Geothermal energy uses naturally occurring heat within the earth to heat water and buildings and generate power, with few emissions or environmental impacts. Alberta has vast pockets of heat below ground, making the province Canada’s geothermal leader, but testing and developing new technologies can be a barrier for many companies. Unlike the United States, Japan and other countries, Canada does not currently have an open-access test site to help spur innovation.

With this in mind, the Government of Alberta is taking the first steps to create a new Alberta Drilling Accelerator. This groundbreaking facility would be the first of its kind in Canada, establishing Alberta as a global hub for geothermal technology. This will drive new innovations in geothermal and other clean energy projects that can reduce emissions and power communities around the world.

To kick-start the project, the Alberta government is investing $750,000 to conduct a feasibility study led by Calgary-based Eavor Technologies and other stakeholders. The study is the first step in assessing the proposed facility. It will include identifying a site, business planning, research on the governance model, an economic impact analysis and stakeholder engagement that will lay the groundwork for the initial planning stages of the project.

“Alberta has been a global energy leader for more than a century, renowned for our skilled workforce, innovation and one of the largest oil and gas reserves on the planet,” said Rebecca Schulz, Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Protected Areas. “The proposed Alberta Drilling Accelerator presents enormous potential to help our province lead the next wave of energy projects here at home and around the world that reduce emissions, create jobs and enhance energy security.”

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The Alberta Drilling Accelerator would help companies test out and develop new geothermal drilling techniques or technologies to reduce emissions and drive growth across the clean energy sector. It would be an open-access, technology-agnostic drilling test facility capable of drilling in challenging environments, including deep depths, high temperatures and different rock types.

The accelerator also would help speed up the development of carbon capture, utilization and storage; helium; critical minerals; and other clean technologies and commodities that rely on Alberta’s drilling sector. All of this helps attract investment and bring new technologies to scale in Canada.

“With cumulative geothermal investment poised to reach $1 trillion by 2050, a geothermal arms race is very much underway to commercialize novel drilling techniques that accelerate geothermal development – exhibited by testing facilities in the United States, China and Iceland,” said John Redfern, president and CEO, Eavor Technologies. “As Canada’s first geothermal test bed, the Alberta Drilling Accelerator will help bring geothermal technologies to scale, supporting companies like Eavor. We commend the Government of Alberta for this bold initiative.”

If the feasibility study shows the facility is economically and environmentally viable, and if the project is approved by the Alberta government, the facility will start taking shape at the selected site and drilling could start as early as 2025.

“We are proud to witness Eavor, a CDL-Rockies alumni company, create new opportunities for innovators like themselves to advance the adoption of energy transition technologies like geothermal,” said Heather Marshall, site lead for CDL-Rockies and Haskayne ScaleUp, University of Calgary. “The Alberta Drilling Accelerator will further solidify Alberta’s position as a leader in the global sustainable energy landscape.”

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Featured image credit: Eavor Technologies

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