Alberta is taking a deep dive to attract new investment in geothermal energy as it continues to build out and diversify the province’s energy sector.
Using emerging made-in-Alberta technology and decades of drilling expertise, the government is taking steps to create the conditions for industry to safely and successfully harness clean energy from the earth.
The government is set to have discussions this fall with key groups and introduce legislation to create greater policy and regulatory certainty for investors and Albertans.
Several Alberta companies are in the midst of pilot projects aimed at proving the commercial power generation viability of geothermal technology in the province. A strong geothermal sector has the potential to create jobs and economic opportunity for Indigenous and rural remote communities, while lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
“Opportunities like this are rooted in Alberta’s extensive experience in oil and gas drilling. The ability to diversify Alberta’s economy and build a geothermal sector is enabled by the vast geological and technical expertise of our energy industry. To succeed and achieve this potential, we must provide a stable and predictable regulatory environment. We see an enormous opportunity for geothermal energy to power homes, businesses and remote communities and we are taking steps to unlock that full potential.”Sonya Savage, Minister of Energy
Existing oil and gas wells can assist in the extraction of geothermal energy. The ability to reuse this existing infrastructure could facilitate investment while limiting additional land impacts.
By implementing a geothermal policy, the government will provide industry with clarity on rules and processes, establish an approach to land use and liability management, and protect landowners and mineral rights owners.
“The Government of Alberta’s support for the geothermal industry through the introduction of regulations and policies will create new opportunities for the energy sector, while also allowing Alberta to integrate renewable resources into the existing energy industry. CanGEA believes that Alberta has tremendous accessible geothermal resources suitable for district heating and other space heating opportunities spread throughout the province. Some locations can also support electricity projects. CanGEA applauds the Alberta government’s leadership in developing regulations and policies that will allow industry to deliver social, economic, and environmental results to Albertans and all of Canada.”Alison Thompson, chair, Canadian Geothermal Energy Association
“Diversifying and strengthening Alberta’s energy sector is required to create new economic opportunities while building the energy system of the future. Geothermal is the perfect example of one such bridging opportunity, because it draws on the skills of our people, the potential within the earth, and the aspirations of a low- carbon emissions future. The Energy Futures Lab has been accelerating geothermal development in Western Canada for the past five years and we are excited to see this support.”Juli Rohl, animator, Energy Futures Lab
“Eavor is proud to be a part of Alberta’s economic recovery strategy, as well as to help put people back to work in the drilling and energy services sector. It’s exciting and satisfying to know that innovations that were designed for the more traditional energy sectors have found a home in a green and clean solution like Eavor-Loop™. It’s a wonderful ‘swords into plowshares’ story for Eavor and us all.”Bailey Schwarz, lead engineer, Eavor Technologies Inc.
“Canadians have been at the forefront of geothermal development since the early 1970s. From sending drilling crews to far-flung places such as Japan, to exploring in South America, investing in Iceland, to participating in reservoir modelling in Italy, these are but a few things that Canadian geothermal experts have been doing. As a born-in-Alberta geothermal professional who has recently come back to Alberta after advancing projects across the globe, I am heartened by the foresight of the Alberta government to embrace this base load, long-lived, sustainable power source. An asset to be developed, whose time has come within the context of the green energy transformation. Congratulations to the Government of Alberta.”Dr. Catherine Hickson, vice-president, Geothermal Canada, and CEO, Alberta No. 1
“Geothermal presents a real opportunity for Alberta’s leading drillers to get back to work on a new business line. The CAODC is pleased to work with the Government of Alberta and other stakeholders on advancing this important energy initiative. Geothermal energy development requires the exact same equipment, workers and expertise we use in oil and gas drilling, and we look forward to finding ways to collaborate. Geothermal energy represents but another strong example of how the Canadian drilling industry is actively working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”Mark Scholz, president and CEO, Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors
Interest in geothermal energy development has increased because of several factors, including: improved available data; advances in technology; and the ability to complement other industrial and commercial processes, such as agriculture and forestry.
- Geothermal energy is the natural heat that originates from the Earth. It can be used for heating and cooling or to generate clean electricity.
- Currently, Alberta assesses geothermal project applications on a case-by-case basis. Given the increased interest in geothermal development, establishing a dedicated geothermal framework will enhance efficiency and clarity.
- Research from the University of Alberta has identified potential to develop this resource on a commercial scale with more than 6,100 megawatts of thermal power capacity potential and more than 1,150 megawatts of technically recoverable electrical power capacity potential across several municipal districts in western Alberta.
- Alberta has a number of advantages to develop geothermal energy, including:
- a natural geological advantage
- the opportunity to repurpose inactive oil and gas wells, well sites and infrastructure
- leadership in drilling technology
- extensive oil and gas expertise, as well as a well-established service sector
- A number of companies are conducting pilot projects in Alberta, such as:
- Eavor-Lite demonstration project near Rocky Mountain House
- Razor Energy’s oil-geothermal co-production project near Swan Hills
- Alberta No. 1, which is exploring the geothermal potential near Grande Prairie