Upcoming Division Talk
Alberta No. 1: A conventional deep geothermal project in NW Alberta
Speaker: Catherine Hickson | President, Geothermal Canada
Location: geoLOGIC systems room, +15 level Aquitaine Tower, 540-5 avenue SW, Calgary
February 20, 2020 | 12:00noon
Canada has significant untapped geothermal resources. These resources have been long overshadowed by Canada’s abundance of hydro power, gas and coal. Despite interest in geothermal in the mid 1970s and again in the mid to late 2000’s no power projects have been successfully completed and are still running. Canada does have an enviable record of installation of heat pump technology (geoexchange systems), but falls far short in terms of utilization of its subsurface heat resources. The availability of cheap hydro, gas and coal fired electricity has put geothermal on the back burner, but now, with growing emphasis on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability, the focus is shifting. If Canada wishes to reduce its GHG’s the most important change it can make is to switch to geothermal energy for space heating and industrial processes (drying, agriculture, pre-heating, etc.). Because of Canada’s cold climate over 55% of our energy budget goes to space heating. In jurisdictions still heavily dependent on coal generation, replacement of heating with a geothermal resource can both increase sustainability as well as reduce GHG’s. Where hydrocarbons are being used, we should be thinking about ensuring they are treated as a precious resource that should be reserved for petrochemicals, high energy density fuels and foreign trade, rather than low efficiency space heating.
A challenge for geothermal explorers and developers is the low quality of most of the Canadian resources. Power generation is only possible in limited areas, even with advancement in low temperature generation technologies. For example, to generate 8MWe gross power with 120°C, requires moving 300lt/s of water. Even in the oil patch this is a lot of water and challenges conventional practices. Also, geothermal resources are dynamically pumped whereas PNG extraction is more passive in terms of reservoir management. The good thing is that the resources are deep in the basin where there is little oil and gas; geothermal extraction should have no impact on existing PNG extraction. Additionally, these low temperature resources are excellent for space and industrial heating applications. With a significant Delta T advantage (due to our cold climate), lower flow rates and lower temperatures constitute a valuable resource where there is a close-to-source load.
The federal government has recently funded two geothermal power projects. One in Saskatchewan and Alberta No. 1, 40 km south of Grand Prairie. We hope that these projects will be just the beginning of a burgeoning sector supplying heat and power to Canadians.
Dr. Catherine Hickson, a geothermal consultant and President of Geothermal Canada, is based in Vancouver. She has been working in geothermal since 1981; not quite as long as Geothermal Canada has been around. It was founded in 1974 to support the growing geothermal community based in Canada. As a student she logged temperature gradient wells with the GSC, then spent 25 years as a research scientist before segueing into private sector geothermal development with Magma Energy Corp (now owned by Innergex). With projects globally, she is also Chief Geologist with the Alberta start-up, Terrapin Geothermics. Terrapin recently secured $25.4M in project development funds from NRCan’s Emerging Renewable Energy Program, for its Alberta #1 project south of Grand Prairie.