SR geothermal company booms on alternative energy optimism

  • 10/7/2007:E1: ThermaSource workers Julio Barajas, left, and Josh Taylor add a section of drilling pipe on a rig in The Geysers near Cobb in Lake County.

    PC: ThermaSource workers Julio Barajas, left, and Josh Taylor, right, add a section of drilling pipe on a drilling rig in the geysers near Cobb in Lake County owned and operated by ThermaSource. Scott Manchester / The Press Democrat

Flush with an infusion of money from investors, a Santa Rosa geothermal company is rapidly expanding as energy companies search for steam to fuel new power plants in response to high oil and natural gas prices.

ThermaSource, which specializes in finding seams of steam deep underground, has doubled the size of its drilling operations in just three months. The company now has eight drilling rigs, a ninth is on the way, and two more purchases are in the works.

During the same period, the company added 30 engineers, supervisors and rig hands. ThermaSource expects to boost total employment from 230 now to more than 420 by the end of the year.

"We're very busy. More new projects are coming available," said Louis Capuano, ThermaSource's chief executive. "We see opportunities out there. We may expand even more."

This summer, the company established ThermaSource Cementing. The sister business pours cement casings, which stabilize the steam wells, enabling ThermaSource to better control an important part of the drilling process.

ThermaSource already owns an exploration company and an outfit specializing in geothermal drilling fluids.

"We're trying to be a one-stop shop for geothermal development," Capuano said.

To finance its growth, ThermaSource has raised $93 million from equity firms over the past two years. On Wednesday, the company announced it had completed a $41.5 million funding round first disclosed last May.

Founded in 1980, ThermaSource operated leased rigs for most of its history. It had just four employees less than three years ago.

Since then, due to of soaring oil and natural gas prices, geothermal has become a more cost-effective fuel source for generating electricity.

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