Saturday, September 29, 2012

New Source of Geothermal Energy in Western U.S.

Discovery of a new type of geothermal energy resource in Utah offers hope for significantly more potential across the western U.S., and a boost in geothermal power production. 

In 2011 and 2012, Utah Geological Survey geoscientists, in partnership with a U.S. Geological Survey research drilling crew, drilled nine temperature gradient holes in Utah’s Black Rock Desert basin south of Delta to test a new concept that high temperature geothermal resources might exist beneath young sedimentary basins.  Preliminary results show that near-surface temperature gradients in the basin vary from about 60C/km (33F/1000 feet) to 100C/km (55F/1000 feet).  This implies temperatures of 150 to 250C (300 to 500F) at 3 – 4 km depth (10,000 to 13,000 feet) beneath the basin.  An abandoned oil exploration well drilled near Pavant Butte in the central part of the basin in 1981 confirms these exceptionally high temperatures.  Seven of the drill holes were funded by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of a National Geothermal Data System project, managed by the Arizona Geological Survey.  The new holes also confirm the results from three other research holes that were drilled in the basin over the past few years; these were funded by the Utah State Energy Program and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. 

The 1,000 square kilometer Black Rock Desert basin is filled with unconsolidated sediments to a depth of 3 km, while the underlying basin floor comprises a variety of Paleozoic and older bedrocks.  In some parts of the basin, porous and permeable carbonates (limestones and dolomites) are known to be present and these would be natural hosts for a geothermal reservoir.  Using the drilling results, a reservoir modeling team at the University of Utah estimates a basin-wide power density of about 3 to 10 MWe/km2, (megawatts of power per square kilometer) depending on reservoir temperature and permeability.  Given the large area of this basin, the power potential is conservatively estimated to be hundreds of megawatts, and preliminary economic modeling suggests a cost of electricity of about 10c per kilowatt-hour over the life of a geothermal power project.  The modeling assumes air-cooled binary power generation with all produced water injected back to the reservoir so that there would be no emissions or consumption of water.  The heat in the produced water would be exchanged at the surface in an air-cooled binary power plant.  Such power plants are common these days in geothermal power developments. The cool, injected water would move laterally in the reservoir between injection and production wells, and can be considered as heat-farming at depth.  
This basin is especially attractive for geothermal development because of the existing nearby infrastructure ─ it is next to a large coal-fired power plant, a 300 MWe wind farm, and a major electrical transmission line to California[Right, location of the new temperature gradient wells in the Black Rock Desert, and the inferred temperature at 3 kilometer depth (10,000 feet; 150C = 300F; 200C = 400F).  The contours of gravity outline a basin coinciding with the region of high temperature.  Credit, UGS]

Geothermal exploration in the Basin and Range Province of western Utah and Nevada has traditionally focused on narrow, hydrothermal upwelling zones along bounding faults of mountain ranges.  Most current power developments have reservoir areas of less than 5 km2 (2 square miles).  However basins within the Basin and Range usually have areas of many hundreds of square kilometers.   Although the depth to potential reservoirs beneath these basins is deeper than the geothermal industry is used to, the large reservoir area offers economies of scale.  Drilling to depths of 3 – 4 km is not unusual in oil and gas developments.

Dr. Rick Allis, Director of the Utah Geological Survey and joint lead scientist of the sedimentary basin geothermal research project, said that existing heat flow maps of the Basin and Range don’t have the resolution to identify this type of geothermal energy resource. “There are other potentially hot basins across the Basin and Range province that need to be investigated using this exploration model.  We have identified the Steptoe Valley and Mary’s River –Toano basins in northeast Nevada as obvious geothermal targets.  There may also be hot basins across the western U.S. that have similar unrecognized geothermal energy potential.”   

The project findings are being presented at 2:30pm on Monday, October 1, at the annual meeting of the Geothermal Resources Council in Reno, Nevada.  A question and answer period with Dr. Allis will take place following the close of the session at 3:45pm at the Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Program booth, 610-612.

The National Geothermal Data System is in operational test mode, integrating large amounts of information from all 50 states to enhance the nation’s ability to discover and develop geothermal energy. Visit the State Contributions site at

A 3 minute video with and without subtitles is available at

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New State Geologist appointed in Ohio

James Zehringer, Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced selection of a new chief for ODNR's Division of Geological Survey. Thomas J. Serenko, Ph.D. will begin serving in this position starting on Wednesday, Sept. 26.

In an email to stakeholders, Zehringer said Dr. Serenko has been a professional geologist for more than 25 years.

"He earned bachelor's degree in geology from Youngstown State, his Master's degree from the Colorado School of Mines, and his doctorate in geology from Imperial College, London, United Kingdom.

He has experience working as a geologist in Chile, Switzerland and Tajikistan. Additionally, his work has been published in several major industry journals.

He has also worked as a mining and exploration manager at Southern Clay Products Inc. in Gonzales, Texas, and most recently, he worked as a resource manager at Nevada Cement Company in Fernley, Nevada. While working at Nevada Cement Company, he managed a 700,000 ton per year limestone quarry and a 50,000 ton per year clay crusher. His duties included overseeing all permitting and environmental compliance, safety, mine development, mine design and exploration."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

AASG celebrates Geologic Map Day, October 19

Celebrate the first‐annual Geologic Map Day! On October 19, as a part of the Earth Science Week 2012 activities, join the American Geosciences Institute (AGI), the Association of American State Geologists (AASG), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in promoting the importance of geologic mapping to society.

Geologic maps tell the story of each state’s natural history through time, what rocks and minerals are there, how rivers and waterways were formed, where landslides and earthquakes have happened, and much more. Learn how to make geologic maps and how to read and  understand them on Geologic Map Day. Go to and click on your state to find your state’s geologic map and educational materials about your state’s geology.

“In Minnesota we use geologic maps to keep our drinking water safe and to show why we have sinkholes. They are a brilliant tool to answer questions about the land and water posed by everyone from students to our state and national leaders” notes Dr. Harvey Thorleifson, President of AASG and
State Geologist of Minnesota.

Additional resources for learning about geologic maps can be found on the AGI Geologic Map Day web page ( Earth Science Week 2012 will be celebrated
October 14‐20. To learn more, please visit

Scott Tinker's plenary talk at IGC - Uncoventional Oil & Gas: Mountain or Molehill?

Scott Tinker's plenary talk at the 34th International Geological Congress in Brisbane Australia, has been posted online for viewing by congress organizers.   The talk, entitled, "Unconventional Oil and Gas: Mountain or Molehill," was given August 7.  Scott is State Geologist of Texas.  [Photo credit,]

Friday, September 14, 2012

Allen F. Agnew, former South Dakota State Geologist

Allen F. Agnew, age 94, of Corvallis, OR passed away on September 12, 2012 of causes related to age and cancer.  He was in the company of his two daughters and one son, attended to by his wonderful family of caregivers at Regency Park Place Assisted Living, and helped most recently Nurse Danise and Aide Mary of Benton Hospice Services.

Allen was born in Ogden, IL, on August 24, 1918, to that town’s doctor and his wife.  He was the second of six children.  As a teenager, he and his younger brother Don ran a trap line in the cold winters of the early 1930’s.  They sold the hides they gleaned from that enterprise to a firm in Chicago, and all transportation of the hides was done by rail.

Allen was Ogden High School Valedictorian and graduated from the University of Illinois in 1940 with highest geologic honors.  His Bachelor’s and Master’s theses at Illinois in micropaleontology were published in professional journals.  He also played semi-pro baseball, his favorite sport.

On September 5, 1946, he married Frances M. Keiffer in Cleveland, OH.  He first met Frances while visiting the home of his AKL fraternity brother, Ray Keiffer, whose family lived in Cleveland.  Allen and Frances moved to Palo Alto, CA where he continued working toward his Ph.D. (received in 1949).  Allen and Frances began their early married life sleeping on U.S. Army cots in Death Valley, Calif., as he performed geologic mapping of that area for the USGS.

The family grew with the addition of four children while they lived in various places: Alabama (United States Geological Survey), Wisconsin (USGS), South Dakota (State Geologist and Professor of Geology at the University of South Dakota), Indiana (Director of Water Resources Research Center at Indiana University), and finally to Pullman, WA (Director of Water Resources Center at Washington State University). After the children left home, Allen and Frances moved from Pullman to Washington, DC, where he spent 8 years as the Senior Specialist in Mining and Minerals at the Library of Congress before retiring to Corvallis in 1982 to be close to their children's families.  He taught part-time at Oregon State University starting in 1983, finally retiring from teaching for good in 1988 at age 70.

Allen maintained memberships in many professional organizations and groups and he played active roles in them for much of his career.  As he was a member of Alpha Kappa Lambda fraternity in college, he aided them by becoming a Chapter Advisor at the local AKL chapter at Oregon State University in Corvallis.  He and Frances traveled to yearly AASG meetings in their retirement, renewing friendships made over his years as a geologist and teacher.  The family were avid church-goers, and he was actively involved in any church they attended over the years.  He and Frances finally were able to enjoy a wonderful ten years as ‘snow birds’, spending a month or two each winter in Arizona, where they hosted friends and family and Allen led day-trips to local geologic and historical sites.

Allen is survived by daughters, Leslie (Jon) Seitz of Corvallis and Heather (Keith) Van Dyne of Vancouver, WA; two sons, Larry (Ginny) of Donald, OR and Allen (Erika) of Vancouver, WA; and 11 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.  He is also survived by his sisters, Mrs. Marion Wagner of Illinois and Mrs. Harriet Moir of Florida, along with numerous nieces and nephews and their families scattered across the United States.

Allen was preceded in death by his favorite (and only) wife Frances, who passed away on October 26, 2010 after sixty-four years together; his parents, Dr. T. Lee Agnew and Agnes (Faris) Agnew of Ogden, Illinois; brother Ted of Oklahoma; brother John of Massachusetts; and brother Don of Virginia.

Allen and Frances sang in many different churches and Frances sang as a soprano professionally.  One of the family's favorite songs that Mom sang, we felt sung especially for and directly to Dad, was "When I Have Sung My Songs", music and lyrics by Ernest Charles.  She sang to Dad:

"When I have sung my songs to you, I'll sing no more.
T'would be a sacrilege to sing at another door.
We've worked so hard to hold our dreams, just you and I.
I could not share them all again, I'd rather die.
With just the thought that I had loved so well, so true,
That I could never sing again,
That I could never sing again, except to you."

We believe that Dad and Mom may be singing duets once again.  In his last few days, Allen listened to a recording of Frances singing this song in 1961 as a Christmas assortment to be presented to Allen and Frances's parents.
Inurnment will be at Oaklawn Memorial Park in Corvallis.  A private gathering to celebrate his life will be held at a future date.  Services provided by McHenry Funeral Home, Corvallis.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eulogy for John Rold

Eulogy for John Rold
Rarely has so honest and forthright a man had such a positive influence on so many.

Born a rancher’s son in the depths of the Great Depression, John grew up surrounded by wildlife amidst rural ambience and heavy work near Salida, Colorado. Losing his father at an early age, John shouldered the responsibilities of being the man around the house.

He worked temporarily for the Forest Service and gained admission to the University of Colorado and its World War II V-12 program, destined to become a naval officer.  When that program terminated at the end of  the war, he continued his education.  Also a varsity football player, he accidentally took a course in geology and enjoyed it, eventually earning a master’s degree. As a lifelong outdoorsman, he succumbed to the lure of a profession that seemed to offer challenging work in the wilds of the Earth. Of course, we now know that petroleum geology is largely an office occupation.

After a successful career with Chevron, John was appointed the State Geologist of Colorado in 1969, rebuilding a geological survey after a thirty-year hiatus. I first met him shortly thereafter on a Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists field trip in Phantom Canyon. We argued geology. Strenuously. At great length. In excruciating detail.

John Rold thrived on professional details. His standards for his survey were high, and he insisted that those who opposed his conclusions be equally detailed, or they lost. When he concluded that a proposed development did not meet land stability standards, no one ever successfully argued against his conclusion.  The politics of development contrasted to the requirement that developments meet land stability standards caused much legislative trouble for the Colorado Geological Survey, but lives and property were spared inevitable landslide disaster. His honesty did not necessarily win friends, but it did earn him the respect of all.

After retirement from the CGS, John blossomed as a consultant on land movements, becoming internationally known for his landslide analyses. Recognition by his peers with the highest award of the American Institute of Professional Geologists (of which he had been president), the Ben Parker Medal, was a fitting climax to a career of public service both in government and in private practice, a triumph for honesty, competence and high ethics. [Photo 2009, courtesy of Tom Berg]

There was another John Rold that I knew and loved, the original cowboy from Salida.  This John Rold hunted, fished, communed with nature, and initiated all who would listen into the breadth of the outdoor world. I never had the chance to hunt with John, but I sure had some great fishing trips with him. I will always picture him with Stetson, jeans, boots, and his light gray jacket set off with brightly colored patches signifying his membership in outdoor organizations. This John Rold was a member of the board of the Colorado Wildlife Federation, leader in the International Order of Rocky Mountain Goats and a Colorado Master Angler. 

When he cast a fly, his line danced out over impossible distances, landing lightly on the water. He usually had a fish on before anyone else. Unlike others, he would share what fly he was using, and where he thought the fish might lie.  He would compliment his fellow anglers, even if they were stumbling around a bit with wind knots and tangled leaders. I was one.

Optimist, honest, forthright, kind, polite, a gentleman. I miss him greatly.

Lee Gerhard
Fellow geologist and friend

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Colorado geologist-governor on energy at AAPG meeting

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a geologist, spoke at the AAPG Rocky Mountain Section meeting in Grand Junction.    State Geologists Vince Matthews (CO) and Scott Tinker (TX) are both quoted in the accompanying news story.


Colorado State Geologist interviewed about home damaged by expansive soils

 Colorado State Geologist Vince Matthews is interviewed on CNN about a house whose floor dropped 4 inches due to expansive soils.

Monday, September 10, 2012

John Rold, former Colorado State Geologist

Our colleague and friend, John Rold, State Geologist and Director of the Colorado Geological Survey from 1969 - 1992, passed away this morning.

Arrangements have been made for services this Saturday the 15th at 10:30. They will be at the St James Presbyterian Church, 3601 West Bellevue in Littleton. 

Saturday, September 01, 2012