The Seattle-based company, AltaRock, wants to develop the area around Newberry Crater in the Deschutes National Forest for geothermal energy production. They propose pumping millions of gallons of cold water and chemicals into deep, hot, volcanic bedrock to create pressure and steam capable of turning an energy producing turbine.
According to reports by Oregon Public Broadcasting, “The project will create small earthquakes, most under a magnitude of 1, as the pressurized water opens up natural fractures in the rock and causes them to slip and create underground storage units.” Here’s the full piece from OPB.
What isn’t mentioned in the report is AltaRock’s mysterious 2009 abandonment of a similar project located north of San Francisco, CA in an area called the Geysers. At the time the New York Times, reported:
“AltaRock immediately ran into snags with its drilling, repeatedly snapping off bits in shallow formations called caprock. The project’s safety was also under review at the Energy Department after federal officials said the company had not been entirely forthcoming about the earthquakes produced in Basel in making the case for the Geysers project.
The results of that review have not yet been announced, but the type of geothermal energy explored in Basel and at the Geysers requires fracturing the bedrock then circulating water through the cracks to produce steam. By its nature, fracturing creates earthquakes, though most of them are small. …”
There is deep groundwater around Newberry. There are delicate species and habitat worth protecting. There is wilderness and wildness. Newberry backs up into Paulina, and in the winter there are beautiful shoots just waiting to be explored and skied. The process being proposed by AltaRock, and considered by Federal and State officials, is not the same as the controversial “Fracking” used in oil and gas exploration, but it’s related and it scares me. It feels like gambling big without knowing the stakes. It feels dangerous.