The article on geothermal technology in the fall 2011 issue took me back to my experience in 1979, when I was transferred by Aminoil from the Middle East to the Geysers Field, 60 miles northeast of San Francisco, to manage their geothermal operation there. Aminoil had the contract to supply steam to a Pacific Gas and Electric plant, and although wells had been drilled, startup and completion of our unit was being held up by regulators, demanding that we reduce the release of minute quantities of hydrogen sulfide in steam vented during emergency shutdowns of the PG&E’s plant. The procedure for many years had been to manually shut in the venting wells one by one, which took an hour or so. Regulators decided we had to shut in all wells within just a few minutes.
To have complied manually would require an operator at each well 24 hours/day, seven days/week, which wasn’t practical. My solution was to construct a system to operate all the wells from a central control room, from which the entire field operation could be conducted, both solely by the computer and/or a 24-hour/day operator. Although this solved the problem, the project went unnecessarily and considerably over budget.
While I was there, we ended up with three separate geothermal fields. It was a relatively dry steam operation at 4,000 to 6,000 feet, with the condensate reinjected to replenish the source reservoir. It was a very clean, reasonably sustainable 24-hour/day operation, and quite profitable. At that time, our first plant was the world’s largest, 135,000 kilowatt-hours.
I give Mines much of the credit for my very interesting and enjoyable career, which has included domestic exploration geology; running the development program for the largest oil field (Agua Grande) in Brazil; evaluating global projects for Core Lab; managing Aminoil operations in Indonesia, Ecuador, Iran, the Neutral Zone oil fields between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and Geyser Fields; and a seven-year stint with Boone Pickens running their acquisitions and divestitures, marketing, and the legal department. The requirements at Mines to think deeply and work hard made me enjoy going to work, which I gather these days is getting harder all the time.
– Claude B. Jenkins ’52