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World Geothermal Congress 2023

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Planning and Regulatory Preparation For Six Kilometre Deep Geothermal Wells In The Taupō Volcanic Zone, New Zealand

Geothermal wells as deep as 6000m are being investigated as part of the GNS Science led Geothermal: the Next Generation (GNG) research programme. Indications are that wells at ~6km deep, at specific locations in the Taupō Volcanic Zone, will encounter ultra-hot conditions with temperatures upwards of 500oC. Determining if these sources of geothermal energy have more than theoretical potential to become a useful energy source for New Zealand requires exploratory drilling.

Resource consents are required for exploratory drilling activities to be undertaken. The consenting requirements have been assessed and documented in a Regulatory Assessment by Kissick et al (2022). This work explores the relevant planning and regulatory framework applicable at several locations in the Taupō Volcanic Zone that might be considered for exploratory drilling. The report identifies the likely resource consents required to enable the drilling and testing activities.

Reform of New Zealand’s legislative planning framework, the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), is ongoing through 2022 and beyond. Early indications are that a strong theme of precaution is likely to be adopted in the new framework, which could have implications on the ability or otherwise to undertake exploratory drilling for deep geothermal resources and the subsequent utilisation of the geothermal energy resources that might be found. The GNG Planning team is participating in the regulatory reform process with a focus on ensuring that precaution does not exclude deep exploratory geothermal activity which, if successful, will open up more renewable energy resources for New Zealand.

Deborah Kissick
Traverse Environmental
New Zealand

Simon Bendall
Traverse Environmental
New Zealand

Brian Carey
GNS Science
New Zealand


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