I write in response to both the “Open letter to Canadians from oil and gas workers” published recently in the Financial Post (see: https://business.financialpost.com/opinion/an-open-letter-to-canadians-from-oil-and-gas-workers) as well as the “Open letter to Oil and Gas Executives” by Zac Trolley published in Todayville on April 9 (See: https://www.todayville.com/calgary/a-response-to-an-open-letter-to-canadians-from-oil-and-gas-workers/).
At Eavor, we appreciate that everyone – not just in Alberta – but everywhere in Canada, and around the World, needs and deserves assistance given the deprivations of the current pandemic. This is especially the case with our hardworking oil & gas workers who, hardened as they are by the cyclical boom and bust nature of the oil industry, simply don’t have the means to survive a pandemic on top of an unprecedented politically driven price war. This is not business as usual that can be accommodated by hard work and good business strategy. This is an existential threat to one of Canada’s key industries, a threat to Canada itself. The authors of the open letter are correct, the times call for much less divisiveness and much more national solidarity. We’re all in this together.
That said, Zac Trolley is also correct in his reply. As essential as efforts are to provide temporary tax relief or other financial measures, is it really enough? Even using the current excess capacity in the Canadian oil service industry to address the continuing orphan well problem and associated environmental issues is only a short-term solution. Do we not all consider that our industry deserves more than just some breathing room while we hope for the next oil price bubble? Alberta, and the oil industry in general, needs a vision that builds upon the industry’s assets and skillsets, and applies these skills to something sustainable and inspiring.
Specifically, to Zac’s suggested solutions in the open letter, let’s talk Geothermal! Geothermal is the missing link in Earth’s energy mix as it’s the one solution that is both green and baseload. Without a green baseload power source, the grid will struggle to replace all the legacy coal, gas and nuclear power, with intermittent sources like wind and solar (even with better batteries than exist today). Geothermal, however, can fill this gap. More importantly, we can do this not by importing windmills, solar panels and batteries from China, but by building on the same world-leading assets and expertise that sit idle in the oil service industry today. We can lead the world simply by using this expertise to convert our old abandoned well sites to geothermal use.
All that Eavor, and other Canadian geothermal developers like Terrapin and DEEP require, is the same thing that makes geothermal attractive in places like Europe and Japan: a Feed-in-Tariff (a “FIT”). Such a FIT would recognize the true value of reliable geothermal power, but could be set far lower than international FIT’s given the lower (world-beating) drilling costs available in Canada. Even better, Eavor’s “made in Canada” solution (which is available to any Canadian developer), would facilitate rapid scaling. In particular, Eavor’s technology eliminates or vastly reduces the need for exploration uncertainties, delays and costs. It also transforms geothermal from baseload to dispatchable. This allows Eavor to work much more synergistically with wind and solar where needed.
Our calculations are that such a geothermal “Moon Shot” for Western Canada, could easily attract $4 billion in foreign investment capital, to create 400 MW of green dispatchable power, all the while employing 5,500 people for 4 years. Larger plans could employ 25,000 oil service workers for a decade or more. Such a plan would create a geothermal ecosystem in Canada that could lead the world and represent an entire new green export industry. At Eavor, we believe that is a vision worth getting excited about.