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GRC Transactions, Vol. 34, 2010

Development of a Large Low Enthalpy Aquifer in Ensenada, Mexico

Salvador Espndola1 and Hctor Gutirrez P.2
Energias Alternas, Estudios y Proyectos, ENAL, Mxico
Comisin Federal de Electricidad, Mxico

Keywords umes for this region. Under this scheme, sea water desalination
Low enthalpy, saline intrusion, geothermal generation and renewable energies are an interesting option to take advantage
of the abundant thermal springs in Baja California. Particularly,
the Maneadero Valley area, La Joya, Ejido Uruapan and their
ABSTRACT surroundings which are rich on this natural resource which one
associated all to the main Agua Blanca regional fault.
A large shallow, low enthalpy reservoir has been identified After several field investigations to analyze the geology of
at the Valley of Maneadero, near Ensenada, Mexico. More than the zone, Arango, et al. (2007), numerous thermal springs along
98C has been measured at the beach of La Joya during low tide, the seashore were found. Water and rock samples were taken,
proving that very hot water is flowing out from the nearby moun- establishing La Joya as an ideal place to extract this resource
tains. A series of exploration studies has been conducted in order and offer a sustainable solution for water supply and electricity
to assess and evaluate this geothermal resource. Geochemistry of generation.
the water indicates temperatures near the 200C. Also very high The objective of the survey in La Joya zone was to locate
water temperature coming from the irrigation wells in the valley the high potential points in order to drill observation wells that
has been recorded. In this paper a summary of the geophysical could help characterize this zone, explore deeper aquifers and
techniques used is presented and discussed in this particular case assess with more detail geothermal potential for the design of the
where the reservoirs is immersed in saline water that intrudes supply chain for the desalination plant.
from the sea. Also a complete discussion is presented to optimum
sizing of the generating plant. Project Location
Introduction La Joya is located in the northwest zone of Baja California,
Mexico. At the southwest zone of Ensenada. UTM 520 000 560
For many decades, the main water supply source in the Mexi- 000 and 3 490 000 3 530, Figure 1.
can northwest has been the Colorado River
and some wells that extract the under-
ground water from the regions aquifers.
However, due to the accelerated demo-
graphic and touristic proliferation in the
zone, there has been a raise in the demand
of this resource; the same that has been
supplied by extracting a greater volume
from the aquifers, no matter the imminent
damage that has been created. This is the
case of the Maneadero aquifer, dedicated
to agriculture irrigation and located at the
south of the touristic city of Ensenada.
Therefore, it is important to explore
new sustainable and cheaper supply Figure 1. Project Location, Geological setting of Punta Banda Peninsula and Maneadero valley (Modified
sources to provide the needed water vol- from Prez-Flores et al. 2004).

Espndola and Gutirrez

The study area is located in a tectonic basin associated with a we expect to gather very useful information from this first 150m
structural system of faults oriented NW-SE called Agua Blanca, well, , also a geo-hydraulic survey (pump well tests) is planned,
in the Punta Banda peninsula. in order to characterized the reservoir with the existing wells
shallow wells (20-40m depth).
Thermal Manifestations
Different exploration methods have been applied in La Joya
zone with the purpose of determining the best exploitation strategy A lot of superficial thermal manifestations were located in La
to extract hot water for electricity generation by indirect geother- Joya zone. An intensive campaign was conducted to determinate
mal cycles. Present, only the next activities have been completed the locations of the most favorable thermal manifestations, to
(thermal, manifestation survey, fluid sampling, geological and locate and measure the existing hot water wells and to get fluid
geophysical basic exploration). With the exploration stage results, samples from the different sites explored. Figure 2 shows, shallow
a shallow well (150m depth design) location has been proposed, wells that were drilled along the coast (1 meter depth) covering
the superficial hot water manifestation
zone, the location (coordinates), tempera-
ture and total dissolved solids are shown
in Table 1.
Its important to underline that high
temperatures (98C) were found in the
beach, and the total dissolve solids from
these samples were in an average of 4,000
parts per million, which compared with
the sea water TDS (35,000), it is an index
that this water is not marine heated water,
as it was assumed at the beginning of the
Also during field exploration 3 wells
were visited in different locations of La
Figure 2. Location of manual drilled wells in La Joya zone. Joya zone, all of them with high tempera-
ture records at shallows depths, 82C at
Table 1. Temperature, depth, TDS and locations from drilled wells. 18 meters depth, the 2nd had 50C at 30
Dissolved meters depth, and the last one was a craft well with 56C at 3
Section AA Depth Solids meters depth.
Point Coordinates T (C) H (m) PPT From this first exploration campaign, temperatures up to 98C
AA1 31 43 09.72N 116 39 42.97W 64 0.72 5.9 were found at less than one meter depth (Figure 3). This become
AA2 31 43 09.36N 116 39 42.93W 90.5 0.6 3.8
the pilot site that allowed the construction of the survey which
AA3 31 43 09.30N 116 39 42.89W 92 0.5 4.6
eventually lead to the opportunity to drill a deeper well (150m)
AA4 31 43 09.10N 116 39 42.97W 92.5 0.51 2.3
AA5 3 10 30.33N 116 42 42.44W 84.3 0.53 3.8
that could provide hot water to a indirect geothermal cycle or to
AA6 31 43 8.52N 116 39 42.97W 50.8 10.53 4.1 desalinate water.
AA7 31 43 8.75N 116 39 42.74W 29.7 0.46 7 It is important to highlight that in this region electrical rates
AA8 31 43 8.58N 116 39 42.78W 22.9 0.36 6.3 goes up to 19 USc/kWh in summer time. The water network in-
Section BB Depth Solids
Point Coordinates T (C) H (m) PPT
BB1 31 43 9.23N 116 39 42.93W 94.1 0.84 4.2
BB2 31 43 9.17N 116 39 43.27W 98.3 0.77 4.4
BB3 31 43 9.07N 116 39 43.58W 86.3 0.63 5
BB4 31 43 9.01N 116 39 44.03W 82 0.62 5.2
BB5 31 43 8.88N 116 39 44.38W 83.4 0.63 6.6
BB6 31 43 8.91N 116 39 44.76W 30 0.64 6.7
BB7 31 43 8.69N 116 39 45.06W 67.2 0.62 3.5
BB8 31 43 8.53N 116 39 45.40W 49.5 0.65 3.8
BB9 31 43 8.59N 116 39 45.78W 54.5 0.74 5.2
BB10 31 43 8.56N 116 39 46.09W 55 0.64 3.7
BB11 31 43 8.30N 116 39 46.58W 61 0.64 4.7
BB12 31 43 08.33N 116 39 46.96W 57 0.62 4.3
BB13 31 43 08.34N 116 39 47.26W 35.8 0.6 4.7
BB14 31 43 09.49N 116 39 42.44W 72 0.63 3.7
BB15 31 43 09.65N 116 39 42.13W 25 0.5 10.3 Figure 3. Temperature registered in La Joya beach.

Espndola and Gutirrez

frastructure in this zone is not available, so pipe truks transports generation) plant (Alcocer, et al. 2008). We are proposing the elec-
water to the zone, selling it up to 4 US$/m3. So a possible shallow trical energy generation by heat transference from a geothermal
low enthalpy geothermal system that could provide cheap energy source into a working compressed liquid (water).
for self-consumption or to provide energy to a desalination system The binary geothermal generation technology that is installed
that supplies fresh water would be an attractive project for hotel in many parts of the world with organic fluids which are basically
an touristic developers in La Joya. preheated and evaporated through heat exchangers (shell and
tube system) is already well known. The main difference of this
Gravimetric and TDM Survey proposal with respect to a traditional binary cycle is the elimina-
tion of the heat exchange evaporator. Instead using a flash system
As part of the exploration studies conducted to evaluate the so that the fluid vaporization is done by the pressure lowering.
geothermal potential interest area, gravimetric survey were taken This will allow the preheating of the working fluid which will
along several profiles in perpendicular direction to the guideline of allow the use of a heat plate exchanger that is easier to maintain
the fault zone. The aim of this study was to delineate the structure and operate. Also, the turbine proposed for the PWG is a high
housing of the thermal manifestations, also to meet the objectives speed turbine with a reduced diameter but faster revolutions. This
of the project in terms of characterizing the distribution of electri- proposal meets these objectives, having the main goal of generat-
cal conductivity of the subsoil structures, a study was conducted ing electricity in a more efficient, sustainable and economically
using transient domain electromagnetic TDM.The field distribu- competitive way.
tion in where the TDM were located corresponds to the interest On this design the secondary fluid is water at high pressure.
area covered by the gravity profile.The exploration objectives Fist the working pressurized fluid is pre heated in the heat plate
were to evaluate the geothermal potential of the interest area. exchanger, then it is flashed into a separation tank and the steam
With the structural integration and geo-electrical informa- runs the high speed turbine. Finally the exhausted steam from the
tion obtained of the studied area, a three-dimensional Schematic turbine is condensed and mixed with the hot water that did not
model was built to explain the possible prevailing geological and flash in the tank, the mixture is pressurized and the cycle starts
resistivity conditions, (Figure 4). again (Figure 5).
The conventional systems of binary generation use great
chambers for heat exchange to preheat the working liquids, which
are generally organic fluids such as isopentane and isobutane and
other heat exchangers to vaporize the fluid and activate the turbine.
Constants stops are required for service and maintenance of the
shell and tube heat exchangers.
The proposal consists of the installation of plate type heat
exchanger that will improve the heat transfer, takes less space
and are easy maintenance. The proposed cycle will be water-to-
water (pressurized) generating steam by a pressure decrease. The
turbine design will be small diameter (10 to 20 cm diameter) and
high velocity (30,000 rpm) integrating the most advance turbine
The PWG system could generate energy at prices of 8 to 10
Figure 4. Possible conceptual model of the zone. USc/kWh, strongly depending on the installation equipments cost,
well drilling and operation and maintenance costs.

Generation Techniques
As a result of this work, and in order
to exploit the research site La Joya a hot
water beach well site has been selected
and programmed to be drilled. The prelim-
inary studies show that high temperatures
are feasible to reach in the test site, if we
decide to exploit this resource:
The following project proposes the
use of the hot geothermal water located
in abundance in the Baja California Pen-
insula (La Joya), as part of distributed
generation for small plants that in many
cases wound not be connected to the grid.
The main idea of this project is to generate
electricity with the PWG (Pressure water Figure 5. PWG Flow Diagram.

Espndola and Gutirrez

The PWG laboratory prototype is under construction, and Joya, is the product of the deep circulation of fluids from
its power capacity will be 14 electrical kW generated from the the Agua Blanca fault system.
experimental La Joya well (1st stage), the basic data from the High temperatures up to 98C at 1m depth has been recorded
system is presented in (Table 2): in several intensive surveys in La Joya zone,
Table 2. System power output. Based on the exploration data a drill test site has been se-
lected (150m depth) in order to extract hot water to produce
Laboratory Flow Rate Inlet Temp Outlet Temp energy with an innovating indirect pilot cycle (PWG).
Model Data [kg/s] [C] [C]
Geothermal Well 1.4 140 106 An innovating generation system (PGW) is proposed as a
Cycle working fluid 1 96 136 pilot plant for the test site in La Joya.
Cooling Fluid 1.5 27 49
Power Output 14 kW
Alcocer, S. M. and Hiriart L. G. (2008). An Applied Research Program on
Final Remarks Water Desalination with Renewable Energies. American Journal of
Environmental Sciences. 4 (3): 190-197. 2008.
Intensive use of the cost line geothermal resources in Baja
Prez-Flores, M., Surez-Vidal, F., Gallardo-Delgado, L.A., Gonzlez-
California is one of the big challenges in Mexico, helping Fernndez, A. and Vzquez, R. [2004] Structural pattern of the Todos
to solve the power and fresh water scarcity on this region of Santos Coastal Plain, based on geophysical data. Ciencias Marinas
the county. It is located in a very arid zone but with abundant 30(2), 349-364.
natural resources like solar, wind and geothermal as well. Arango-Galvn, C., Flores-Mrquez, E.L., Prol-Ledesma, R.M., (2007).
Considering the geological, geophysical interpretation Geoelectrical image of Punta Banda (Baja California) using CSAMT
and ERT data. Proceedings 13th European Meeting of Environmental
and geochemical data available from the hot springs of the and Engineering Geophysics of the Near Surface Geoscience Division
region, it is concluded that the geothermal system of La of EAGE (Istanbul, Turkey). 5 pp.