat and energy potential available for use.

Aerial view of Champagne Pools a prominent feature within the Waiotapu geothermal area in the North Island of New Zealand
Aerial view of the Champagne Pools, a prominent geothermal feature within the Waiotapu geothermal area in the North Island of New Zealand. Photo Credit: Graeme Murray

Exploring New Zealand’s future geothermal resources

goal

To find the most prospective location(s) for accessing supercritical fluids and delineate potential resources in the Taupō Volcanic Zone (TVZ).

hypothesis

Optimal supercritical conditions are found where magmatic heat encounters buried, permeable structures above the ductile region.

research question

Where are the optimal drilling targets for New Zealand’s next generation of renewable geothermal energy?

activities
  • Use existing and newly-collected geological and geophysical data from the central TVZ, the structure of the basement, the influence of magmatic fluids and magmatic bodies to identify geological constraints on the development of supercritical reservoirs.
  • Model thermomechanical and thermochemical processes in shear zones, heat transfer at the brittle ductile transition from magma to surrounding rocks to identify the most likely locations of supercritical resources.
  • Identify the geological limits and risks of supercritical heat stocktaking. Refine understanding of the crust in the 4-10 km depth range to be targeted for future drilling.
team
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Understanding the thermochemistry of our supercritical resources

goal

To investigate the chemical characteristics of supercritical fluids and their interactions with rocks and minerals under supercritical conditions.

hypothesis

Magmatic fluids and water-rock interactions in the supercritical domain are vastly different to conventional geothermal resources (thus limiting their discovery and utilisation under current technologies).

research question

How do supercritical fluids behave within the unknown/undrilled crust?

activities
  • Define chemical species distribution and fluid-rock interactions, and predicted changes in rock properties during fluid extraction and injection.
  • Model behaviour of dissolved and volatile species in the transition from ductile to brittle conditions.
  • Incorporate experimental thermochemistry data into numerical models to facilitate resource definition and prediction.
  • Model CO2 sequestration potential in the supercritical to subcritical transition for emissions capture.
team
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Integrating, translating and communicating knowledge.

goal

To translate supercritical research and form an engaged stakeholder community.

hypothesis

A robust understanding of the supercritical opportunity and challenges will focus on de-risking future investment and accelerating technology deployment in New Zealand.

research question

What is the best practise for delivering knowledge to our stakeholders?

activities
  • Engage with stakeholders including government, iwi, land owners, geothermal companies, industrial scale heat and energy users, researchers and international groups involved in supercritical development activity.
  • Review planning, policy and legislative provisions and allocation guidelines, making recommendations for optimal governance frameworks for supercritical utilisation.
  • Deliver a next generation geothermal heat strategy for New Zealand (2020-2050).
  • Communicate findings on development opportunities; consult on aspects that might advance or constrain resource use; geoscience, engineering, standards, regulatory provisions; and national and regional impacts of industrial scale supercritical resource development.
team
Meet the team Members