A geothermal power plant. A geothermal power plant.

Geothermal a superpower in Mexico’s energy potential

But the cost of exploiting it is a barrier

The capacity to generate geothermal energy is a veritable superpower within Mexico’s enormous energy potential but a significant barrier stands in the way of reaping its rewards: exploiting it is very expensive.

However, a New Zealand company that specializes in developing technologies to overcome earth, environmental and energy challenges is helping Mexico achieve that potential.

Since its creation in 2004, Seequent has developed a close relationship with Mexico and in April this year the company hosted the country’s ambassador to New Zealand at its Christchurch headquarters.

“Mexico is embracing the importance of developing geothermal, not just as an energy replacement source, but to future-proof base load energy needs for the future,” company CEO Shaun Maloney said in a statement issued after José Gerardo Traslosheros’ visit.

“Mexico is one of our fastest growing markets and represents a great opportunity as the world’s 13th largest economy. We’re continuing to invest in people and skills in the region,” the statement said.

Maloney subsequently told the newspaper El Financiero that Mexico has a source of energy under the ground that is “constantly flowing.”

However, he added that “to drill a hole for thermal energy, it costs around US $10 million and if you dig in the wrong place, you lose it all.”

Those high costs have held Mexico back from further exploiting its thermal capacity despite the introduction of the 2014 energy reform which enabled foreign and private companies to enter the Mexican market.

In fact, Mexico slipped from being the world’s fourth largest geothermic energy producer in 2014 — behind only the United States, the Phillipines and Indonesia — to sixth place last year with Turkey and New Zealand moving into fourth and fifth places respectively.

Beyond meeting the high costs, Seequent’s geothermal energy business manager said during the meeting with Ambassador Traslosheros that the biggest challenge for Mexico is to encourage investment by better explaining what geothermal energy involves.

“The resources exist but people need more information in order to support the development of these kinds of projects,” Jeremy O’Brien said.

However, he added that “we’re already working with some of the largest geothermal companies and look forward to supporting the development of new geothermal assets to add capacity in Mexico.”

To identify those assets before the expensive drilling process takes place, Seequent has developed a solution for understanding, visualizing and communicating ground conditions in the form of a 3D subsurface modeling software program called Leapfrog Works.

The software eliminates the risk of undertaking expensive exploratory drilling without reward.

The company’s innovativeness in the geothermal energy sector has translated into collaborations on projects around the world that account for 40% of the planet’s entire capacity to generate the renewable power.

However, in Mexico mining remains the company’s biggest business.

“We have a long link with Mexico. Mining operations in Mexico are great adopters of innovation and were among the first supporters of our software globally,” said Nick Fogarty, Seequent’s general manager for mining and minerals.

The company is already working with a range of private energy and mining companies in Mexico as well as the state-owned Federal Electricity Commission (CFE).

At the April meeting with Sequent, Traslosheros said that “Mexico is responding to global energy challenges by developing new renewable energy sources,” adding that “in terms of geothermal energy, we already have a number of geothermal power stations, and new developments are under way.”

Source: El Financiero (sp)

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