Western Canada’s long history in oil and gas has set the region up for success in renewable energy — particularly geothermal energy. Home to the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin and a long list of existing assets and skilled workers, the region is well-positioned to become a future leader in the geothermal space.
Dr. Nicholas Harris is a geologist and a professor with the Faculty of Science, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta.
“Most large-scale geothermal development to produce electricity has focused on places where there are active volcanos, such as Iceland and the Philippines,” he says. “In the United States, the Geysers field in California has been the largest source of geothermal power.
“Over the last four or five years, the geothermal space has really evolved in Canada. The downturn in oil and gas prices prompted geoscientists to look more closely at geothermal for additional revenue streams.”
Northwest of Edmonton, FutEra Power is constructing its South Swan Hills geothermal and natural gas co-production power generation facility. The facility is aiming to be online and producing up to 21MW of power to the local grid by the end of third quarter 2022. FutEra Power is a wholly owned subsidiary of Razor Energy, which is a publicly traded junior oil and gas development and production company based in Calgary.
Lisa Mueller is president and CEO of FutEra Power and a mechanical engineer. She describes its South Swan Hills hybrid power project as “the first in Canada” and “technology born from an existing industry.” Mueller believes that the space “can’t stay stagnant” and developments like South Swan Hills serve to drive Canada’s energy security.
The benefits of geothermal and natural gas co-production power generation include reusing existing assets — such as wells, pipelines and infrastructure — while limiting the overall footprint. For comparison, Mueller notes that geothermal has a smaller footprint than other green energy sources such as solar or wind energy.
Taking a practical approach, FutEra Power aims to be a leader in Canada’s transition energy space and to meet growing demand for low-to-no carbon energy solutions. As well, an expanding geothermal space means more job opportunities for geologists and other highly qualified personnel in Canada’s oil and gas industry.
“I think that the development of small-scale projects in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia may provide a roadmap for geothermal innovations in the future,” Harris says. “There is also potential for geothermal electrical power networks in more isolated Northern Canadian communities that could displace the expensive diesel fuel that is now used to generate electricity.”
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