Archive for April, 2008

Case Study - Swiss Deep-Heat Geothermal Project

Posted by Peter on Apr 25 2008 | Case Studies

Deep Heat Drilling Rig

Here’s one of my favourite case Studies, showing what happens when you fail to apply good Risk and Stakeholder Management to a potentially dangerous project.

In 2006, The Swiss Government and a number of regional power producers invested in a scheme to produce geothermal energy with the aim of providing heat and electricity to several thousand homes in the Basel area. The energy would be obtained from geothermal sources by a system known as deep heat mining, where hot water from deep below the earth’s surface is forced upwards and used to drive turbines to make electricity.

The pilot project was supposed to be completed by 2009.

Unfortunately, the drilling triggered some earth tremors at the turn of the year 2006-7, causing the project to be halted for safety reasons. Local residents were very worried, as Basel is one of the areas in Switzerland most prone to seismic activity. In 1356, the city was almost entirely destroyed by a 6.5-magnitude earthquake.

Local resident Armin Fretz, talking to the press:

I don’t understand why such a project was accepted in a city known for being located on a seismic fault

The question of whether Geopower will be allowed to return to drilling remains under evalution, with US$50 million already spent.

Here’s a quotation from a local report; see if you can spot the inconsistency:

Last week the Basel government took a first step by announcing that it was going to carry out a full “quantitative” risk analysis based on new data to help decide whether or not the project should be resumed.

Yes, they actually proposed to do Risk Analysis AFTER the drilling started and the problems became evident, rather than in the planning stage of the Project Lifecycle!

And they are still compounding that error by neglecting Project Stakeholder Management, which states that we need to communicate early and often. Take a look at the Deep Heat official website - which is closed down - ensuring that rumours and misinformation rule.

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