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Alberta eyes clean geothermal development legislation


October 23, 2020
By Ground Water Canada

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The Alberta government is set to have discussions this fall with key groups and introduce legislation to create greater policy and regulatory certainty for investors and Albertans.

Several Alberta companies are in the midst of pilot projects aimed at proving the commercial power generation viability of geothermal technology in the province. A strong geothermal sector has the potential to create jobs and economic opportunity for Indigenous and rural remote communities, while lowering greenhouse gas emissions, the province said in a news release.

Sonya Savage, Minister of Energy, said in a press conference: “Opportunities like this are rooted in Alberta’s extensive experience in oil and gas drilling. The ability to diversify Alberta’s economy and build a geothermal sector is enabled by the vast geological and technical expertise of our energy industry. To succeed and achieve this potential, we must provide a stable and predictable regulatory environment. We see an enormous opportunity for geothermal energy to power homes, businesses and remote communities and we are taking steps to unlock that full potential.”

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Existing oil and gas wells can assist in the extraction of geothermal energy. The ability to reuse this existing infrastructure could facilitate investment while limiting additional land impacts.

By implementing a geothermal policy, the government’s goal is to provide industry with clarity on rules and processes, establish an approach to land use and liability management, and protect landowners and mineral rights owners.

“The Government of Alberta’s support for the geothermal industry through the introduction of regulations and policies will create new opportunities for the energy sector, while also allowing Alberta to integrate renewable resources into the existing energy industry,” said Alison Thompson, chair, Canadian Geothermal Energy Association. “CanGEA believes that Alberta has tremendous accessible geothermal resources suitable for district heating and other space heating opportunities spread throughout the province.”

“Geothermal energy development requires the exact same equipment, workers and expertise we use in oil and gas drilling, and we look forward to finding ways to collaborate,” said Mark Scholz, president and CEO, Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors. “Geothermal energy represents but another strong example of how the Canadian drilling industry is actively working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The government cited improved available data, advances in technology and the ability to complement other industrial and commercial processes, such as agriculture and forestry, as factors driving interest in geothermal energy development.