Geothermal Reserve Pits: Considerations for Installation on BLM-Administered Lands

Jody Robins, Peter Gower, Hannah Pauling, Clayton McGee

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Reserve pits, also known as sumps, are a common aspect of geothermal drilling operations. This paper describes the Bureau of Land Management's regulatory authorities and key environmental considerations associated with geothermal reserve pits. Reserve pit design, the need for environmental compliance measures, and reclamation approaches will vary depending on site-specific conditions. Groundwater and wildlife impacts are the most common environmental considerations related to reserve pits. In some cases, regulations or groundwater or soil conditions necessitate the use of a synthetic liner. However, the chemical composition of most geothermal drilling fluids and muds, completion fluids, and produced fluids that are discharged to reserve pits does not warrant pit liners. The potential for hazardous fluids, high water temperatures, and entrapment are concerns for wildlife. Common wildlife impact avoidance and mitigation measures include fencing, netting, and escape ramps. The need for these measures depends on localized site and environmental conditions. There are requirements to reclaim reserve pits following geothermal drilling operations. Reserve pits often remain in place to accommodate multiple phases of drilling and well testing. They are eventually backfilled and decommissioned.

Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 2022
Event2022 Geothermal Rising Conference: Using the Earth to Save the Earth, GRC 2022 - Reno, United States
Duration: 28 Aug 202231 Aug 2022


Conference2022 Geothermal Rising Conference: Using the Earth to Save the Earth, GRC 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Geothermal Resources Council. All rights reserved.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5700-82732


  • BLM
  • drilling
  • Geothermal
  • groundwater
  • netting
  • pit liner
  • reclamation
  • regulation
  • reserve pit
  • sump
  • wildlife


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