Excitement is brewing across both the Kawerau township and Whakatāne district as a much anticipated project launches a new phase of development.
The Te Ahi O Maui geothermal project at Kawerau is preparing to enter its first production well-drilling phase. Site works are currently underway to prepare the well-pads and later this month a well-drilling rig will be transported on site.
The Te Ahi O Maui project is located on the outskirts of Kawerau township, in the Whakatāne District, on land owned by the A8D Ahu Whenua Maori Trust. The A8D Trust is working in partnership with the Eastland Group to bring the project to fruition. Eastland Group is wholly owned by the Eastland Community Trust, a community trust similar to the Eastern Bay Energy Trust.
Tomai Fox, trustee for the Kawerau A8D Ahu Whenua Trust, says this is a huge milestone for the Trust and the realisation of a long-held dream.
“We look forward to completing this project as it will provide long-term benefits to the Trust members and community. Our project team has worked really hard to make sure the project is done in a culturally and environmentally acceptable way.”
Te Ahi O Maui Project Manager, Ben Gibson says drilling of the production well will commence on 10 May. The first stage of drilling, called ‘spudding’, will culminate in a five-inch-wide-hole into the Kawerau geothermal reservoir.
“Extensive field monitoring and computer-based modelling has shown we can expect the drilling equipment to pass through layers of varying substrates and pockets of incredibly hot geothermal steam and fluid, which could be between 200-350 degrees Celsius. It’s this high-temperature fluid and steam that will ultimately fuel the geothermal power plant.
“Well drilling and testing are critical success factors for the project’s subsequent steps. If we find what we expect, then the project is all go and we can move on to the geothermal power plant construction phase, which we expect will take between two and two-and-a-half-years,” says Mr Gibson.
Whakatane District’s Mayor, Tony Bonne, and Chief Executive, Marty Grenfell, joined Mr Gibson and Eastland Group’s Chief Executive, Matt Todd, and Board Chairman, Nelson Cull, for a site visit this week.
Mayor Bonne says he’s extremely excited about the new venture. “We know the Eastland Generation team and A8D’s Māori land owners have been working extremely hard behind the scenes for several years now and this is a really exciting next step.
“I compliment the Eastland Group Board for its vision and investment for the future. Not only will their investment benefit the people of New Zealand, through clean energy, it will provide employment to Eastern Bay people during both the construction and operation phases,” added Mayor Bonne.
The project holds resource consents for the plant’s construction and operation, which allows for the extraction and discharge of 15,000 tonnes of geothermal fluid daily from the Kawerau geothermal reservoir, for a period of 35 years. Much of this fluid is re-injected back into the geothermal reservoir so as to maintain pressure within the system.
Eastland Group chief executive, Matt Todd, says the Te Ahi O Maui project is part of Eastland Group’s strategy to develop a portfolio of renewable electricity generation and minimise the environmental impacts of its projects.
“Our project team has worked very closely with the A8D Trust, who are kaitiaki of the land, to understand and accommodate their needs as tangata whenua and to protect the mauri of the land, air and water. The A8D Trust members will meet on site for a project update and traditional blessing just prior to the commencement of drilling.”
He says the company is keen to see the new geothermal power plant provide clean base-load energy to New Zealand’s emerging alternative energy markets and play a greater role in meeting the country’s current and future energy needs.
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Visiting the Te Ahi O Maui geothermal power plant site this week, where preparations are underway for well-drilling next month, were Whakatane District’s Mayor, Tony Bonne, and Chief Executive, Marty Grenfell, Te Ahi O Maui’s Project Manager, Ben Gibson and Eastland Group’s Chief Executive, Matt Todd, and Board Chairman, Nelson Cull.
The Te Ahi O Maui geothermal project is a partnership between Eastland Generation and Kawerau A8D Ahu Whenua Trust. Eastland Generation is an Eastland Group business, and Gisborne-based Eastland Group is wholly owned by the Eastland Community Trust, a community trust similar to the Eastern Bay Energy Trust. The Te Ahi O Maui geothermal power plant will generate approximately 25MW net of electricity from a site 2.3 kilometres north- east of the Kawerau township – enough new power for 25,000 homes. Eastland Generation already owns and operates a geothermal plant on the Kawerau field. The GDL plant generates 9MW of clean and renewable, baseload electricity. www.eastland.nz