The U.S. Department of Energy is soliciting new bids for the Deep Borehole Field Test:
The U.S. Department of Energy, Idaho Operations Office (DOE-ID) requests proposals for a Deep Borehole Field Test. The project’s objectives are to test the feasibility of characterizing and engineering deep boreholes; confirm the viability of geologic controls over waste stability in a deep geological environment; obtain data on the geological, hydrological, geochemical, and geomechanical characteristics of the deep borehole environment that can be used to inform DOE on future decisions; and to test safety and practicality of engineering deep boreholes and borehole sealing concepts. All work to be accomplished under any contract resulting from this solicitation will be performed without the use of any radioactive waste [U.S. Department of Energy, Solicitation #DE-SOL-0010181, “RFP for Deep Borehole Field Test: Characterization Borehole Investigations,” synopsis, updated 2016.08.22].
This is the second go-round for the Borehole project, following the failure of DOE and its first contractor, Battelle of Ohio, to secure local approval for proposed test sites in Pierce County, North Dakota, and Spink County, South Dakota. DOE and Battelle dropped their contract in July; DOE appears to have posted the solicitation notice on August 5. DOE will hold a Pre-Proposal Conference in Las Vegas September 13 at the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino. New bids are due October 21. DOE plans to award contracts around January 16, 2017.
Like the first Borehole RFP, this pre-solicitation notice says that “No radioactive waste will be used in these tests.” The parameters of the project appear the same: one 8.5-inch-wide hole drilled 5,000 meters down to characterize the rock, then possibly a full-size 17-inch borehole to test “emplacement activities using surrogate waste canisters.” The bidder must also identify a specific site that meets the following criteria:
- Crystalline basement rock 2,000 meters or less from the surface.
- Site large enough to accommodate two drilling operations at least 200 meters apart, along with room for heavy equipment to move around, plus on-site labs.
- Site outside wetlands and 100-year flood zones.
- Absence of ground water recharge at depth.
- Low geothermal heat flux (Tripp County is out)
- Tectonic stability and no recent (i.e., last 2.6 million years) volcanoes or faulting within 10 kilometers.
DOE expects the winning contractor to be able to drill the first 5,000-meter hole in seven months with deviation from vertical no more than 100m at the bottom (that’s less than 1.15°).
DOE also expects the contractor to do lots of public outreach:
Public Outreach: The Contractor will be responsible for commencing public outreach and continuing public outreach during all contract phases. The term “public” includes federal, state and local governments; affected tribes; citizens; tribal members; citizen groups; tribal groups; and other interested stakeholders. Public outreach involves providing information and education about the project necessary to obtain public support for the project. The process must be open and transparent. Because public support is necessary for successful project completion, public outreach is a critical aspect of contract performance[DOE Pre-Solicitation Notice for “RFP for Deep Borehole Field Test: Characterization,” RFP #DE-SOL-0010181, issued 2016.08.05].
The contractor has to have a “Public Outreach Liaison” living near the Borehole site throughout the project. The contractor must also mitigate damages and provide” constructive benefits” to the community, like STEM education programs for local schools.
DOE is dividing the project into five phases:
- Commencement of public outreach, team kickoff meeting, and securing site.
- Completion of all regulatory approvals (federal, tribal, state, and local).
- Preparation of final drilling and test plan.
- Drilling and testing.
- Site management and maintenance.
DOE appears to intend to issue contracts to multiple bidders and authorize them to continue work phase by phase. DOE will weed contractors out after Phase 2 based on “degree of public acceptance of the project” along with geological quality of the site and the contractor’s technical, regulatory, and financial performance. DOE will “down select” contractors again after Phase 3, to the single contractor with the most viable drilling and testing plan.
Will the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology call up Parsons Brinckerhoff and try bidding for the Borehole again? Keep an eye out for Mines profs (and maybe President Heather Wilson and the Governor) Tweeting from Vegas on September 13!