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GRC Fieldtrips

GRC Fieldtrips - Pages from the Preliminary Program (PDF)

Thursday September 28 - Sunday October 1   

3 nights in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

Wednesday & Thursday October 4-5  

Southern Utah Geology & Geothermal Power Plants


Half the world’s geysers! 10,000 thermal features! Bubbling mud pots! A restless caldera!

3 nights in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

Thursday September 28 - Sunday October 1

Cost: $900 (Before 31 August); $1,050 (From 1 September)
Trip Guides: Duncan Foley and Roy Mink

Cost includes breakfast on Thursday, Friday and Saturday; lunches everyday and dinner on Friday evening. (Dinner on own on Thursday and Saturday evening; breakfast on own on Sunday).

Accomodation is double occupancy.


Thursday, September 28

  • We leave Salt Lake City mid-morning on Thursday, to start our drive to West Yellowstone, Montana. As we drive north along highway I-15, we will point out important geologic and geothermal features along the Wasatch Fault, the Wasatch Mountain Range, and the Great Salt Lake.
  • Our first geologic stop will be south of Idaho Falls. Here we will discuss the geology of the Snake River Plain, the sequence of buried calderas that marks the plain, and have the chance to walk along improved trails through a several thousand-year-old basalt flow. We leave the interstate at Idaho Falls, and drive toward West Yellowstone.
  • We plan to stop at Mesa Falls, a scenic waterfall along the Henry’s Fork River. We will continue our discussion of calderas while we are at the waterfall, as the rocks here mark the second of three major super-volcano eruptions that compose the Yellowstone volcanic field.
  • After the falls, we will head to West Yellowstone to settle into our motel for the next two nights, and to explore restaurants in the area.

Friday and Saturday, September 29 and 30

We will spend most of Friday and Saturday exploring geothermal and geologic features of Yellowstone. Our travels will emphasize the geology and hydrothermal features that are within or immediately adjacent to the Yellowstone Caldera. At each stop, we will review the local geological and geophysical environments and introduce trip participants to important hydrothermal features. We also will discuss geochemical data and interpretations that help infer what might be happening in the subsurface. We will incorporate results from recently-published research, as well as older data, such as the results of drilling that occurred in the 1929, 1930 and the 1960s. Where appropriate, we will weave in links among geological, biological and cultural (human history) factors as part of our conversations.

Among the sites that we plan to see are:

  • Norris Geyser Basin – This geyser basin features highly dynamic thermal systems, which tap some of the deepest and hottest source waters in the park. Two major fault zones intersect at Norris, which is also where an active seismic zone intersects the caldera. We will hope to see an eruption of Steamboat Geyser, but may not, since its quiet periods in the past have been up to 50 years long between eruptions! This area also has unusual acidic waters in some of its geysers and thermal features.
  • Midway Geyser Basin – This is the site of Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, which is the largest in the park, and among the most colorful. We will travel along the boardwalk to see both Grand Prismatic and the crater left by Excelsior Geyser.
  • Upper Geyser Basin – This area is home to many of the Park’s most famous geysers. We plan to see Old Faithful, where we will discuss what is currently inferred about the subterranean plumbing of geysers, and look at potential interactions between thermal systems and human activities. We will select the exact route of our walks based on short-term forecasts for other major geysers, such as Grand, Riverside and Daisy. There will be options for short walks, as well as an option for a walk of several miles.
  • Grand Canyon of Yellowstone – The Grand Canyon provides a three-dimensional crosscut through highly altered rocks, which host hydrothermal systems. We will look at the intricate fracture networks that occur in the rocks as analogues for water circulation beneath geyser basins.
  • Mud Volcano area – This is a large zone of vapor-dominated features, such as mud pots, fumaroles and vapor-driven churning pools. We will discuss the geologic history of this area, as well as caldera unrest, while we walk the boardwalks here.
  • Mary Bay, along the north shore of Yellowstone Lake – Hydrothermal explosion craters are one of the manifestations of a highly active volcano. Mary Bay is one of the largest such craters in the world, and we will walk along its hot shoreline. We will discuss the origins of hydrothermal explosions, and what risks such explosions currently present to visitors.
  • West Thumb Geyser Basin – Home to Fishing Cone and other thermal features that protrude through the lake, West Thumb will be our last look at geysers before we head south.
  • Saturday afternoon we will conclude our day by driving to Jackson, Wyoming, where we will stay Saturday night. Our drive will take us past the Teton Range. We will stop at least once on our drive to stretch our legs and view the spectacular mountains.

Sunday, October 1

For those who are interested, we plan to offer a sunrise trip for photographing the Tetons. After returning to town for breakfast and joining with those who didn’t want to rise well before the sun, we will drive to Salt Lake City. We plan to travel back via a different route than we took northbound, which will take us through the overthrust belt. We will discuss the geology and thermal features of this fascinating, complex geological environment.

Limited seating, please register early!

Southern Utah Geology & Geothermal Power Plants

2-Day tour of the fascinating geology and geothermal sites in the south of Utah

Wednesday & Thursday October 4-5

Cost: $350 (Before 31 August); $500 (From 1 September)
Trip Guide: Rick Allis


To keep costs to an affordable level, no meals will be provided on this fieldtrip. Make sure you eat before departure on Wednesday. We will be making stops for lunch purchases. Breakfast and dinner will be available at the overnight stop in Beaver City.

Accomodation is single occupancy.

In 2005 coal-fired power was 94% of Utah’s power consumption—today it is 69%, and by 2025 it could be close to 50%. At the moment, natural gas, solar and wind power are the main growth areas. What is needed to stimulate development of the geothermal potential that exists in Utah?


Wednesday, October 4

  • We leave the Salt Palace Convention Center at 12:30pm. On the trip south, geologic features such as the Wasatch fault, paleo-Lake Bonneville shorelines, 100-million-year-old thrust faults preserved in the adjacent mountains and Quaternary basaltic volcanoes will be pointed out.
  • In addition, the route passes several peaking natural gas-fired power plants and a wind farm that have been built in the last ten years as Utah transitions from predominantly coal-fired power generation to a more diversified generation mix.
  • The first main stop is at ENEL’s - Cove Fort geothermal power plant, about three hours south of Salt Lake City. Cove Fort is an air-cooled binary plant with a gross capacity of 25 MW and net generation of about 18 MW, commissioned in 2013. The reservoir is fractured carbonate rock with a water temperature of 150°C. Production wells have submersible pumps, and recently, because of the water level in the reservoir at about 400 m depth, downhole turbines in injection wells are being tested to convert some of the kinetic energy from the downflowing injectate into power.

Thursday, October 5

  • We begin the day by visiting Cyrq Energy’s geothermal power plant at Thermo. This is a water-cooled binary plant with a capacity of 10 MW. The reservoir is predominantly carbonate rock, and the production temperature is about 150°C (300°F) at 1.5 km depth. The generation equipment was upgraded in 2013 from UTC micro-turbines to an Ormat dual turbine unit. The power is sold to the City of Anaheim, California.
  • The next stop will be at PacifiCorp’s Blundell geothermal power plant at Roosevelt Hot Springs (RHS) near Milford. The plant was originally built in 1984 as a single-stage flash plant with a 23 MW net installed capacity. In 2007 a binary plant was installed to generate 10 MW of additional power from the separated hot liquid. The typical deep production temperature today is about 245–250°C (470–480°F), although temperatures close to the original upflow temperature of 270°C still exist on the east side of the reservoir. The brine from the separators has a temperature of 175–180°C, and it exits the binary plant for the injection wells at a temperature of 104°C. The reservoir is fractured granitic rock adjacent to the Opal Mound fault. Lunch will be on the siliceous sinter mound that the fault is named after.
  • Afterwards, the nearby Utah-FORGE (Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy) site will be visited—it should have a deep well by the time of the fieldtrip. The cross section shows a vast amount of thermal energy is stored in the granite adjacent to the RHS, which would be accessible if the granite can be fractured.
  • We will also drive through the 300 MW SunEdison wind farm and overlook the Dominion-NRG’s 240 MW solar PV facility. The capacity factor of the wind and solar facilities is typically 20–25%, in contrast to Blundell’s capacity factor of about 90%.
  • The final stop will be at Magnum’s Western Energy Hub near Delta. Here, underground salt caverns are being developed to store petroleum products such as natural gas and natural gas liquids, and they may also be used for compressed air energy storage (CAES). The CAES process involves converting off-peak renewable power into compressed air that can be stored in commercial-scale solution mined caverns. This stored air becomes an energy reserve that can be released to produce electric power at any time. Currently, there are only two CAES facilities in operation worldwide: McIntosh, Alabama and Huntorf, Germany.
  • Opposite the Western Energy Hub is Utah’s largest coal-fired power plant—the Intermountain Power Project, which generates 1900 MW, most of which is sent down a DC line to southern California. However, it is scheduled to close in 2025 due to the new emission standards in California. There are plans to replace the plant with a 1200 MW natural gas power plant on the same site.
  • We return to the Salt Palace Convention Center at about 6:00pm

Limited seating, please register early!

Check back for more information in the following months.......