A Review of the Geothermal Resources of Papua New Guinea

Mosusu N,
Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 14
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1997
Geothermal anomalies of different types occur within distinct geological/structural settings in Papua New Guinea. According to R.F. Herring, geothermal occurrences in Papua New Guinea can be classified into two types, those related to vulcanism (Lihir, Rabaul and other series of islands along the volcanic arc) and those resulting from a regional heat flow probably caused by radiogenic sources, for instance those in the Wau/Bulolo area. The manifestation of this potential source of energy generally coincides with either converging or diverging tectonic plate boundaries. Previous inventories on thermal waters were carried out by vulcanologists from the Rabaul Observatory in the early 1960s. However, these studies rarely included chemical analyses of water and gas emissions and the investigations were carried out in an ad hoc manner, generally as a secondary activity. The most recent investigation on thermal waters was conducted on Lihir Island in connection with the development of the open pit gold mine. These studies included detailed exploratory drilling to a maximum depth of 730 m, and a water chemistry isotopic sampling and analysis programme. The hydrothermal waters were not considered as an energy source but as a hazard during the development stage of the mine. Nevertheless, the geothermal anomaly observed at Lihir includes hot springs emerging along the coastal zones with temperatures that approach 100¦C, steam, and thermal borehole waters with temperatures that exceed 200¦C. Chemical analysis results of thermal fluids from Rabaul, Talasea and other areas in Papua New Guinea generally show high total dissolved solids and low pH. In contrast, recent results from the deepest and hottest thermal source at Lihir shows a neutral pH, a Na-CI-SO4 composition and temperatures above 200¦C. Despite the concentration of chloride being similar to that of sea water, other chemical results and stable hydrogen and oxygen isotopic compositions of thermal fluids imply the source to be mixture of local meteoric water and deep thermal water rather than sea water. Results of geothermal modelling suggests that the total geothermal uptlow is equivalent to 54 MW.
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