Paul J. Lechler
Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology
Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering
Photo by Crista Hecht
Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology (NBMG) Chief Geochemist Paul Lechler surveys geothermal systems in the Great Basin area and applies his expertise in geochemistry in an effort to expand geothermal energy in Nevada.
Lechler first came to the NBMG at the University of Nevada, Reno in 1983 to run the analytical labs. Lechler conducts his work both in the lab and in the field where geothermal systems are located. Using a soil probe, he probes into the underground geothermal systems and takes samples of gasses. He then identifies the individual gasses in the sample. By comparing the gas samples from different systems, Lechler compares and contrasts the geothermal systems.
“I’m interested in what gasses are coming off those systems and the similarities and differences between the systems,” he said. “We don’t really know too much about similarities and differences but we need to know that if we’re going to use geothermal gasses for exploration.”
Lechler said he and his colleagues recently submitted a grant proposal to the United States Department of Energy as part of a “large research effort in conjunction with Magma Energy, a geothermal energy producer.” The grant, if funded, would supply Lechler and his fellow researchers with new state-of-the-art instruments and a mobile soil gas lab. The mobile soil gas lab would allow the researchers to take samples and analyze them on the site.
“Some of the researchers will do some exploration and Magma will drill what the exploration researcher locates where they’ll then try to produce some new geothermal energy,” he said. “Energy is a big issue these days. Whatever we can produce from geothermal we don’t have to produce from fossil fuels.”
Though his research specialty is not necessarily in the realm of geothermal energy production, Lechler is eager to lend his knowledge of geochemistry to the geothermal field.
“When I think about renewable energy, I think what kind of contributions I can make,” he said. “A lot of the same techniques (of geochemical exploration) can be used to explore for geothermal systems and gasses in particular.”
Alongside Lechler’s work in geochemistry, he analyzes natural materials for different chemicals for Nevadan residents and other researchers. He is also involved with uncovering and subverting mining scams in Nevada.
“I work on scams that occur here in Nevada with Nevada agencies and federal agencies,” Lechler said. “Anytime some of these scams are propagated it hurts the mining industry in the state. So it’s something that we try to minimize.”
Though Lechler’s collaborations are fairly well established, he said being part of the new Renewable Energy Center will further enhance those collaborations within the Geothermal group and the geothermal industry.
“I expect that they’ll be a valuable resource for bringing together even a broader range of researchers and raising the awareness of the University with the renewable energy arena,” he said.