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Interest was first expressed about geothermal exploration in South Australia by Ashton Energy in 1996, around the Olympic Dam Mine. Other parties expressed interest in exploring the known ‘hot spots’ in the Cooper Basin around the same time. However, licences could not then be granted because there was no available legislative framework.

During extensive stakeholder consultation for the new Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000, which commenced in 1996, interested geothermal parties provided input. Because the most prospective geothermal area in the state was perceived to be under the Cooper Basin, and drilling would involve deep holes using petroleum industry technology, it was determined that geothermal exploration licences and activities would be regulated by the new Petroleum Act, rather than the Mining Act 1971 or separate legislation.

Natural decline in petroleum reserves in South Australia, risks of climate change and likelihood of future carbon-constrained economies, plus the recognition of South Australia's vast natural geothermal resources, were drivers to set out a supportive framework to entice investment in exploration and development geothermal energy in the Petroleum Act. The process commenced in South Australia in October 2000 with the release of three geothermal exploration blocks over hot granites underlying the Cooper Basin.

Public domain seismic and drilling data from previous petroleum exploration activity by Delhi Petroleum and the Santos Joint Venture were readily available from DSD and helped to high-grade this region. Applications were received for all blocks and the first South Australian geothermal exploration licences (GELs) were granted in October 2001.

Since August 2004 over-the-counter applications for GELs can be accepted over the entire state, except over current GELs or lands excluded for exploration (e.g. certain parks). Because geothermal exploration is not regarded by the Government of South Australia as mining under the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993, the right to negotiate process is not required. The average turn-around from lodging a GEL application (GELA) with DSD to grant of licence is roughly three months, depending on whether parks and/or compatible licences are involved.

To date about 70 geothermal exploration wells have been drilled in South Australia.  The vast majority of these are shallow wells drilled to measure heat flow or other rock and geomechanical parameters.  In total 9 deep wells have been drilled to test reservoir conditions at four different project locations, namely; Geodynamics Ltd’s Innamincka Deeps Project targeting an EGS resource in the Cooper Basin (also known as the Habanero project), Geodynamics Ltd’s Innamincka Shallows Project targeting the Great Artesian Basin HSA resource, Petratherm Ltd’s Paralana EGS Project located east of the Mt Painter Inlier, and Panax Ltd’s Limestone Coast HSA Project in the Otway Basin near Penola.

Geodynamics Ltd’s Innamincka Deeps Project is noteworthy as it was the first Australian EGS resource to generate electricity and one of very few to achieve this goal worldwide (e.g.  Soultz sous Florets, France).  Between 2005 and 2013 Geodynamics constructed an operating production and injection well doublet and successfully stimulated a connected reservoir within the Big Lake Suite granite.  Short term closed loop testing of the system achieved many milestones and was able to deliver hot water from the reservoir to surface at up to 38 kg/s and 29MPa at a temperature of 241oC.  The well doublet system was connected to a 1MW demonstration plant in April 2013 and generated electricity under trial conditions until shut-down on October 7th 2013.