AltaRock Energy Inc., the Sausalito, Calif.-based firm trying to tap into geothermal energy by creating rock fissures in Geysers Geothermal Field in Lake County, Calif., suspended operations on Sept. 2 because of “physical difficulties” encountered when drilling the first 12,000-ft well. The project, funded by $6 million in federal funding along with private money, was controversial because of the possibility that the rock-drilling would trigger earthquakes. The engineered fissures are created by using a hydraulic pressure of up to 4,000 psi to “hydroshear” existing fractures, causing them to open slightly and slip.
The market is generally healthy and steadily growing, and margins are up for large specialty contractors. Further, advances in design tools and owner demand for collaboration are giving subcontractors a seat at the table early on in projects.