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Crews Scheduled to Drill for Geothermal Power in Akutan this Summer

Akutan, AK - Feb. 2, 2010 - The City of Akutan is in for a hot summer. Preparations are underway for drilling exploratory geothermal wells in Hot Springs Bay Valley on Akutan Island, just three miles from Akutan Village. Extensive prospecting, including soil and chemical testing, remote sensing using satellite imagery, and magneto-telluric measurement of electric currents in the earth using more than 50 ground probes, was completed in October 2009. Now the project technical team, led by Dr. Amanda Kolker, has identified four high-priority sites for test well drilling this summer.

Under ideal conditions, four "slim hole" wells (approximately 3 inches in diameter) can be drilled between June and October - one to a depth of 3,500 feet and three to a depth of 1,500 feet. However, much work remains to be done before the drilling team can go into action. State permits need to be obtained, and procurement of transportation, drilling services and material must be completed. In addition, drilling pads and work camp sites need to be prepared. According to Ray Mann of RMA Consulting Group, the City's Program Manager, everything is on track for a 2010 drilling program.

"The entire project team and everyone at the City are excited about this critical phase of the project," Mann said. "We need the results of test well drilling to complete the project feasibility study and business plan for full development. Right now, schedule is everything."

Funding is a significant factor, as well. The project began in late 2008 with funding from the City of Akutan. Additional funding - $2,559,000 - is now in place through a State of Alaska Renewable Energy Fund grant. However, drilling of all four identified test wells is estimated to cost in excess of $4 million. To reach this funding goal, the City has applied for a Round 3 (FY2011) State renewable energy grant of $2.8 million, with $250,000 of City matching funds. Grant awards will be made during the current legislative session.

"Available grant funding will determine the number of wells to be drilled this season," said Project Manager Amanda Kolker. "Otherwise, the project will most likely be reduced to drilling the two highest priority wells."

Whichever option is selected, logistical support will be the key to a successful drilling program. All equipment, supplies and personnel will be transported by helicopter from a staging area near the village. A forward work camp, including housing, cooking and medical tents, and support services for a 4 - to 6-person crew, will be constructed and relocated to each well site by helicopter. Twenty-five by forty-foot drilling pads will be constructed to support 24-hour continuous drilling. The project team estimates that some 30 - 40 containers of equipment and supplies will be barged to Akutan to support the project. According to Mann, Akutan will be a busy place this summer.

"In addition to our geothermal drilling program, the City will be occupied with an electrical distribution program and a hydroelectric project. The Corps of Engineers' harbor project in Akutan will also begin construction this summer," said Mann. "So we will need a lot of coordination and sharing of local resources."

With that in mind, the City is embarking on a community impact assessment to obtain information and the views of local residents and businesses with regard to the increased level of activity. Mayor Joe Bereskin wants everyone to be fully informed and prepared.

"In many ways, the City needs a 'go slow' approach. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves and fail to recognize the changes that are on the way. Akutan is a close-knit community, and we plan to go through this together".

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