Project Description and Location
The Geysers Project is a planned project to develop, construct and operate a steam-electric generation facility, an electric switchyard with transmission interconnection, a geothermal wellfield with steam collection and condensate re-injection systems, and related auxiliary systems located on approximately 200 acres in the Mayacamas Mountains of Sonoma County, California, approximately 12 miles north of the City of Healdsburg. The site is within the Geysers which has been the site of commercial power production since the mid 1960’s.
Prior to 2010, WGPI secured four geothermal leases (the Mayacamas, Filley, Filley-Brown and Serafine-Hernandez leases) covering 1,045 acres of private lands in the Geysers (the “Geysers Project Leases”). The Geysers Project Leases grant WGPI the right to explore and develop the geothermal reservoir and to build a plant for electricity generation. In 2010, an affiliate of the Company purchased the lessor’s fee interest in the land leased under the Mayacamas lease. In 2010, an affiliate of the Company purchased a 50% undivided interest in the geothermal rights in the land previously leased under the Filley and Filley-Brown leases (the “Filley Leases”). At the same time, WGPI amended, consolidated and restated the Filley Leases to continue leasing the other 50% undivided interest in the geothermal rights in such land and to eliminate certain performance conditions by WGPI to maintain the leases.
The Serafine-Hernandez lease (the “Serafine Lease”) was amended and restated in 2009. Subject to limited exceptions, the initial term of the Serafine- Lease is three years. The Serafine Lease remains effective after its initial three year term so long as hot water, steam, thermal energy or extractable minerals are produced in commercial quantities and utilized to produce gross revenue. Additionally, each lease remains effective after the three year initial term in the event that the Company has been continuously engaged, during the twelve months preceding the expiration of such lease, in continuous operations for drilling, reworking, recompleting or re-drilling of any new well or existing well on the leased land, and in other continuous operations to produce hot water, steam, thermal energy or extractable minerals in commercial quantities, and to utilize the same to produce gross revenue. In such case, the Serafine Lease will remain in force so long as operations are carried out diligently and in good faith with no cessation of more than one hundred twenty days. In February 2012, the Serafine Lease was amended to extend its initial term until February 12, 2017.
Annual rental payments are payable on the Filley Leases and the Serafine Lease. In addition, royalties are payable on those leases based upon gross revenue derived from power plants or from the sale of electricity. Royalties are also payable on those leases based upon the gross proceeds received by WGPI from any sale of extractable minerals or from utilizing hot water, steam or thermal energy for purposes other than electrical power generation. The current royalty terms are as follows:
Sale of Steam. WGPI is required to pay 4.25% of gross revenue derived from the ownership of one or more power plants or from sale of electricity at a price of $60 or less per MWh; increasing by 0.0020% for each $0.01 by which the sale of electricity exceeds $60 per MWh.
Direct Utilization of Leased Substances. WGPI is required to pay 5.0% of the gross proceeds received from direct utilization of leased substances provided that for any period during which WGPI is not utilizing hot water, steam or thermal energy in one or more power plants constructed by WGPI to generate and sell electricity, WGPI is required to pay 25% of the gross proceeds derived from direct utilization of leased substances.
Extractable Minerals. WGPI is required to pay 5.0% of the gross proceeds received from sale of extractable minerals; provided, however, that for any period during which WGPI is not utilizing hot water, steam or thermal energy in one or more power plants constructed by WGPI to generate and sell electricity, WGPI is required to pay 25% of the gross proceeds derived from sale of extractable minerals.
Additional Rental. Under the Serafine Lease (but not the Filley Leases), as an additional rental, WGPI is required to pay 25% of the gross proceeds received by WGPI from the sale of hot water, steam or thermal energy not utilized in the production of electricity.
The Company holds two federal geothermal leases, CAA 15000 and CAA 15001, totaling 2,772 acres adjacent to the property currently and previously leased under Geysers Project Leases. These leases were acquired by competitive bid in 2009. These leases are subject to the terms and conditions stipulated by the Code of Federal Regulations. No permitting, exploration, or development activity has been initiated on these leases.
The Geysers Project site is the location of the PG&E power plant, Unit 15 (“PG&E Unit 15”), which was dismantled in 2000. The associated metals and petroleum hydrocarbon-impacted soil was removed under the oversight of the Northern Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (“NCRWQCB”) which established a site-specific cleanup level. A “No Further Action” (“NFA”) letter was issued by the governing agency for the soils at the site. Additional groundwater studies continue to be reported. The Geysers is associated with historic mining and therefore mine tailings occur on the Geysers Project site and elsewhere in the area.
WGPI holds a conditional use permit from the Sonoma County Board of Zoning Adjustments for the construction and development of a 38.5 MW (gross) geothermal power plant, wellfield and steam gathering system at the Geysers Project site. Sonoma County is the Lead Agency under the California Environmental Quality Act for projects of under 50 MW capacity being developed within the county. Authority to construct has been granted by the Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District for construction of the plant and well operation. NCRWQCB discharge and soil management plans are in place.
Accessibility, Climate, Local Resources, Infrastructure and Physiography
The Geysers Project site is accessed via an existing county road called Healdsburg-Geysers Road. This is an all-weather asphalt road currently utilized by other geothermal operators. Rail and road transportation from Los Angeles and Oakland, California ports is adequate for the shipment of heavy equipment to the Geysers Project site. Healdsburg-Geysers Road is adequate to support construction of the Geysers Project.
Geothermal power plants at the Geysers typically operate 24 hours per day, 365 days per year without limitation due to climatic conditions or operating seasons.
The Company intends to rely upon excess water generated as a by-product of the conversion of geothermal steam into energy for the necessary cooling water make-up. Excess water will be re-injected. The Company further plans to maintain on-site water storage tanks where rainwater will be collected to be used primarily for injection and will also be available for cooling at any time additional water is needed.
The power plant and well pads for the Geysers Project are planned to be constructed on the site of the former PG&E Unit 15, a 55 MW geothermal power plant that operated from 1979 to 1989 and has since been decommissioned and largely dismantled. PG&E Unit 15 site is currently level with fill soil covering the abandoned foundations of the turbine generator and cooling tower. Existing structures remaining on-site include over-land steam lines from the well pads, and along the plant site, several concrete slabs, two sheds, two steel separator vessels, a concrete sedimentation basin, and a vent station with a concrete rock muffler. All are planned to be removed by the Company except the sedimentation basin and rock muffler, which are planned to be used for the Geysers Project. In addition, five abandoned PG&E Unit 15 well pads are planned to be used for steam production wells for the Geysers Project. The Company also currently expects to use an existing well for injection.
The site is crossed by a California Independent System Operator (“CAISO”) controlled, PG&E operated 115 kV transmission line. The Geysers Project power plant is planned to interconnect with this line. A Large Generator Interconnection Agreement (“LGIA”) was signed between WGPI, PG&E and CAISO in February 2009. A temporary suspension was issued on the LGIA in October 2009.
The Geysers Project is within the Geysers geothermal area, where there are 18 operating geothermal power plants. This infrastructure supports a large and qualified work force. In addition, suppliers, contractors and specialty consultants are readily accessible.
The topography of the Geysers is characterized by rugged terrain and steep slopes. The ambient temperatures range from 46oF to 104oF. The plant elevation is 2,427 ft. above mean sea level. The Geysers Project site receives an average of 203 cm of rain per year, with rainfall predominantly in the months of October to April.
History of the Property
The Geysers Project area was previously leased by PG&E. During the period of 1979 to 1989, PG&E operated the PG&E Unit 15. Steam was supplied to the PG&E Unit 15 by a steam sales agreement between PG&E and GEO Operator Corporation. In 1989, it was deemed that the PG&E Unit 15 design would no longer support efficient operation and PG&E Unit 15 was shutdown and subsequently dismantled.
The Geysers Project site is located within a seismically active region dominated by the San Andreas Fault system, which is approximately 30 miles to the southwest. The nearest active fault identified by the California Geological Survey is the Mayacamas Fault, approximately 6 km southwest of the Geysers Project. The Geysers Project site is located in the Geysers, northwest of the Alexander Valley, in eastern Sonoma County within the Coast Range Geomorphic Province of Northern California. This province is generally characterized by northwest-trending mountain ranges and intervening valleys, which are a reflection of the dominant northwest structural trend of the bedrock in the region. The basement rock in the northern portion of this province is presumed to consist of the Franciscan Complex, a diverse group of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks of Upper Jurassic to Cretaceous age (140 to 65 million years old). The Franciscan Complex is part of a northwest-trending belt of material immediately adjacent to the eastern edge of the San Andreas fault system. In the Geysers Project site vicinity, the Franciscan Complex rocks are overlain by Tertiary age continental and marine sedimentary and volcanic rocks. These Tertiary age rocks are locally overlain by younger Quaternary alluvial, colluvial and landslide deposits.
The soil materials at the Geysers Project site generally consist of fill soils underlain by bedrock. The fill materials were apparently placed after demolition of PG&E Unit 15 and vary from one to ten feet in depth. Geotechnical consulting recommends that the fill material be removed from below the planned Geysers Project structures.
Commercial electric power generation in the Geysers began in 1960 and reached a peak in the mid-1980s. Steam pressure has been declining since the 1980s, however since the mid-1990s, the rate of decline has slowed and reservoir pressure has stabilized as improved technologies and better resource management procedures have been implemented. Efforts in other parts of the Geysers by local geothermal developers and utilities, which include the reinjection of steam condensate and water piped from nearby towns to the reservoirs through injection wells, have been successful in slowing the overall decline in the rate of steam production at the Geysers. Although there are no current reinjection measures involving the injection of delivered water into the west portion of the Geysers on which the Geysers Project is located, contemplated injection measures on the west side of the Geysers may benefit the Geysers Project in the future.
The drilling of four wells was completed under a geothermal exploration permit through the California Division of Oil and Gas and Geothermal Resources. These four wells were directionally drilled to identify targets near the location of previously identified geothermal resource. All wells were drilled to production diameter through the steam production zone. Drilling was completed through the use of sump-less mud drilling in the upper section of the well bore. Air drilling was used in the geothermal steam production zone.
The 2011 Geysers Report states that the experience at the Geysers shows that when the plant is put online, the productivity of the wells undergoes a 10% to 30% decline within a few weeks before stabilizing. Therefore, assuming a worst case 30% decline before stabilization, the four completed wells represent an approximate total stabilized flow capacity of about 18.3 MW (net). The 2011 Geysers Report further states that a 26.1 MW (net) plant can expect to be supplied initially by six active production wells. However, based upon the recent stabilization of Geysers production, the Company is optimistic that the initial decline will be towards the low end of the typical 10% to 30% range.
The drilling targets were selected by the following process:
Surface drilling locations (drilling pads) that could be utilized by the project were identified. All of the identified sites were used previously for the PG&E Unit 15 project, and were in good enough condition to be used again with minimal investments in repairs or improvements; they also could be permitted relatively easily and quickly, avoiding delays in the progress of the Geysers Project.
General zones to be targeted were selected based on the known distribution of reservoir productivity, as determined from analysis of data from the PG&E Unit 15 project. A well that demonstrated a relatively high kh or production rate was assumed to lie in a “high” flow capacity area. It should be noted that essentially all areas of the selected target zones can be reached from the surface locations selected in the previous step.
Specific drilling targets (i.e. the subsurface locations in the reservoir to which wells will be drilled to obtain production) were identified from analysis of the results of the PG&E Unit 15 wells. The rationale for this approach is that the production zones of the more productive PG&E Unit 15 wells constitute the most attractive drilling targets, because they offer a high probability of success compared with locations more distant from known productive wells. Both initial productivities and long-term productivities of the Unit 15 wells were taken into account, as well as consideration of whether each well’s productivity might have been affected by mechanical damage (as determined from its skin factor value) or other factors.
Other criteria, including the need to keep a reasonable minimum spacing between production zones, and certain logistical factors, were applied to reduce the selection of targets to the 12 most attractive ones; of these 12 targets, four have been drilled.
WGPI retained GeothermEx to develop and calibrate a reservoir model of the Geysers Project incorporating the data from the wells WGPI drilled on the Geysers Project. The 2011 Geysers Report provides that a reservoir model of the Geysers in its entirety was developed to study the planned Geysers Project. The 2011 Geysers Report further provides that this field-wide model was necessary to assess the interference between the Geysers Project and those of other operators, who share the Geysers. The 2011 Geysers Report also provides that results of this study indicate that the estimated sustainable steam capacity is 460-480 kilo pounds per hour (kph) equivalent to about 26-27 MW (based on the conversion of 17,500 lb/MWh). Little is known of the reservoir and steam capacity to the west of the Serafine Lease, and this is not included in the steam capacity estimates.
The 2011 Geysers Report further notes that the forecast based on the development model has assumed only the condensed steam (amounting to 25% of the steam production rate, including the water losses in the cooling tower) to be injected. Certain other producers at the Geysers inject over 80% of their produced steam mass when supplemental water from captured winter runoff and treated municipal effluent are included. As such, GeothermEx indicates in the 2011 Geysers Report that they believe the Geysers Project would most likely sustain a capacity of approximately 26 MW (net) using a conversion of 17,743 lb/MWh over its project life even without any makeup well drilling. The conversion rate is higher than what the Company expects with the new turbine design efficiencies. In light of the 2011 Geysers Report, the Company is considering potential strategies, including, without limitation, commencing the initial plant output at 25 MW (net) or expanding the drilling program to include lands on the Geysers Project where resources have not yet been proven.
It is currently planned that WGPI will operate and maintain the Geysers Project following construction.
In 2008, the Company entered into a PPA with NCPA to supply 35MW of power from the Geysers Project. Given the subsequent lower resource estimates, the Company approached NCPA to modify the PPA. The amended PPA was signed on May 25, 2011. Among other things, the amended and restated PPA increases the price for electricity and environmental attributes, updates the milestones for completion of the Geysers Project, adjusts the expected capacity of the Geysers Project to approximately 26 MW (net) and extends the term of the agreement from 20 to 25 years. The Company has not met the milestones under the PPA for execution of an EPC contract and ordering of the steam turbine generator for the Geysers Project by October 31, 2011, and does not expect to meet the milestones for ordering other major equipment by March 31, 2012 and commencing construction by April 30, 2012. NCPA has the right to terminate the PPA if milestones are not satisfied within 18 months of their due dates for completion. NCPA continues to be supportive of the Geysers Project and the Company’s related development plans thereof.
The Geysers Project is planned to be interconnected to PG&E’s transmission system at the delivery point required by the NCPA PPA. A Large Generator Interconnection Agreement (“LGIA”) has been signed between California ISO (“CAISO”), PG&E and WGPI. The LGIA was suspended by WGPI in September 2009 as a result of the reduction in the resource estimate for the Geysers Project. The CAISO is currently conducting a material modification review of the Geysers Project due to the delay in the development schedule to determine whether a material modification of the interconnection request has occurred.
The Geysers Project will employ dry steam technology to convert geothermal resources, primarily steam, to energy. In a plant using dry steam technology, the steam is extracted from the underground reservoir by a series of production wells and piped into the energy generating unit. At the wellhead, the geothermal fluids consist of a mixture of non-condensable gases and steam. The heated mixture flows from the wellhead through gathering system of insulated steel pipes to a steam scrubber where the steam is scrubbed of contaminants that may impact the turbine. This produces a stream of clean dry steam, which goes directly to a turbine, which drives a generator that produces electricity. Steam exhausted from the steam turbine is passed to a surface condenser through which cold water circulates. Moisture in the steam leaving the turbine generators condenses on the condenser tubes and, after being cooled further in a cooling tower, is used to provide makeup for cold circulating water for the condenser or is injected back into the geothermal reservoir.
The planned power generating unit at the Geysers Project is designed to receive geothermal steam at the design flow rate of approximately 460-480 kilo pounds per hour (kph) gathered from what the Company plans will initially be up to six production wells drilled from three to four well pads. Condensate reinjection is planned to be by way of a single injection well that currently exists on the project site. Four production wells have been completed to date, to depths of 7,276 to 9,934 ft. Two additional production wells may be required as part of the overall project construction. It is expected that an additional make-up production well will be required two to eight years after start of initial operation. New gathering system pipelines are planned to be installed along the existing routes so as to utilize existing pipeline supports where possible. The power plant, steamfield and switchyard will be constructed under either an “open book, fixed fee, not to exceed” or a date certain, lump sum Engineer-Procure-Construct Agreement (“EPC Agreement”).
On March 27, the Company signed a LOI with SNC for the construction of the Geysers Project. Under the terms of the LOI, SNC would engineer, design, and procure parts and equipment for the construction and commissioning of the Geysers Project. At the conclusion of the LOI period, scheduled for May 2012, the Company plans to execute a definitive contract with SNC for the engineering, procurement and construction of the Geysers Project.
Exploration and Development
Preliminary power plant and switchyard design for the Geysers Project has been performed by Power Engineers, Inc., a power plant and electric transmission design engineering firm. Development of the geothermal reservoir is being managed by WGPI, with reservoir analyses and drilling program technical assistance provided by GeothermEx. Well drilling operations to date have been conducted by ThermaSource, Inc. under a drilling contract that is no longer in effect. ThermaSource, Inc. is a drilling and engineering consulting firm and a major provider of drill rigs and crews for drilling and completing production and exploration wells on geothermal projects. Design and construction of all aspects of the Geysers Project, other than geothermal resource development and well drilling, will be incorporated into and wrapped by an EPC Agreement with a third party contractor. In the first quarter of 2012, the Company solicited and received indicative bids from contractors for the construction of the Geysers Project. However, there can be no assurance that the Company will be able to negotiate terms for an EPC Agreement satisfactory to the Company or enter into an EPC Agreement.
Once complete, the Geysers Project facilities are expected to consist of a steam-electric power plant, up to six geothermal production wells and one or two injection wells, and interconnected pipelines forming the gathering system. In addition, the emission abatement system for the Geysers Project is planned to include an incinerator, a quench tank, a caustic scrubber, and a wet electrostatic precipitator. With the exception of the wet electrostatic precipitator, similar abatement systems are operating at other geothermal power facilities in the Geysers. While the wet electrostatic precipitator technology is well proven and utilized for particulate removal in a variety of industrial applications, to the Company’s knowledge, this is planned to be its first application in a geothermal power production facility. The secondary condensate emission abatement system is planned to utilize injection of an iron chelate compound to the circulating water system. This abatement system is used at other geothermal power plant facilities located in the Geysers. An authority to construct air emission permit was issued by the Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District on July 23, 2009. The air emission permit was modified on August 6, 2011.