Riley Brandt, University of Calgary
Sept. 29, 2022
New partnership builds on success of UCalgary’s Geothermal Energy Lab
It’s seen as a virtually untapped resource with a world of potential.
Geothermal energy is a source of clean, reliable and renewable power which can also provide heat for homes and businesses.
Canada is seen as a possible leader in geothermal with enormous resources across the country, yet geothermal still represents just a tiny fraction of the global energy supply.
In hopes of addressing this gap and building a strong research base in the field of subsurface energy flows, the University of Calgary launched the Geothermal Energy Laboratory in 2020.
Researchers have since been connecting with academia, industry and government to realize the potential of the energy source.
Another major milestone has been achieved, as Energi Simulation has announced a $1-million investment to establish the Energi Simulation Centre for Geothermal Systems Research. Schulich School of Engineering associate professor Dr. Roman Shor, PhD, has also been named the Energi Simulation Industrial Research Chair in Geothermal Systems.
“This is an unbelievable opportunity for us in the midst of the global energy transition,” Shor says. “We are excited to help support, expand and develop new projects in the geothermal energy space.”
Geothermal anywhere in Alberta
Geothermal energy is still a work in progress in many jurisdictions, including Alberta, where several projects and startups have been created.
Shor says Eavor Technologies is proving the technologies necessary to build deep closed-loop geothermal systems for power, and recently announced the commencement of drilling the deepest directional geothermal well in the world.
His team is working closely with Eavor on a project, partly funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Alberta Innovates, to help understand and optimize the physics of hard-rock drilling.
Alberta will also be home to Greenview Geothermal Power Plant (Alberta No. 1), a $90-million project set to be the first conventional geothermal energy facility in the province, consisting of a wellfield, electrical generation plant, and district heat use infrastructure.
The hope is that it will generate 10 megawatts of clean electricity and 985 terajoules of clean heat each year.
“Geothermal has a low carbon footprint, low emissions and the potential to be a significant player in the energy transition,” Shor says. “Our centre will be home to a multidisciplinary collaboration to make UCalgary a key player in geothermal research and development for the foreseeable future.”
He adds the team includes researchers from the Schulich School of Engineering, the Faculty of Law and Faculty of Science, providing a holistic view for geothermal development.
In the research chair
Shor, who is an associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, says his newly named role will also carry a few different research focuses with it.
He will look at drillstring dynamics and drilling mechanics modelling, integration of real-time and reduced-order models in geothermal reservoir modelling, and integration into the geothermal project development, execution and long-term operation workflow.
His goal is to help get the world closer to the vision of “Geothermal Anywhere.”
This energy source is possible everywhere, but costs and gaps in technology are currently holding us back from widespread economic adoption. However, we can utilize what we know from oil and gas extraction to be the foundation for geothermal technology.
He says technological advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning will also have major impacts on the development of geothermal energy.
Capturing the Energi
Having similar partnerships in other places around the world, Energi Simulation found Calgary and Alberta to be the perfect fit for expanding the scope of its support.
“Our roots trace back to the University of Calgary over 40 years ago,” says Duke Anderson, president of Energi Simulation. “Add to the mix a world-class researcher in Roman Shor and this combination became a natural fit for us. This research chair is the third geothermal-focused chair that we have announced in the last few months, illustrating our commitment to geothermal energy and its future in the world’s energy mix.”
The impact will also be seen in the classroom, with the centre expected to train at least two research associates, four postdoctoral fellows, 16 PhD students and 10 master’s degree students on an annual basis.
The hope is to provide undergraduate and graduate students with hands-on experiences that help support research and industry projects while improving the economics of geothermal energy.
“We are always grateful for the commitment and support of our community as we educate and train the engineering leaders of tomorrow,” says Schulich School of Engineering Dean Bill Rosehart, PhD. “This partnership with Energi Simulation is another example of how we are taking a leading role in developing and fostering relationships with industry to make a positive difference in our world.”
Learn more about the Geothermal Energy Laboratory.