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Utah scientists find massive geothermal hotspot in west desert

Black Rock Desert basin south of Delta has a geothermal hot spot where power plants may thrive one day, scientists say.

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Utah Geological Survey geologist Bob Blackett in Cedar City was the first to realize that something was going on deep underground in the Black Rock Desert.

Four years ago, Blackett was looking at "bottom-hole temperatures" of oil wells that had been drilled in the state. One stood out. It was a well that had been drilled in the basin and abandoned by Arco in 1981. The oil company had reported a bottom-hole temperature of 450 degrees — far hotter than the average of around 250 degrees that is common in Utah’s western reaches.

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"It really stood out," Blackett said. "I mentioned it to Rick (Allis) and he ran with it."

Allis explained that most geothermal exploration in Utah and Nevada has traditionally focused on narrow zones along the faults of mountain ranges where hot water bubbles to the surface.

The discovery in the Black Rock Desert represents a new type of resource the could increase the potential for geothermal development throughout the West, he said.

"There are other potentially hot basins across [Utah and Nevada] that need to be investigated. "We have identified the Steptoe Valley and Mary’s River-Toano basins in northeast Nevada as obvious geothermal targets."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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