A geothermal power plant project proposing to drill geothermal wells thousands of meters deep in Yilan County received mixed criticism during the project’s environmental review yesterday, with experts saying the project is ill-planned and technically infeasible.
Headed by anti-nuclear activist and National Taiwan University professor Kao Cheng-yan (高成炎), the project proposes drilling 10 geothermal wells 6km deep in Lize (利澤) in Yilan County’s Wujie Township (五結) to set up a power plant with a capacity of 100 megawatts, which could generate about 867 million kilowatt-hours per year, making it the largest thermal power station in the nation.
During the project’s geologic safety assessment meeting yesterday, in which drilling experts and interested parties were invited to participate, local business owner Chang Ping-he (張平和) said that the development could cause ground subsidence, as it would remove a large amount of soil at a geologically unstable sandy structure, adding that the developer has not communicated with local businesses and residents to clarify the risks involved.
The Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) environmental impact assessment committee said there is a geological fault line running through Lize, meaning that the drilling could induce earthquakes if the engineering involves fracturing of rock strata.
Committee member Lee Chyi-tyi (李錫堤) said that deep-well drilling can lead to blowouts if the drilling reaches high-pressure zones, adding that the developer continues to cite successful international drilling cases conducted at geologically stable areas, without proposing a disaster prevention mechanism.
The committee said there are sections of the well’s pipe structure where geothermal water would be directly exposed to fluids pumped into rock strata, adding that the developer did not assess the potential impact of the exposure on the local water system.
In response, Kao said the team would import a fully automatic drilling rig and commission state-run oil refiner CPC Corp, Taiwan, to execute the drilling to minimize environmental impacts, while the drilling method would not involve rock fracturing that might induce earthquakes or affect the groundwater system.
However, CPC Corp former deputy exploration director Wang Meng-hsuan (王孟炫) said the company would not take on the project out of safety concerns.
The project was referred to the EPA’s environmental impact assessment grand assembly for further reviews and the developer was requested to survey the impact of the drilling on the groundwater system, the disposal of drill cuttings, potential risk of inducing earthquakes and a disaster response plan.
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