In February 2021, oil giants bp and Chevron, along with a number of other notable groups announced their decision to back Calgary-based geothermal company Eavor Technologies Inc. through a $40 million funding round. Since then, discussions regarding the pivot away from oil and gas into renewables have captured national interest. Is this a sign the shift is officially underway?
Eavor Technologies is a local geothermal tech company making international waves in the global renewable energy arena. By revolutionizing the approach to geothermal energy, Eavor’s technology has eradicated several of the costly, inefficient measures associated with traditional geothermal. Without experiencing the limitations of traditional geothermal, nor being subject to intermittency issues associated with wind and solar, Eavor’s solution is one the world sorely needs.
Alberta Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer recently commended Eavor in an address discussing ongoing economic diversification in Alberta, noting private sector investment in provincial geothermal wells. “Eavor Technologies of Calgary has raised significant money for this, and plans to produce enough geothermal power to heat thousands of homes over the next decade,” said Schweitzer.
In light of recent developments in the oil and gas industry, Eavor’s ongoing mission to harness the Earth’s geothermal potential to provide reliable, scalable, baseload power for millions of homes in the coming years has taken on a new key component.
Following the announcement, Eavor has taken several steps to further invest in academia in Alberta through the launch of an ongoing educational campaign aimed at engaging Alberta youth in the future of renewable energy in the province and across the nation. As a local, cutting edge technology company on a mission to positively change the world, Eavor recognizes the importance of encouraging the bright members of the young generation to ask questions and actively participate in the ongoing changes occurring in the energy industry.
“Eavor has developed a unique renewable energy solution by applying established or proven technologies in an innovative and creative way,” says Bailey Schwarz, Lead Engineer for Eavor. “Educating and engaging the next generation will encourage creative thinking and problem solving in the energy sector that will keep building on these innovations in every sector.”
Earlier this month, Eavor Technologies Inc. announced a multi-year research and development partnership with the University of Calgary Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) valued at almost $1 million.
This partnership will focus on building on existing Alberta drilling technology to effectively further applications for geothermal exploration and development, while educating the public and creating new jobs for Albertans.
Engaging young adults at the university level is a key part of Eavor’s investment in geothermal education and development in Alberta, however, it doesn’t end there.
On March 10, 2021, team members from Calgary tech company Eavor Technologies Inc. visited Bearspaw Christian School in northwest Calgary to present their cutting-edge closed loop geothermal technology to the 10th grade science classes.
The presentation was led by Eavor’s Lead Engineer Bailey Schwarz, Senior Business Development Leader Neil Ethier and Chief Business Development Officer, Paul Cairns.
The team introduced Eavor’s mission, discussed the differing forms of renewable energy and explained the Eavor-Loop in relation to traditional geothermal. Bailey Schwarz then covered thermodynamics before introducing Eavor-Lite, Eavor’s successful, third party validated demonstration project located in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta.
“The presentations went really well,” says Schwarz, “I was really impressed with the interest the students showed and the challenging questions they asked our team.”
The presentation to Bearspaw Christian School is part of Eavor’s ongoing educational outreach campaign designed to get the younger generation excited about ongoing developments in the field of renewable energy. As future scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs, the bright students in Mr. Dallas Peterson’s 10th grade science class were captivated by Eavor’s presentation. They kept the team on their toes by asking endless questions to better understand the Eavor-Loop technology. “We were all really impressed by all the questions,” says Paul Cairns, CBDO of Eavor, “we really want to encourage these young kids to think differently.”
Cairns closed the presentation by introducing a two-part Eavor Challenge. Part one is an opportunity for students to further explore Eavor’s global geothermal energy potential by determining the best possible location for a future Eavor-Loop. They were given a curated list of potential locations, which need to be ranked according to feasibility based on geological, economical, and socio-political factors – this list includes Mars.
Eavor has partnered with Bearspaw Christian School to continue the challenge into the next school year, when a science research option being offered by Mr. Peterson will give students the chance to explore Eavor in extreme depth.
“I hope they come away from this experience excited for the future, and feeling that they will have an important part to play,” says Mr. Peterson, Bearspaw Secondary Science teacher, “I believe we need to foster the conversation with our youth surrounding the question, ‘in what ways could we envision energy alternatives?’ It’s so important to instill a hope for the future.”
To encourage creativity alongside education, Eavor will be awarding an Oculus Quest Virtual Reality Headset, pre-loaded with the Eavor-Lite Virtual Tour, to one student from each semester who exceeds the challenge.
Eavor prides itself on being at the forefront of renewable energy development in Alberta, and investment and education for Alberta’s youth and young adults is a crucial step in ensuring a successful, prosperous future for the province. Students in grade school, high school, university and graduate school all have an important part to play in furthering provincial and national goals surrounding the pivot towards renewable energy.
“Investing in our youth is investing in our future,” says Paul Cairns, Chief Business Development Officer for Eavor Technologies. Eavor is proud to play a part in getting the next generation of Alberta youth excited and engaged in renewable technology, and geothermal energy development.
University of Calgary Positions
The University of Calgary is hiring several positions for its multi-year R&D project with Eavor Technologies.
- Research Associate in Drilling Operations, Drilling Performance Optimization, Data Analytics, Drilling Modelling and Control. M.Sc. in engineering required, industry experience and/or Ph.D. preferred.
- Postdoctoral Fellow in Drilling Mechanics, Bit-Rock interaction Modelling and Non-Linear System Dynamics and Control. A recent Ph.D. in engineering required.
- Three Ph.D. Research Assistantships in:
1) Hydraulic percussion hammer modelling
2) Physics-informed data-driven model development
3) Estimation techniques for digital twinning
To apply, please send your CV, Cover Letter, and a Writing Sample to Roman Shor at [email protected]ucalgary.ca
Eavor’s virtual tour and link to the Oculus Quest App can be experienced here: https://eavor.com/eavor-lite-virtual-tour
For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.
Alberta promising changes to campuses amid university ‘woke’ free speech standoff
By Dean Bennett in Edmonton
The Alberta government says changes are coming to further protect free speech on campuses as a former professor speaking out on so-called “woke” policies prepares for a showdown with the University of Lethbridge.
Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides says he plans to announce the changes in the coming days but did not give details.
He was responding to the case of Frances Widdowson, a former tenured professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, who was invited then disinvited to speak on campus this week about her concerns that a mob mentality and “woke policies” increasingly threaten academic freedom.
Widdowson has previously come under fire for her comments on residential schools.
“I understand past comments made by this speaker are controversial,” Nicolaides said in a statement Tuesday.
“But I believe it is important for our universities and colleges to foster a strong culture of free speech and diverse viewpoints, even when those viewpoints are deemed controversial, or even offensive, barring speech intended to incite hatred or violence of course.”
Widdowson, asked about Nicolaides’ comment, said in an interview: “I think that’s great.
“I think we need a public inquiry about what’s happening at universities.
“The universities are being run by woke activists who are completely opposed to the open and honest discussion of ideas on campus.”
Widdowson was fired from Mount Royal in late 2021 amid controversy over comments she made lauding the educational benefits of Canada’s residential school system while questioning whether abuses at the schools against Indigenous children equated to “cultural genocide,” as described in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
Widdowson was invited by a professor to speak Wednesday and the University of Lethbridge granted space for the event.
About 2,500 students signed a petition pushing back on the university for hosting the speech.
University president Mike Mahon, as late as last Thursday, defended the decision to host Widdowson, citing free speech even if the university did not agree with her views.
However, on Monday, Mahon said after further consultation the offer of space was revoked because Widdowson’s views would not advance the residential schools discussion and would cause harm by minimizing the pain and suffering inflicted on First Nations children and families.
“It is clear that the harm associated with this talk is an impediment to meaningful reconciliation,” said Mahon in a statement.
Widdowson said she plans to deliver her speech in a public atrium on the campus Wednesday afternoon and has challenged school security to toss her out.
“I’ve never denied the harm of the residential schools,” she told The Canadian Press.
“People are distorting what I’m saying about it. My issue is residential schools were not genocidal. (They) were a misguided effort which often had serious problems.”
“I’ve been branded as some kind of hate monger,” she added. “I’m just arguing if we want to create a better world for everyone, a more co-operative world, we have to be able to speak truthfully about issues that matter.”
Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Nicolaides is being distressingly tone-deaf and needs to reconsider his statements.
“The idea of having someone come and speak at the university … to a student body that consists of many Indigenous students about how they somehow benefited from residential schools is deeply troubling to me,” Notley told reporters.
“That the (United Conservative Party government) doesn’t understand how incredibly hurtful those ideas are to huge swaths of the Alberta population reveals their lack of understanding about the real experiences and traumas that treaty people in Alberta have been subjected to.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2023.
Alberta landowners fear repeat of orphan well crisis as renewable energy booms
By Amanda Stephenson in Calgary
Once bitten, twice shy.
It’s an old adage that explains why Jason Schneider, the elected reeve of Vulcan County, Alta., is jittery about the renewable energy boom under way in his province.
Like many in rural Alberta, Schneider is still smarting over the way municipalities were left holding the bag when an oil price crash nearly a decade ago resulted in billions of dollars of unfunded liabilities left behind by bankrupt fossil fuel companies.
In Vulcan County alone, the landscape is littered with hundreds of wells with no owners that need to be cleaned up, and the municipality itself is owed more than $9 million in back taxes left unpaid by insolvent oil and gas firms.
So Schneider has a hard time looking at acre upon acre of massive wind turbines or solar panels without fearing a repeat of Alberta’s orphan well crisis, or wondering who’s going to fix everything if something goes wrong.
“These are large industrial developments, and the reclamation costs are going to be substantial,” he said.
“We can see the warning signs, and we are being ignored.”
Across rural Alberta, concerns are growing about the long-term implications of the province’s renewable energy boom — the speed and scale of which has been nothing short of stunning.
A province that not that long ago was largely reliant on coal for electricity, Alberta is now home to more than 3,800 MW of wind and solar capacity, 1,350 of which came online in just the last 12 months. An additional 1,800 MW of capacity is currently under construction, putting the province on track to meet or exceed the target it set in 2016 to generate 30 per cent of its total electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
In Schneider’s Vulcan County, which is home to both the country’s largest solar farm and one of Western Canada’s largest wind farms, renewable energy developments now account for more than 40 per cent of the local tax base, displacing oil and gas as the number one source of revenue for the local municipal government.
But while many in rural Alberta welcome the economic activity, and farmers and ranchers enjoy the extra income that playing host to solar panels or wind turbines can bring, others are sounding the alarm.
For example, the Rural Municipalities of Alberta recently passed a resolution calling on the provincial government to protect taxpayers from incurring costs associated with the potential decommissioning of renewable energy infrastructure.
Specifically, the association wants to see the government mandate the collection of securities for reclamation from developers before a project goes ahead. That way, municipalities won’t be footing the bill if a developer becomes insolvent and walks away.
“What we’ve learned, and what Albertans have learned, is that the cheapest way to get out of reclamation is going bankrupt,” said Paul McLauchlin, president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta.
“Some of these solar installations are being installed by one company, sold to another company … I talked to a gentleman who’s on his fifth owner, and his solar installation has been there maybe two years. So we’re seeing small companies owning these, and whether they have the wherewithal for reclamation, that’s really what’s driving this conversation.”
In Alberta, the Orphan Well Association is an industry-funded organization tasked with decommissioning old oil and gas infrastructure and returning the land to its prior state. (It’s currently backlogged, in spite of a $200 million loan from the federal government. In 2020, the feds also provided $1 billion for well clean-up to active companies under Alberta’s Site Rehabilitation Program.)
But there’s no equivalent for the renewable energy industry, though renewable energy companies are required to provide an overview of how they plan to cover decommissioning and reclamation costs before they can receive the go-ahead for their project.
However, for a landowner, entering into a wind or solar lease is entirely voluntary. That’s very different from oil and gas, where under Alberta law, property owners are not allowed to refuse companies seeking to develop the fossil fuels that lie under the surface of their land.
Evan Wilson, director of policy and government affairs for the Canadian Renewable Energy Association, said that because solar and wind leases remain private civil contracts between the developer and the landowner, the onus is on the landowner to ensure the inclusion of some kind of provision to mitigate risks associated with the project’s end-of-life.
But he added many companies do offer landowners some form of reclamation commitment, either in the form of a letter of credit or bond.
“Landowners do have the ability to veto these projects being built on their land,” Wilson said.
“So that puts a lot of pressure on our members to ensure that landowners do feel comfortable with the terms.”
Sara Hastings-Simon, an expert in energy, innovation and climate policy at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, said it’s understandable that municipalities have concerns.
However, she said it’s odd that there’s a push to enforce new regulations for the renewable sector, when the scope of the orphan well problem shows the oil and gas regulatory system could also use an overhaul.
According to the Alberta Energy Regulator, there are more than 83,000 inactive oil and gas wells in the province currently, and close to 90,000 more that have been sealed and taken out of service, but not yet fully remediated.
A report released last year by the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that the cost of orphan well clean-up in Canada will reach $1.1 billion by 2025.
“Obviously we need to make sure that all of our industrial development is done in a way that doesn’t offload costs to the public,” Hastings-Simon said.
“But it would make a lot of sense for the province to look at energy development holistically, rather than just picking the one that right now perhaps has more growth.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2023.
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