Newberry Geothermal Exploration Project

On March 30, 2012, the BLM approved a demonstration project to evaluate the potential for producing energy through the use of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) technology. If successful, this project could advance EGS technology and facilitate the development of a domestic, renewable, clean energy option for the United States. The project area is 22 miles south of Bend, Oregon in the Deschutes National Forest, on the flanks of Newberry Volcano. With the exception of a motion sensor and a seismic monitoring station, the project is located outside the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Although the project is on National Forest land, the BLM is the lead agency as it has jurisdiction over geothermal leases on federal land. Other agencies cooperating on the project are the Forest Service and the Department of Energy (DOE). The DOE is funding a portion of the project through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

Geothermal energy is derived from underground hot rocks. When the rocks are not porous enough to allow extraction, it is sometimes possible to expand the gaps between rocks by injecting water into existing cracks, as will be done on this project via an existing 10,060 foot well. Cold water will then be pumped into the well and circulated through the hot rocks in the created "reservoir," then pumped out through two new wells. An array of sensitive seismometers will be installed prior to creation of the reservoir, to monitor the expected microseismic events.

Before approving this project in a Decision Record, the BLM prepared a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI); reviewed and responded to comments from the public, other agencies, and tribes; and considered the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of the proposed action as described in the Environmental Assessment (DOI-BLM-OR-P000-2011-0003-EA). The EA was prepared after receipt from Davenport Newberry Holdings LLC ("Davenport") and AltaRock Energy Inc. of a Plan of Exploration, Operations Plan, and Drilling Program in May 2010. Davenport has been operating in the project area for several years under an existing exploration lease, issued in 2007 under a previous Decision Record and EA (DOI-BLM-OR-P000-2007-0075-EA).