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Geothermal Energy Decommissioning and Site Reclamation: Resource Requirements and Impact Sources

Decommissioning and site reclamation activities include well abandonment, removal of structures, and replanting vegetation.

During the decommissioning and site reclamation phase, the production wells are abandoned, facility structures and infrastructure are removed, and all the disturbed areas at the project site are reclaimed. Well abandonment involves plugging, capping, and reclaiming the well site. Removal and reclamation includes removing the power plant and all surface equipment and structures, regrading the site and access roads to preproduction contours, and replanting vegetation to facilitate natural restoration.

The following factors could contribute to adverse environmental impacts during the decommissioning and site reclamation phase of project development.

Decommissioning and Site Reclamation Phase — Requirements and Impact Sources

  • Acreage Requirements — Virtually the entire land area of the geothermal development would be impacted by removal and reclamation activities. Transmission lines would likely remain in place as part of the transmission grid. Otherwise, the components would be removed for disposal or recycling.
  • Emissions — Emissions would be limited to fugitive dust and exhaust from vehicles and equipment. Temporary emissions similar to those during drilling (e.g., sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and mercury) could also occur due to venting during the well-capping process.
  • Waste GenerationSolid and industrial wastes would be similar to those resulting from the construction phase. Potentially hazardous wastes in evaporation ponds would need to be properly removed and transported to licensed off-site locations for disposal.
  • Water Needs — Water would be needed for dust suppression, firefighting, and potable supply for the workforce.
  • Workforce — Reclamation activities would require approximately one-half to two-thirds of the construction workforce, for a period lasting about half as long as construction, and would require specialty crews for some activities (such as well abandonment).
  • Time — Decommissioning and site reclamation would take up to a few years (about half as long as the construction period), depending on the size of the geothermal development.