Geothermal exploration project still going through permitting process
The Commonwealth Utilities Corp.’s exploratory geothermal well drilling project needs to undergo several certification processes before it could actually start the project.
According to John Gourley of Micronesian Environmental Services, who is a consultant on the project, three permits or authorizations need to get through before anything can be done.
One is a major siting permit from the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality’s Coastal Resource Management. An Earthmoving and Erosion Control and well-drilling permit will also be required from the Division of Environmental Quality.
Gourley said the project must also comply with the standards established by the Office of Insular Affairs under the National Environmental Policy Act. An Environmental Assessment has been developed and will soon go under review by the appropriate federal agencies. Once all federal and local permits and authorizations have been completed, OIA can release the funds to CUC to implement the project.
Gourley said yesterday that the major siting permit from DCRM was certified complete by the DCRM board during yesterday’s meeting.
The project site is located in Gualo Rai at the site of CUC’s existing well called GR6. The well is about 400 feet deep and is currently not being used for production.
4i’s CNMI, LLC was awarded a contract from CUC last July in joint venture with Maevelle Energy and Alexander Drilling of the CNMI to begin work assessing geothermal resource potential for Saipan.
Developing alternative energy sources such as geothermal power is key to plans that the CUC has been developing to ensure long-term, stable, and affordable energy sources for the people of CNMI.
Once verified and with strategic planning, geothermal could be integrated into the islands’ grid, providing energy diversity and stable base loads while lowering consumer rates and eliminating a portion of the islands’ import costs by reducing the need for oil.
The project would be funded by a grant from the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs to the CUC.