May 15, 2023

Team Profile:
Geothermal well drilling and consenting scenarios report

Deborah Kissick & Brian Carey

photo credit:
MB Century

What resource consents are required for drilling a deep super hot exploratory geothermal well in the Taupō Volcanic Zone (TVZ)?

Exploratory well investment is likely to be more straight forward if a path to post exploratory development is clear from the outset. While we know the resource management framework is changing, the new regime is likely to take up to a decade to be fully operational. As a result, there is still substantial value in assessing the permitting requirements under the current regulatory framework in the central North Island.

In a recently published report, our planning team investigated the suite of permits expected to be required for consenting a deep geothermal exploration well in the TVZ.

The authors selected four “test” locations within the TVZ as scenario sites for future well drilling. For each site, the relevant planning considerations are identified, informing the likely resource consent requirements. Also analysed were two sites that hold existing resource consents for geothermal production operations. These were evaluated for the possibility of utilising these existing approvals for the purpose of drilling and testing a deep geothermal well.

The resource consent analysis focussed at the Regional Plan level and in relation to the take, use and discharges of natural resources, such as freshwater and geothermal fluids. Overall, the study found that while the planning frameworks covering the TVZ (i.e., the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions) for establishing an exploratory well are similar, the likely challenges to the success of any resource consent application lies in the specific characteristics of the site location.

Utilising and modifying an existing suite of consents is likely to be the most straight forward option for establishing a 6km deep well. This approach relies on additional sustainable resources such as freshwater being available, and is subject to confirmation that the deep well requirements are within the scope of the original consent application(s).

Download the report here.

Any comments on the report and its contents please email Deborah Kissick.

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