Australian company to build largest geothermal plant in Imperial County

280 megawatt plant may be the largest in the world


SALTON SEA, Calfi. - Renewable energy is becoming a hot commodity in today's day and age, and the Imperial Valley is no stranger when it comes to renewable resources.

News 11’s Nico Payne explored the land where mud pots are formed along with a geothermal project being called “Hell's Kitchen Geothermal Project” and the company behind it.

 “The mud pots are fueled by a shallow seem of carbon dioxide,” said Vince Signorotti, Vice President for Resources and Real Estate Assets for Energy source.

Mud pots are formed by subsurface pressure and are a constant sign of geothermal activity. This activity has led to a new type of technology.

 “The technology that is used here at the Salton Sea is called crystallizer reactor clarifier,” added Signorotti.

Crystallizer reactor clarifier is a technology that has been in existence for 35 years.

 “The way it works is that production wells are drilled anywhere from a mile and a half to sometimes two miles below the surface where we produce a very hot hypersaline fluid,” explained Signorotti.

That fluid is then brought to the surface. They use the steam that is produced by rapidly vaporizing the fluid to drive a turbine which generates electricity.

 “The area may look like a wasteland but it’s the mud pots that puts Imperial County on the map making it one of the world's largest sources of geothermal energy.”

People should not go near the spewing mud pots for two good reasons one, they can burn you, and two, most of them are on private property.

 “There is a company called Controlled Thermal Resource, they have a lease agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District, one of the hottest resources in the Salton Sea area and they are moving forward with developing a large geothermal plant that is over 200 megawatts,” said Ryan E. Kelley, Imperial County Board Supervisor, District 4.

An Australian corporation is currently planning the nation’s largest geothermal plant and they are calling it “Hell’s Kitchen Geothermal Project”

 “The Hell’s Kitchen Project got its name from Mullet Island, which way back in the 1920’s there was a saloon restaurant there and the name of that saloon restaurant was “Hell’s Kitchen.” It was ran by a fellow named Captain Davis and his family,” said Jim Turner, General Manager, Controlled Thermal Resources.

At 280 megawatts the project will be the biggest of its kind.

 “The Salton Sea is probably the most prolific geothermal resource in the united states. We’ll be drilling in the last quarter of this year, exploratory wells which will enable testing to occur for verifying the resource,” explained Turner.

The company verifies that the resource is substantial and healthy.

 “Everything goes as planned we should be in construction sometime in 2019 and probably around the middle part of 2021 we should be ready to go commercial,” added Turner.

 “This large size plant would be the largest in California, North America and maybe the world,” explained Kelley.

The geothermal plant will bring jobs, estimating around 450 construction jobs for a two year period. And 85 to 90 jobs once the plant is built and operating.

 “Most of the geothermal plants that you see in the United States, especially in California are typically 50 megawatts or smaller. There are some that are about 110 megawatts at the geysers but this one will be a huge geothermal plant and it is very exciting to be a part of that,” said Turner.

Controlled Thermal Resources has been looking for a prime location for quite some time in hopes to drive down cost of electricity.

 “Controlled Thermal Resources Limited is an Australian company, Rod Cowell is our CEO. He spent a number of years looking for the right place for a geothermal project. He looked in other countries besides the U.S. but when he landed in the U.S. he didn't take long to locate the Salton Sea resource and then the rest is history,” added Turner.

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