New Mexico currently utilizes low and intermediate temperature geothermal resources for aquaculture, greenhouses, recreation, district heating, and space heating. In recent years there has been renewed interest in exploring and developing these geothermal resources, and in determining the sustainability of existing resources statewide.
With support from the Department of Energy, and in cooperation with bureau staff, the Jemez Pueblo is drilling an exploratory geothermal well in the vicinity of Jemez Springs. Drilling is expected to begin in September of this year. Bureau geologists will be responsible for logging and interpreting data from the well, and for helping to evaluate the pueblo’s geothermal resources.
In 2012 New Mexico Tech was approached by the city of Truth or Consequences to help them understand the complexity of their geothermal resources. Increased drilling in the vicinity of T or C has been seen as a potential threat to existing warm springs and established wells, upon which the city relies heavily for its economic health. No in-depth study of these resources had been undertaken since the 1970s. The goal of the study has been to develop an understanding of the hydrology of both the shallow and deep regional aquifers, with an eye toward the sustainability of these resources. The work has involved measuring temperatures and water levels in local wells, evaluating water chemistry and water residence time, and developing hydrogeologic models.
We continue to work toward the development of a National Geothermal Data System, working with other states and federal agencies to create a publically available, comprehensive online resource. Well data from the vast archives of the bureau are being digitized and incorporated into this database. The applications of these data—which include geologic formation tops, reservoir pressures, and reservoir porosity and permeability—extend far beyond an understanding of geothermal resources, and are already being used in other projects where a detailed understanding of the subsurface is required.
Bureau staff have also been involved in a study of the age and duration of geothermal systems in the southern Rio Grande Rift. The investigation involves a study of manganese ore deposits present along the rift. The presence of these deposits, which appear to be related to geothermal activity in the Rio Grande Rift, could be a guide to previously unknown geothermal systems. It may also help us to understand the longevity of existing geothermal systems.