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Going green: Geothermal innovation in Alberta creating buzz

Click to play video: 'Going green: Geothermal innovation in Alberta creating buzz' Going green: Geothermal innovation in Alberta creating buzz
A piece of technology created in Alberta is pushing the boundaries of energy. Morgan Black explores the story of an exciting piece of innovation: a closed-loop geothermal system that is catching the attention of some big oil and gas giants. – Mar 30, 2021

A piece of technology created in Alberta is pushing the boundaries of geothermal energy and drawing international attention.

The Calgary-based company Eavor Technologies has created a closed-loop geothermal system that touts itself as the world’s first scalable clean energy derived from the natural heat of the earth.

“It’s a new type of geothermal, this closed-loop. It’s on-demand,” explained the company’s chief technology officer Matt Toews. “That’s been a challenge with [other clean energy like] wind and solar.”

Read more: Geothermal test success has Albertans excited for the future of the energy source

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The system is described as similar to a massive subsurface radiator, much like how a vehicle radiator circulates fluid in a closed-loop to remove heat from a gasoline engine. It does not use fracking or water and has no earthquake risk. The “loop” is a closed network of pipes that are installed below ground and cycle through a facility above it.

Eavor deploys the technology around the world but the technical team is based in Calgary. There is an operational project near Sylvan Lake, west of Red Deer.

Read more: Alberta intends to clear hurdles for development of clean geothermal energy

Toews is a former petroleum engineer. He said the skillset required to dig into geothermal energy is one many Albertans already have.

“We are one of the best in the world where you can find high-end drilling expertise and geological expertise and process engineering,” he said.

“Those are all the inputs into what we do. Instead of putting that into oil and gas, we are putting it into a clean energy source.”

In its fledgling stage, Eavor quickly caught the eye of Alberta Innovates, which looks to partner with researchers, small companies and large industry to develop within the province.

Read more: Innovation in Alberta: tech helps cancer, stroke patients re-learn how to swallow

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“Alberta Innovates is the research and innovation arm within Alberta,” explained Maureen Kolla, acting executive director for clean technology at AI.

“We want to help develop solutions that can help meet the challenges we face in Alberta, like diversifying the economy or meeting an environmental target.”

Alberta Innovates provided $1 million in funding to the $13-million project near Sylvan Lake, Toews said. He described the company as a “critical piece of funding” when the Eavor was first getting off the ground.

Read more: Alberta government introduces legislation to promote geothermal energy development

“It’s a bit of a snowball effect. You need someone to take the first step. It’s great to have a company like Alberta Innovates that is ready to be there,” Toews said.

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In February, the energy firm closed on a financing round where it raised US$40 million with lead investors that included major oil companies BP and Chevron.

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“That felt like a big validating moment from what we’ve been up to the last several years,” Toews said.

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