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An Alberta company wants to revolutionize geothermal energy here and around the world

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Nov21,2023

An Alberta company wants to revolutionize geothermal energy here and in the world

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Geothermal company Eavor says its technology is applicable anywhere in the world to provide energy continuously and with very little greenhouse gas emissions.

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After attracting interest from European, American and Japanese investors, Calgary-based geothermal company Eavor received the country's first Canada Growth Fund funding. His solution seems to combine the advantages of solar and wind without the disadvantages, but the ultimate test is still in progress.

The Eavor pilot project is located at the end of a gravel road in rural Alberta about 200 km northwest of Calgary. The collection of sheds may not look like a revolution, but according to lead development engineer Chris Cheng, the magic is happening underground.

[The pilot project] has been running since December 2019, so about four years without a hitch and according to our forecasts, he says.

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Eavor's pilot project set up in 2019 aimed to prove the success of the technology.

Traditional deep geothermal energy searches for aquifers or creates this water by hydraulic stimulation in hot permeable rocks. Eavor's technology does not need any particular geology since it is based on the heat of the Earth. The Earth is hot everywhere under our feet as long as we dig deep enough, explains Chris Cheng.

Eavor compares its technology to a radiator. In this pilot project, for example, a circuit was dug 2.5 km deep. As cold water is heavier, it naturally pushes hot water towards the surface where the heat can be recovered either for heating or for electricity production.

Open in full screen mode< p class="StyledImageCaptionLegend-sc-57496c44-2 sbxsP">The pilot project is a simple closed circuit that harvests heat from rock at a depth of 2.5 km.

The closed circuit operates without addition of water or pump, which means no loss of energy.

By removing the need for a pump and geological exploration risk, we are much more bankable, more predictable and therefore easier to finance, underlines the engineer.

In the last year, money has also flowed in. The company received $135 million from the European Innovation Fund. The companies BP Ventures, Chevron, Microsoft, the Japanese Chubu Electric Power are participating in the financing of Eavor's projects.

A contract has just been signed for supply clean energy to the San Antonio military base in Texas.

In October, the company also received $90 million from the Canada Growth Fund.

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Eavor engineer Chris Cheng explains the technology to a group of potential Asian investors visiting the Eavor pilot project.

In total, half a billion dollars has been raised since the company's beginnings and founder John Redfern is convinced that this is just the beginning.

The pilot project was indeed successful in proving that the technology works as intended, but it still needs to be applied on a large scale. This is what Eavor is currently doing in Germany.

The company is drilling wells there at a depth of 4.5 km with the aim of to heat up to 20,000 homes.

[The project in Germany] is transformational. By the end of next year, we should be able to produce electricity from this site. This will be the milestone that will trigger an avalanche of money and customers.

Associate professor in the Faculty of Environment and Energy at the University of Calgary Sara Hastings-Simon is not surprised by this surge of interest in geothermal energy.

In addition to technological advances, she emphasizes that cost is less and less of a barrier for projects like those of Eavor because unlike solar and wind, the energy produced is not intermittent.

In the first phase of decarbonization, the reliability of low carbon resources is not very important because you already have other resources on your network that can bring this balance, she explains. But we are now at the point where we are thinking about the next tranche of decarbonization.

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Solar and wind are much less expensive than what Eavor offers, but their production is not continuous.

Technically, it can work, it's good technology, believes full professor at the National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS) Jasmin Raymond. Where is the unknown? I would say it's about profitability.

According to the professor, closed-circuit geothermal energy produces less energy than conventional geothermal energy. Drilling costs are higher since Eavor drills many horizontal wells miles from the surface. It can be installed almost anywhere, it has certain advantages, but the costs will certainly be much higher than conventional hydrothermal geothermal energy.

< p class="Text-sc-2357a233-1 imohSo">Is the cost competitive in the North American energy market? This is not easy to assess.

A quote from Jasmin Raymond, full professor at INRS

Eavor founder John Redfern does not deny that his technology is expensive. The project in Germany is estimated at $570 million.

The returns on investment are going to be small for the energy generated, but they are going to be huge in terms of technological advances. […] and in the end, our costs will decrease.

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Eavor founder John Redfern is proud of the progress made since the company was founded years ago six years, but he is eager to see the technology used on a large scale.

That's why the company first focuses on projects where it can be most competitive.

The original idea was the energy transition, but what propelled us into the market was the question of energy security .

A quote from John Redfern, Chairman of Eavor

In Europe, Russia's invasion of Ukraine highlighted the need for many European countries to produce their own energy source.

In Canada, the company sees opportunities for application of its technology for district heating in Toronto and Vancouver and for industries in the Great North.

Announcements should not take long, according to John Redfern.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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