Summary of

CanGEA’s 2009 - Geothermal Energy Conference





















                                                            June 2009



Index  i

Executive summary  1

1       Speakers  2

2       Background  2

3       shown projects  3

4       technical potential in canada/alberta  3

5       policies  4

6       potential of Geothermal Power in Alberta associated to oil and gas industry  4



Executive summary

Geothermal Energy Conference was developed in Vancouver in April 2009. There, the most important Canadian researchers, industry representatives, policy-makers and representatives of financial industry were met for discussing about the present and future of Geothermal Power. 


As result of the works presented by different companies, the actual state of the technology and business, we can conclude that it is very difficult the development of Geothermal Power in Alberta. Some technical and economic analysis show a potential in the development of Geothermal Power associated to the Oil and Gas (O&G) technology.


Lobbyers claimed for the development of policies that they could help de development of Geothermal Power in Alberta where the industry is not taken in consideration. In spite of this policy development, the development of Geothermal Power in Alberta presents very low opportunities due to the high capital cost involved as well as the high risk associated to the non knowledge of the available resources over the time.


1        Speakers

The congress met researchers, policy-makers, industry and financial institution representatives and lobbyers; some of them:

·         Dr. Michal Moore[1], University of Calgary

·         Dr. Subir Sanyal[2], GoethermEx

·         Dr. Catherine Hickson[3]

·         Dr. Mory Ghomshei, University of BC

·         Dr. Stephen Grasby[4], Geological Survey, NRCan

·         Donald Brown, Los Alamos National Laboratory

·         Craig Dunn, Alison Thompson and Gordon Foo, from CanGEA

·         Representatives of  EGS Inc., Magma Energy Corp., BC Transmission Corp., Jacob Company, Powerex Corp., Evolution Markets Inc., BC Hydro, Nexen, SCN Lavalin, Sierra Geothermal Power Corp., Nevada Geothermal Power Inc., Thermasource, Goethermal Resources Practice Leader,  Meridian Environmental Inc., Western GeoPower, Emerging Energy Research, Ormat Technology, Shell Canada, Electratherm, GeothermEx, Yukon Energy Corporation, GeoExchange.


2        Background

Geothermal energy would be instantly renewable if the energy extraction rate does not exceed the natural heat loss rate from the earth’s surface, which is of the same order of magnitude as the worldwide energy consumption rate today.


Type of Geothermal Energy and their potential reserves in years (reserves based on today human consumption, Dr. Subir Sanyal):

·         Convective Systems (~1),

·         Enhanced Geothermal Systems (1,400),

·         Conductive Sedimentary Systems  (10),

·         Produced water from O&G industry (<1),

·         Geopressured Systems (7 to 17), and

·         Magma energy (7)


In Alberta, we have resources for exploitation of Enhanced Geothermal System and Produced water from O&G Systems.


The worldwide annual Geothermal Power installation is around 202 MW per year since 1980 up to date. The Canadian development of Geothermal is negligible in the Canadian territory.



3        shown projects

Some companies (Wenster GeoPower, Sierra Geothermal Power and GeothermEx) presented the results of their projects in Nevada and California, as summary:

·         The wells have a depth between 1500 and 2000 meters.

·         Power Capacity around 35 MW

·         Capital Expenditure around 4,000 $/kW

·         Simple payback between 5 years (COE in Wholesale market of 100 $/MWh).


Compared with other technologies, it shows a high capital cost, but a quick recover of the investment. 

This time recover must be short because of the risk associated to the uncertainty of the source of energy. 

In all cases, the emission reported is almost null. 

There is not report of a project developed or in develop in BC, AB, etc.


A common mistake made by policy-makers associated to this industry (also others) is to take data from other jurisdictions and to apply them directly to Alberta. For Geothermal Power the geological formation is the key issue associated to the potential. The geological formation of Alberta is absolutely different than the geological formation in other jurisdictions. To estimate the potential, emission, etc, in Alberta based on the direct application of other jurisdiction data it is a source of mistake.


4        technical potential in canada/alberta

The potential for a profitable exploitation of Geothermal Power resources has a direct relationship with three factors:


According to the Energy resource mapping known for Canada, the exploitable resources in BC are between 2000 and 4000 meters of depth. In Alberta, these available resources are between 4,000 and 6,000 meters of depth.



a.       the experience in the development of Geothermal Power in Nevada and California,

b.      discussion with the industry representatives for the Alberta’s potential,

c.       their application to Canadian/Albertan geological formation,

d.      discussion with researchers from different Universalities,


we can conclude:

  1. In BC, Geothermal Power is close to be profitable; nowadays the technology needs some kind of support to facilitate the private development of this resource. BC has active volcanoes and younger geological formation than Alberta; this gives to BC a interesting potential in the development of Geothermal Power; the barriers are:

·         Not adequate policies supporting the development

·         High risks associated to the drilling and the availability of the resources over the time.

·         Huge capital expenditure associated to a high risk.


b.      In Alberta, the old geological formation stresses the barriers strongly; the necessary depth to reach the resources, associated with risks and capital expenditure, do not make possible in the short and medium term the development of this industry.


  1. Other provinces across Canada have the same consideration than Alberta: there is a not possibility to develop this industry because to capital expenditure, risks and long term payback.  


5        policies


The Federal Government supported the development of the national survey for the knowledge of the available resources. As result, according to various speakers, the present position of the Federal Government is: the potential development of Geothermal Power is bounded to BC, and some small potential in Yukon; as result, up to day, Geothermal Power is a provincial issue and the Federal Government doesn't develop programs to develop Geothermal Industry across Canada[5].  

CanGREA claims for a Federal Government incentive arguing a program similar to WPPI or RPPI/ecoEnergy. One of the possible tools is Cap and Trade.


In Alberta, although the economic impossibility in the development of this industry, some barriers were stressed by speakers:

And advantages:


6         potential of Geothermal Power in Alberta associated to oil and gas industry

According to Dr. Subir Sanyal, the potential in the electricity production from O&G heating source is limited; Mr. Sanyal associates this barrier to the available flow in O&G wells. The diameter of O&G wells limits the water flow, which doesn’t reach the necessary enthalpy to economically develop the resources.

However, with the appropriate study of well flow capacity and bottom-hole temperature, some existent wells in Alberta could be developed for power production. The lack of experience, necessary skill, data information, high capital cost and risk associated are the main barriers to develop this business in Alberta today.

[1] Co-author of “Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) Potential in the Alberta Basin” Panel member of “The Future of Geothermal Energy” by MIT

[2] Considered the most important specialist in Canada in Geothermal Power

[3] Volcanologist and principal participant of NRCan research in volcanoes

[4] Co-author of “Estimation of Shallow Geothermal Energy Resource in Canada: Heat Gain and Heat Sink

[5] The Federal Government doesn’t recognize to CanGEA as a lobby group.