Hybrid geothermal and natural gas power project launches in Alberta

Elsie Ross
January 26, 2022

Electricity from Canada’s first co-produced geothermal and natural gas power project from a legacy oilfield in northwestern Alberta should be available to the provincial grid in the second quarter of this year, says its chief executive.

The $37-million South Swan Hills hybrid geothermal project will produce up to 21 megawatts of zero-emissions geothermal and gas-fired baseload power, Lisa Mueller, president and CEO of FutEra Power said in an interview. Thirty per cent of total output would be clean power generation, which is expected to offset 31,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions per year.

FutEra has secured $12 million in government funding for the project. Of that, $5 million is from the federal government under the Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) Clean Growth Program, $5 million from Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) and $2 million from Alberta Innovates (AI).

Mueller said her company’s project is important in two ways. “Not only does it establish the nascent geothermal industry, which will be important to not only Alberta but to the country, but it really demonstrates that we, as former only oil and gas folks, are rebranding ourselves as energy people and driving technologies," she said.

“The only way you solve the global problem around carbon emissions is through technology development."

The power project is on the site of an enhanced light oil project operated by Razor Energy Corp., FutEra’s parent company, which injects water downhole to help sweep out the remaining hydrocarbons in the reservoir.

“We're just basically building a power plant on top of an existing facility,” said Mueller.

“It makes sense to reduce, reuse, recycle."

With co-production, no new surface land footprint is required as the project uses existing assets such as processing infrastructure, producing wells, the produced water reinjection system and an operating gathering and distribution system.

“Capital-wise, it's smart, it's efficient and we get geothermal to a producing cost that is actually compatible with other [sources of power supply].”

The South Swan Hills field, which was discovered in 1960, is now in the last stages of its life cycle. As such, it holds billions of barrels of fluid — mainly water — of which Razor produces only two or three per cent annually. The reef is high in geothermal potential with surface wellhead temperatures of more than 100 C, the minimum temperature required for geothermal power. Sixty years of temperature data indicate a secure supply of hot water, said Mueller.

The hot water brought to surface with the produced light oil provides FutEra with the opportunity to capture geothermal heat energy along with the exhaust heat off the gas turbine to generate electricity, along with power from natural gas. The produced water, which cools down during the oil and water separation process, is reheated to 120 C and reinjected in the reservoir, transported via a loop of high-pressure pipelines.

Project funders, such as Energy Reduction Alberta and Alberta Innovates, have cited the FutEra project’s potential to encourage more geothermal projects. Steve MacDonald, chief executive officer of ERA, suggested it could help accelerate geothermal co-production and hybrid projects at other high-potential oil and gas sites across Alberta.

“Geothermal clean technology is a natural and growing fit for Alberta,” added Laura Kilcrease, CEO of Alberta Innovates, in a statement.

“This project is paving the way for commercial geothermal co-production use across Western Canada,” she said. “The expertise and experience gained will also open opportunities for Alberta-based know-how around the world.”


Other News

Events For Leaders in
Science, Tech, Innovation, and Policy

Discuss and learn from those in the know at our virtual and in-person events.

See Upcoming Events

You have 1 free article remaining.
Don't miss out - start your free trial today.

Start your FREE trial    Already a member? Log in


By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies. We use cookies to provide you with a great experience and to help our website run effectively in accordance with our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.