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U.S. Geothermal Development

ORMAT Nevada, Inc. Expansion and Improvements Raise Power Production 20%
By Don Campbell, Daniel N. Schochet and Zvi Kriegergeothermal activity

At Ormesa I, two new 10-megawatt Integrated Two-Level binary turbine units now use 7 dedicated production wells for supply of geothermal fluid. The units incorporate two geothermal energy conversion levels into a single module to reduce piping and installation complexity.
T
he East Mesa geothermal power fa¬cility lies a few miles east of El Centro in southern California’s Imperial Val¬ley. Its moderate-temperature (300° to 375° F) resource is associated with the tectonic environment of the Salton Trough. After initial exploration efforts in the 1960s and 1970s, ORMAT (Sparks, NV) developed the field with the 24-megawatt (MW)

Ormesa I project completed in 1986. By 1998, the facility was expanded by an ad¬ditional 42-MW with ORMAT’s Ormesa projects. In the years since then, the Geo East Mesa (GEM) and Ormesa operations

were reliable power producers, but aging equipment and wells—and third party ownership and operation—led to ineffi¬ciencies in both geothermal fluid and power production.geothermal electricity

MARCH / APRIL 2004

67

U.S. Geothermal Development

Plant Name    Average GeoFluid Temperature 2002 / 2004    Total Geo-Fluid
Flow Rate (GPM)
2002 / 2004    Average Cooling
Rate (oF/year) (2004)
Ormesa I    296°F / 294°F    12,700 / 8,500    0.70
Ormesa l-Level III    / 217°F    / 3,200    –
Ormesa II    305°F / 309°F    9,466 / 7,500    1.48
Ormesa IH    296°F / 308°F    2,164 / 4,500    2.17
Ormesa IE    280°F / 276°F    1,175 / 5,000    0.65
GEM 2/3    331°F / 325°F    16,395 / 15,200    0.47
Table 1. Ormesa Resource Utilization as of November 2002 and March 2004
On April 15, 2002, ORMAT an¬nounced it had taken complete control of the GEM and Ormesa operations and be¬gan a number of rehabilitation measures that have successfully eliminated many of those problems. The company paid $41 million for the geothermal complex, which consists of six individual power plants shar¬ing the East Mesa geothermal resource. Four of six project sites utilize ORMAT-manufactured generation equipment sup¬plied in the late 1980s. The remaining two power plants utilize flash technology. Geo-thermal electricity from Ormesa is sold through long-term power purchase agree¬ments with Southern California Edison. Projected sales are 31.5 MW and 18 MW through 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Background geothermal energy source
Tw o petroleum exploration wells were drilled at East Mesa in the 1960s, followed in 1972-74 by five deep geothermal wells drilled by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). Well locations were suggested by shallow temperature gradient holes. The USBR wells confirmed the existence of the East Mesa thermal anomaly, with 5,000 to 8,000-foot bottomhole temperatures rang¬ing from 300° to 375° F . In 1975–1976, Republic Geothermal drilled three wells in the northern part of the field, confirming the extension of commercial temperatures, and in 1977 drilled seven additional con¬firmation wells.
In late 1984, ORMAT purchased de¬velopment rights to the East Mesa geother-mal resource area, along with the assign¬ment of the Republic Geothermal’s SO4 power purchase agreements and access to

a U.S. Department of Energy geothermal reservoir loan guaranty. ORMAT then de¬veloped the East Mesa Project with a $50 million loan for the 24-MW Ormesa I power plant, which was paid in full only one year after the loan was funded.
With its December 1986 grid synchro¬nization and subsequent continued success¬ful operation, the Ormesa I project estab¬lished the technical feasibility of larger scale commercial modular binary power plants tapping moderate-temperature, liquid-domi¬nated geothermal resources. From 1986 on, the East Mesa projects were expanded by the 20-MW Ormesa II project (1998); the 10-MW Ormesa IE project (1988), and the 12-MW Ormesa IH project (1989).
In April 2002, after 16 years of third party ownership and operation, ORMAT acquired a 100-percent interest in the four Ormesa binary power plants, the two adja¬cent GEM dual-flash geothermal power plants, and the entire well field that sup¬plies the turbines. With no power purchase agreement, the GEM facilities supply plant usage power to the four Ormesa power plants and associated wellfield pumps.
With its purchase, ORMAT eliminated multi-entity field ownership, which con¬strained effective management. By operat¬ing the well field to optimize power pro¬duction, and replacing 20 of the original 1-MW ORMAT Energy Converter (OEC) units at Ormesa 1 with two new, high-effi¬ciency 10-MW OEC Integrated Two-Level Units, power production from the Ormesa complex has increased from an average 42 MW to over 50 MW, without drilling any new wells. This is a shining example of the benefits conveyed by a single, value-added
Geothermal power plants

upgraded plant and field operations man¬agement program.
Resource Characteristics
East Mesa is located within the Salton Trough geologic province, an area charac¬terized by tectonic extension and very high heat flow. Both are a result of its location astride the onshore extension of the East Pa¬cific Rise, a zone of upwelling in the mantle and subsequent rifting of the overlying crust of the earth. As shown in Figure 1, there are several producing geothermal areas located within the Salton Trough.
Like other geothermal reservoirs in the Salton Trough geologic province, the East Mesa geothermal reservoir is con¬tained within an alternating sequence of sandstones and shales deposited in a del¬taic environment (the ancient delta of the Colorado River). Geothermal production in the field is generally obtained from sandstones, though some fracture perme¬ability may occur within indurated shale units. Above the reservoir lies a thick sec¬tion of fine-grained rocks that forms a low-permeability cap on the geothermal sys¬tem. The East Mesa reservoir has relatively low salinity and is therefore considered to be relatively benign from a chemical per¬spective. However, some scaling has oc¬curred in the hotter GEM production wells, primarily because of mixing of flu¬ids from different zones.
There has been a significant amount of drilling in the East Mesa Geothermal Field. This activity has effectively defined the thermal anomaly and the permeability structure of the reservoir. Active produc¬tion and injection wells at East Mesa typi¬cally range in depth from 5,000 to 8,000 feet. Analysis of subsurface temperature data reveals a broad, N-S trending tem¬perature anomaly that covers an area of more than 12 square miles. Maximum pre-exploitation temperatures of about 375° F have been observed at a depth of about 6,000 feet.
geothermal technology
Using reasonable assumptions regard¬ing how much heat can be recovered at the surface and how efficiently it can be con¬verted to electricity, GeothermEx, Inc. (2004) estimated recoverable energy re¬serves of the East Mesa Geothermal Field. The results indicate a 90-percent probabil-

68

GRC BULLETIN

U.S. Geothermal Development

ity that recoverable (gross) geothermal en¬ergy reserves exceed 118 MW. The most-likely value is 148 MW, with a mean value of 167 MW (standard deviation of 38 MW).
Resource Mitigation Plan
The East Mesa geothermal resource is relatively large and has a consistent and pre¬dictable structure, which has resulted in a favorable drilling success rate. The resource is contained in a porous sedimentary forma¬tion, with highly productive zones at depths of 2,000 to 6,000 feet. Well spacing to mini¬mize interference is a key issue, and well maintenance on a regular basis is required. However, the production and injection wells are located reasonably close together and are often completed at similar depths, resulting in cooling of the production wells as injected fluids have migrated back to production zones. The flow-weighted average tempera¬ture decline at Ormesa, is approximately 1° F per year (Table 1).
The stratified nature of the East Mesa geothermal reservoir and the operational flexibility in the field (which allows fluid to be moved from one area to another) en¬ables cooling mitigation with one or more of the following three techniques:
•    Well workover operations (selective iso¬lation of cooler inflow zones);
•    Conversion of production to injection wells; and/or
•    Directing the geothermal fluid to the fa¬cility that can use it with the highest pos¬sible conversion efficiency. organic Rankine cycle
All production wells at East Mesa are pumped, with pump replacements required every 24 months on average. Pump setting depth averages about 1,400 feet, and ranges from 800 to about 1,750 feet. Liner tops which limit how deep the pumps can be set are typically at a depth of about 2,000 feet, leaving room to lower most production pumps if an unanticipated reservoir draw¬down were to occur. At East Mesa, how¬ever, cooling is a more important issue than drawdown. Injection wells show a gradual decline in injectivity because of one or more of the three following causes:
Scale, which forms on casing walls, in liner slots, and on the wall of the formation be¬hind liners;

With control of the East Mesa geothermal resource completely in its hands, ORMAT instituted a comprehensive geothermal well rehabilitation program.

MARCH / APRIL 2004

69

U.S. Geothermal Development

Fines (particles of clay and silt), which come from production wells and accumulate in the injection wells at the sand face; and
Fill, which accumulates in the bottom of injection wells as a result of sloughing into the well bore of formation sand. Renewable energy
Scale in injection wells is observed pri¬marily in the GEM area. Calcium carbon-
ate and silica are inhibited in the flash plant separator, but there is a small residual of mostly magnesium silicate. Mitigation techniques include mechanical cleanout with a drill rig or coiled tubing unit; back-flowing the well by nitrogen lift using a coiled tubing unit; acidization with a com¬bination of hydrofluoric and hydrochloric acid; and re-perforation of plugged inter¬vals. In general, these techniques provide
Figure 1. Location of geothermal fields in the Salton Trough geologic province.
1 1 6-
1 15*
NI LAND
SALTON
SEA
° Calipotrio
\ NORTH ▲      \BRAWLEY
UTH,  .   )        EAST
~^\RUCKHA
WESTMORLAND
+
SUPERSTI MOUNTAI,
33*
El   Centrd HEBER
M0UNT\5!CNAL    ”
Mexicali
Valley   MESA
CALIFORNIA ___…
▲ TULECHEK
Mexicali   Volley
Iogcnc
■       Geothermal   field
A      Geothermal   prospect
Fault
+
32*
30
0 –
km
1 15′
1_
enough options to allow the injectivity of most injectors to be maintained.
Ormesa Project Technology
MEXICO
53
In the basic organic Rankine sub-criti¬cal cycle, geothermal energy increases the organic motive fluid temperature to its boil¬ing point without superheating. The motive fluid is then vaporized at constant tempera¬ture and pressure. The organic vapors drive the turbine, which is coupled to the shaft of the generator. The spent vapors are condensed in ei¬ther a water or air cooled con¬denser, and pumped back into the vaporizer to continue the Rank-ine cycle. Geothermal fluid is maintained under pressure and 100-percent of produced geother-mal fluids and gases are injected back to the reservoir. Use of the sub-critical cycle results in lower internal power consumption and lower internal pressures than en¬countered in the super critical cycle. As a result, the power plant design is simpler and operation is more reliable. Geothermal
At Ormesa, a proprietary cascade design was employed to maximize conversion efficiency of the binary power plants. The Ormesa I power plant as origi¬nally constructed employed 26 OEC units (16 Level I units, 8 Level II units and 2 Level III units). Geothermal fluid pumped from all 12 wells at East Mesa entered all 16 Level I vaporizers at 296° F and exited at 240° F . T h e brine then flowed directly into all 8 Level II vaporizers. Exiting at 190° F , the brine flow entered the 2 Level III vaporizers, where fluid temperature was further reduced to 165°F.
tiULF OF CALIFORNIA
Before being injected back to the geothermal reservoir, the brine enters all 26 preheaters in parallel to warm the organic mo¬tive fluid. This cascading prin¬ciple is implemented in current ORMAT binary power plant de¬sign by means of an Integrated Tw o-Level Unit that incorporates geothermal company

70

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U.S. Geothermal Development

two geothermal energy conversion levels into a single module to reduce piping and installation complexity. The Ormesa power plants were designed as follows:
Ormesa I: The Ormesa I project utilized 26 modular OECs, in three cascading lev¬els, with a capacity of 24 MW (net). Though projected resource temperature was well suited for binary technology, actual fluid temperatures were different than predicted and accommodated by power plant design. In December 1986, the project was com¬pleted and synchronized to the Imperial Ir¬rigation District (IID) grid for transmission of power to Southern California Edison.
Ormesa II: With successful development of the Ormesa I well field, it was deter¬mined that a project expansion was feasible to utilize an unused portion of the East Mesa geothermal resource. Because of fi¬nancing considerations, the Ormesa II project was owned and operated by a dif¬ferent entity. The Ormesa II project was de¬veloped in 1987, with synchronization to the IID grid in December. The 20-MW power plant utilizes 20 modular OECs in two cascading levels.Geothermal Energy
Ormesa IE: Following successful devel¬opment of Ormesa II, the 10-MW Ormesa IE expansion plant was constructed utiliz¬ing 12 OEC modules in two cascading lev¬els, producing 8 MW net power. As utili¬zation of the East Mesa geothermal re¬source became more complex, the location of injection wells was carefully managed by the coordinated field management team.
Ormesa I H: The 13.2-MW Ormesa IH was developed and placed in service in 1989. The Ormesa IH power plant utilizes 12 OEC modular units in a two-level cas¬cading configuration.
Ormesa Upgrade Program
Upon taking ownership of the East Mesa projects in 2002, Ormat embarked on a series of changes designed to simplify field operations and increase generation. These measures included:
• At Ormesa I, two new 10-MW Integrated Tw o-Level units use 7 dedicated produc-

tion wells, and no longer rely upon part of the flow from two GEM wells, one Ormesa IE well, and one Ormesa II well. In addition, 3,200 gpm of 217° F waste fluid from the GEM plant supply the Level 3 OECs.geothermal plant
At Ormesa IE, two Ormesa I wells and one Ormesa IE well continue to be used, but the remaining part of the flow is replaced by a single additional Ormesa I well.

At Ormesa IH, one well was shut in be¬cause of low temperature. Another IH well is dedicated to the plant, as is fluid from three GEM producers, but 270 gpm of fluid at a weighted average of 317° F is diverted to Ormesa II.

The Ormesa II project is now supplied by its own five production wells (a sixth was converted to injection), plus the 270 gpm of 317° fluid diverted from Ormesa IH.
ORMAT’s work at the East Mesa Geothermal Field includes overhaul of GEM flash power plant turbine-generators.

MARCH / APRIL 2004

71

• The number of production wells supply¬ing the GEM plant was increased by five, resulting in a significantly higher mass flow and overall generation.
There are 41 injection wells at East Mesa, with the injection requirements of the Ormesa I and IE projects met using 10 injection wells in the Ormesa I area and four geothermal power generation

in the Ormesa IE area. The Ormesa IH and II power plants dispose of their waste fluid in four IH wells and six II wells, which also accommodate 3,200 gpm of waste fluid from Ormesa I and 1,800 gpm of waste fluid from the GEM plants.
The injection requirement for the GEM plants is disposed of in 19 injection wells within the GEM area. The net result is a

simplification of operations in the field by reducing fluid transfer across the field. Minor increases in production rate (less than 3%) and injection rate (less than 2%) are easily accommodated by the existing wells.
Acceptance Test
In October 2003, an acceptance test was undertaken to determine the success of the well field modifications described above and repairs/modifications to the above-ground facilities. The latter included: geothermal resource
•    Repairing the cooling towers;
•    Replacing the original 24 Level 1 and Level 2 OECs at Ormesa I with two new, larger Integrated Two-Level Units;
•    Converting the Level 3 OECs at Ormesa I to accept the 217° F waste fluid from the GEM plants;
•    Upgrading and modifying the injection pumps (includng an injection pump con¬version in the GEM plants to make more steam available to one of the two GEM turbine-generators); and
•    Overhauling one of the two GEM tur¬bine-generators.
The test showed that power plant out¬
put met expectations. In fact, after correc¬
tion for differences in assumed and actual
ambient temperature, about 4 percent ex¬
cess capacity was demonstrated during the
one-week test. The upgraded Ormesa power
plant projects have proved their ability to
produce up to 57 MW—an increase of over
20 percent in output without any new pro¬
duction wells.    ■
References
Elovic, A. (1995). “Advances in Binary Cycle Technology,” Geothermal Resources Council Transactions, Vol. 18. p. 466-469.
GeothermEx, Inc. (2004). Evaluation of the Resource Supply for the Ormesa Projects – Private Report.
Ram, H. and Z. Krieger, Z. (1989). “Innovative Geothermal Power Plants – The Solution to Geothermal Resource Constraints,” Geothermal Resources Council Transactions, Vol. 13, p. 639-644.
Schocket, D.N., and J.E. Mock (1994). “How the Department of Energy Loan Guaranty Program Paved the Way for the Growth of the Geothermal Industries,” Geothermal Resources Council Transactions, Vol. 18, p. 61-65.

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