Paradox's Blog is a hub for thought leadership in the areas of construction, engineering, project management, leadership, and business in the civil construction and geotechnical engineering industries.
Market Outlook - Alberta's Energy Sector & Geothermal Energy
23 June 2021
As Alberta continues to seek out innovative clean energy alternatives, geothermal energy is quickly making a name for itself as an integral component of the future of Alberta’s energy sector. Alongside geothermal energy, hydrogen energy is also breaking out as one of the top contenders. Many countries including Canada have promised an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) ban by 2040; thus, natural gas will no longer drive our engines. For Alberta to remain one of the worlds leading energy sectors it is imperative we look to environmentally sustainable alternatives, specifically, geothermal and hydrogen alternatives.
figure 1: planned internal combustion engine bans for various countries.
source: icct (international council on clean transportation)
What is Geothermal Energy?
Geothermal energy is harnessed from below the Earth's surface, it is generally in the form of hot water held within rocks and caverns. Think of the hot springs in Banff, in essence this is geothermal energy that has made its way to the surface naturally. Accessing this form of sub-surface energy requires wells that dig deep below the earths crust. These wells access water and steam and can be used to drive turbines connected to electricity generators or can act as large radiators to heat homes and other infrastructures.
Geothermal energy is considered a renewable resource because it requires only the high temperatures of resources below the surface. Hot water from underground is pumped back into the ground once the steam is used to either heat a secondary fluid (a binary process) or used directly to create electrical energy.
Geothermal energy does not come without its drawbacks - there is the potential for mini tremors in the drilling area, and a high initial cost to implement. However, technology continues to evolve and lessen the risks associated with harvesting water from below the Earth's surface.
The Future of Geothermal Energy
The advances in geothermal energy are most evident by looking at companies such as: Eavor and FutEra. Eavor, a Calgary-based company has created a closed loop geothermal system which does not use a fracking process (blasting with a high pressure water solution) or require resources from below the surface, and poses no earthquake risk. The closed loop geothermal system, otherwise referred to as the Eavor Loop acts similar to a radiator and has begun to receive backing from some major players in the oil and gas industry such as: British Petroleum (BP) and Chevron.
figure 2: the Eavor loop design
Furthermore, construction has been scheduled to commence on a geothermal project being handled by FutEra, a subsidiary of Razor which is a publicly traded corporation based out of Alberta. The intent is to produce greener energy that is sustainable and renewable for generations to come. The total project cost is 37 million dollars, and will commence in Swan Hills, AB.
figure 3: FutEra plant blueprint
What can Alberta Contribute?
Drilling wells deep enough to access the Earth’s sub-surface resources requires a work-force well versed in drilling. Alberta, one of the world’s most well known oil suppliers has already proven their skill set in drilling and ability to manage an energy sector; thereby, making Alberta a strong candidate in the green energy sector. With many drill sites already established geothermal companies can save initial start up costs and use pre-existing infrastructure.
source: THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES - Jeff McIntosh
Oil and gas has been Alberta’s primary economic driver for decades; however, the price per barrel continues to be highly volatile and subject to scrutiny over its environmental impact. It is becoming necessary that Alberta continues to explore alternatives such as: geothermal and hydrogen energy.
Alberta is a prime location for the aforementioned alternatives as our energy sector is well established and our workforce already possesses the technical skills used in drilling. In the last five years alternative green energy projects have gained backing and investment from some of the largest oil and gas corporations, which affirms the notion that these alternatives are the way of the future. Paradox recognizes innovation in our energy sector and is constantly pushing to improve our environmental impact.
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