Penney Kome, Alberta Views. June 21, 2016.
My favourite garage sale find is a small folk-art sculpture. Bars of beaten copper clasp to form a shimmering triangular tower topped by a pumpjack arm—a tabletop oil derrick. Turn the key on the pumpjack’s wheel and a music box plays “The Impossible Dream.” The pumpjack arm goes up and down but never quite pulls the load from the well.
A lot of Albertans now feel similarly stuck. Our province has a new government and a new climate plan that proposes to change everything, especially for the energy sector. We’re phasing out coal and putting a higher price on carbon. New environmental regulations loom for the energy industry. Oil prices are down sharply as global competitors flood the market. Unemployment is up and corporate revenues are down. Everyone says we must diversify, but no one knows how. A lot of capital is tied up in idle rigs and abandoned wells.
Alberta, however, has the resources, the know-how and the interested parties to create a new energy specialty: geothermal. “To me, this is an exciting opportunity,” says Craig Dunn, the president of Calgary-based Borealis GeoPower. As a geologist, he knows that oilfield wellheads often erupt with brine, oil, gas—and steam. To him that means “Albertans have direct access to the earth’s heat.” What oil companies have long seen as a hazardous nuisance, Dunn’s company sees as a renewable resource that can be turned into a commodity. Already, engineers are retooling oilfield equipment to drill for heat. Even abandoned oil wells can be repurposed for geothermal energy.
Our province also has technical advantages we could sell to the world. Iceland may heat 85 per cent of its buildings with direct geothermal heat, but “they’ve just drilled their first horizontal well,” says Dunn’s colleague Alison Thompson, president of CanGEA, the Canadian Geothermal Association. “We’ve been doing it for years.” Alberta has plenty of drilling rigs on hand, she adds, but “Germany had to build their own.” Another surprising opportunity lies in existing provincial oil well maps, which could reduce geothermal’s exploration expenses, usually one-third of costs.
For the full article, please visit: https://albertaviews.ab.ca/2016/06/21/hot-treasure/