Utah Geological Survey
Utah Geological Survey
Michael D. Vanden Berg, P.G.
Energy is one of Utah’s four cornerstones for success, and the development of clean, secure, low-cost energy is one of the Governor’s top priorities. Energy use and development is a topic of great interest to many Utah residents. Energy is vital to our modern way of life, and energy education is required before citizens can engage in thoughtful dialogue. The Utah Geological Survey’s (UGS) newly updated Utah’s Energy Landscape is a booklet designed to assist Utah residents and others on becoming more familiar with Utah’s diverse energy portfolio.
Two recent events have dominated Utah’s energy scene in the past few years: 1) the collapse of crude oil prices due to a worldwide oversupply, and 2) the exponential increase in both utility-scale and residential PV (photovoltaic) solar capacity. First, Utah’s crude oil price dropped from a high of about $100 per barrel in the summer of 2014 to a low of about $30 in late 2015, with prices dipping to $20 a barrel in early 2016. Consequently, the number of drilling rigs in Utah decreased from about 23 in late 2014, down to 3 rigs in late 2015, and finally down to zero in early March 2016. Since new oil wells are not being drilled to make up for production declines at existing wells, crude oil production in the state decreased nearly 10% in 2015 and is projected to continue to decline as long as prices remain low and rigs remain idled. Similarly, natural gas prices (down 43%) and production (down 7%) have also decreased due to oversupply from the country’s prolific shale reservoirs. Second, in 2015, 166 MW of new utility-scale solar capacity was installed in southwestern Utah and nearly 680 MW is currently under construction or in development. By 2017, nearly 850 MW of new solar capacity will be online, more than wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass combined. This surge in solar was also seen in the residential sector; the total number of renewable energy tax credits filed in Utah has grown exponentially in the past 6 years, from only 153 in 2009 to 3,061 in 2015, of which 94% were for residential PV.
The state of Utah is fortunate to have abundant and diverse energy resources including large reserves of conventional fossil fuels, several areas suitable for renewable resource development, and vast quantities of untapped unconventional oil shale and oil sands resources. This publication, now in its fourth edition, provides balanced facts on each resource, including maps, graphs, helpful explanations, and photographs. For those interested in obtaining the numbers behind the graphs, each page includes a reference to available historical data located on the UGS’s Utah Energy and Mineral Statistics website.
Printed versions of this publication are available for free at the Natural Resources Map & Bookstore located at 1594 West North Temple, Salt Lake City (801-537-3320, or 1-888-UTAHMAP; geostore@utah.
The Utah Geological Survey provides timely scientific information about Utah’s geologic environment, resources and hazards.
Utah’s crude oil wellhead price hit an all-time, inflation-adjusted high of $95.31 per barrel in 2008. After a recession-related drop in 2009 and 2010, prices rebounded back into the low-$80s between 2011 and 2014 before plunging 49% to $40.69 per barrel in 2015. The value of Utah’s crude oil reached a peak of $3.2 billion in 2014 as a result of high prices and near record production, but retreated to $1.5 billion in 2015.
Due to low prices, no drill rigs were operating in Utah in early March 2016, a situation not seen in the last 50 years (2 rigs were running in April 2016). The previous low was 1 rig running for one week in March 1987. As recently as May 2012, Utah had 42 operating rigs and 22 in September of 2014.
The recent reduction was almost exclusively rigs drilling for crude oil.
The number of renewable energy tax credits processed by the State of Utah has increased exponentially in the past few years, from 153 tax credits processed in 2009 to 3,174 tax credits processed in 2015. The vast majority of these tax credits (94% in 2015) are for residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Also of note, the average size (capacity) of residential solar PV systems has nearly doubled in the past 5 years from 3.3 kW in 2010 to 6.4 kW in 2015. It is thought that this increase is due to decreasing installation and equipment costs as well as a shift towards the desire to cover nearly 100% of a household’s electricity usage. Total solar capacity for the commercial and residential sector in Utah is estimated at about 55 M
As of April 2016, 166 MW of new solar generating capacity has come online in southwestern Utah. In addition, approximately 600 MW of capacity are currently under construction and roughly 80 MW of capacity are under development and should be completed by the end of the year. By 2017, Utah’s utility-scale solar capacity will total 847 MW, more than wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectric combined.
The Utah FORGE team collaborated with the Utah Governor’s Office of Energy Development to produce this video short highlighting Utah’s vast geothermal potential.
Check out the Utah FORGE Facebook to follow updates on the projects!
UGS scientists are part of an exciting research team led by the Energy and Geoscience Institute at the University of Utah that will study new techniques for harnessing the Earth’s heat to generate electrical power. Our team will evaluate the establishment of an enhanced underground geothermal project about 10 miles north of Milford, Beaver County. The research is one of five proposals currently funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Check it out —
Link to the article HERE
It is now up on the EERE Facebook page HERE
Someone dropped a box of yellow crayons in this hot water. Now, the algae and sulfur crystals can’t stop coloring! Just kidding, there’s no crayons in this natural color field.
Roosevelt Hot Springs Geothermal Area, Beaver County, Utah
Photographer: Mark Milligan; © 2015
Yellow sulfur crystals and various colors of bacteria and algae give these hissing steam vents and bubbling pools an otherworldly look. This landscape is a recent and evolving phenomenon resulting from changing groundwater levels associated with nearby geothermal power generation.
This 27-page report analyzes new detailed (1:12,000 scale) geologic mapping of a 14 square mile area centered by the high-temperature (350°F) Sulphurdale heat source, which at the surface makes up a circular area about a mile in diameter that is likely caused by a magma body at depth. A former small steam-driven geothermal electric power plant in the circular area is being replaced by a larger plant (Enel Green Power North America) that will use binary technology. Five cross sections tied to and at the same scale as the map help interpret the likely extent of the geothermal resource. Sulfur derived from evaporites at depth was initially mined at a solfatara above the heat source; associated sulfuric acid seeped downward to remove the Kaibab Limestone and Toroweap Formation from the subsurface.
Last week, a major tourist thruway in Yellowstone National Park had to be shut down because the road melted. The road’s Wicked Witch of the West impression was caused by high temperatures in both the air and under the ground. Yellowstone sits atop a volcanic hotspot, and that heat helped cause the asphalt to soften and oil to well up onto the surface.
The Idaho Geological Survey, based at the University of Idaho, is excited to be part of the National Geothermal Data System, which formally launched April 30 and was announced nationwide Friday.
Recently 14 UGS staff embarked on our annual Administrative Professionals’ Day field trip. This year we went to Diamond Fork Hot Springs (a.k.a. Fifth Water) north of Spanish Fork Canyon in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Diamond Fork Hot Springs is located at the end of a 2.5 mile one-way hike, 700-foot elevation gain, up a scenic, forested canyon. The weather was perfect and the water pleasant and invigorating. Diamond Fork has long been hailed as the most picturesque in Utah. The hot springs emerge streamside in multiple locations below and above a couple of waterfalls. Several pools have been nicely constructed with cement and rocks (North Horn Formation). The spring water issuing from the ground is a little too hot for bathing; one seep was measured at 123˚F, so the pools just downstream from the seeps mix with the much colder stream water to produce the ideal soaking temperature, with pools ranging between 98 to 109˚F. Some of the seeps can be identified by the thermophilic (heat loving) organisms such as bacteria and archaea that color the stream cobbles a vibrant orange-red.
Click HERE for directions to Diamond Fork Hot Springs
Paying to keep the lights on can put a strain on many a household budget. But some Utahns might be surprised to learn that their electricity rates are among the lowest in the West.
Last week, Rocky Mountain Power announced it would be seeking a $232.4 million general rate hike, which would increase the typical household power bill by about $10 per month.
The company said the reasons for the rate hike request are the ever-increasing costs to produce electricity and heavy investments in equipment to serve customers. The funding is also needed to maintain and upgrade existing facilities as well as increase capacity to meet increasing customer demand.
That would seem all well and good, but the announcement was met with skepticism by some ratepayers who thought their rates were already high enough. The Utah Public Service Commission will have 240 days from the date of submission to review the request before deciding how much of an increase will be implemented sometime this fall.
While some Utahns may believe they pay a pretty penny to power their homes, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration would suggest otherwise when compared to neighboring states and the rest of the country.
Among eight states that make up the Mountain Region, Utah paid the second lowest residential electricity rates at 8.51 cents per kilowatt-hour as of October 2010. Only Idaho had a lower residential rate at 8.02 cents per kilowatt-hour — also the lowest in the nation — while Nevada paid the highest regional residential rates at 12.18 cents per kilowatt-hour.