Solutions to reducing fossil fuel emissions: The case for geothermal energy development

Catherine Hickson, Tuya Terra Geo Corp. CEO Alberta No. 1, Chief Geoscientist for Terrapin Geothermics
Thursday, January 27, 2022 · 4:00 pm
Hosted by
Johan Gilchrist

Green, baseload (dispatchable) conventional geothermal electrical generation and thermal energy is a hot topic around the globe as governments grapple with getting to net zero by mid-century. As the discussion as to how to get there continues, much emphasis has fallen on solar and wind. However, in addition to these renewables not being baseload, neither of them has the value added of thermal energy. So, how do we promote geothermal energy as a renewable option for replacement of carbon intensive electricity (grids with coal-based generation) and natural gas heating? Geothermal seems to be an excellent fit, but is still struggling to get investors interested, or at least to look beyond solar and wind. 

But what really is conventional geothermal and how does it fit into Canada’s energy mix? The Prairie Provinces, including NW BC have significant oil and gas industries – what is it going to take to pivot this industrial activity to embrace geothermal? What is the difference between geoexchange and conventional geothermal? Where do closed-loop heat pumps fit into the mix? What about co-generation? There is misunderstanding of what conventional (i.e., wide bore wells 2 km and deeper) geothermal is and is not. This presentation will examine what a deep geothermal heat and power development needs for commercial success in a sedimentary basin, and specifically in the Alberta portion of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin. A holistic view of geothermal development will also be presented, showing the synergies and connections between the extraction of thermal energy, and any contained hydrocarbons and/or metallic or industrial metals. Also, to be discussed, is how geothermal developments can combine with carbon sequestration, creating projects that are not just carbon zero but significantly carbon negative. Geothermal is poised to do some heavy lifting for carbon reduction as well as support industries already facing opposition due to their emissions.

Speaker's Bio: 

Catherine is a geologist and senior executive who has been involved in the geothermal industry for more than 40 years. As an undergraduate student at UBC she was running temperature logs in gradient wells as a summer assistant with the Geological Survey of Canada. She then went on to finish her PhD at UBC investigating the Wells Gray Clearwater volcanic field and its potential for geothermal energy. She then became a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) and was head of its Cordilleran Office in Vancouver for seven years. While at the GSC she continued working on projects that tied together geothermal energy and volcanology. In 2008 she left the GSC to join a pure play geothermal company as VP Exploration. Since then, she has been working globally on projects in over 14 countries overseeing all facets of the industry - from green field exploration projects to reservoir modelling and injection strategies, to raising funds for development companies. She joined Geothermal Canada (then the Canadian Geothermal Association) in 1981 and has continued to participate in the association for the past 40 years, serving several stints as President. She currently serves as its Vice president. Catherine is CEO of Alberta No. 1 and Chief Geoscientist for Terrapin Geothermics, she is also President of Tuya Terra Geo Corp maintaining a global geothermal practice.