Geodynamics, the developer of Australia's first deep hot rocks energy project, aims to secure the first customers for its Cooper Basin site within six to 12 months, allowing it to develop its first commercial plant.
The company has spent more than $400 million since listing in 2002, including buying equipment and drilling. Its 1-megawatt Habanero pilot plant was commissioned on April 30 and has been operating in excess of expectations since, said chief executive Geoff Ward.
"We're delighted by how stable and reliable" the operation has been, he said.
The geothermal plant at Innamincka taps salty water heated at 210 degrees more than 4.2 kilometres below the surface, extracting the heat to generate electricity. The cooled brine is then pumped back down a separate well where it is reheated by the hot rocks, creating an energy loop.
Only two other sites now operate so-called enhanced geothermal systems, at Soulz in France and Landau in Germany.
Geodynamics will only proceed with a 5-10 megawatt commercial plant if it can secure customers.
Potential clients include Santos, which operates its own gas and oil hub at Moomba, about 70 kilometres away. Beach Energy and Chevron, meanwhile, are exploring for unconventional shale gas within 5-15 kilometres of Geodynamics's wells.
All three had representatives visit Habanero on Monday, with federal Resources and Energy Minister Gary Gray and his predecessor Martin Ferguson.
"We've had initial discussions with [the three energy companies] and they are very open to acting as our foundation customers," Mr Ward said. "We think our resource is a pretty natural fit with their long-term gas operations."
Geodynamics is yet to complete its feasibility study but the cost of developing the commercial plant is targeted to come in below $150 million.
It had more than $40 million in cash at the end of June, and is continuing its exploration of a more conventional geothermal project in the Solomon Islands. It expects to be drilling its first wells on Savo Island by the middle of next year. The plant and a sub-sea cable link to of Honiara will cost about $150 million.