The Town of Hinton has been investigating the potential for the development of a geothermal resource as a renewable heat source, recognizing the opportunity this resource presents to attract new economic investment and diversification, and to reduce the community’s carbon footprint.
What is Geothermal Energy?
Geothermal Energy is a renewable energy resource created by the flow of heat from the Earth. Because of the constant, unlimited energy it can be used for heating buildings or producing electricity. These two distinctions are very important. "Geothermal" is used to heat buildings and homes. while "Geothermal energy" can produce electricity. Both systems use the Earth's heat to produce "energy" in either form.
To make Geothermal work, wells are drilled into underground reservoirs to access existing hot fluid. This fluid is brought to the surface of the earth where the heat it contains is used in any number of possible applications. Thermal energy can be extracted from this fluid and used as heat, or converted to energy.
Once the heat has been used, the subsequently cooled fluid is sent back down into the underground reservoir it was pulled from via another well(s) so that it can reheat. The fluid eventually makes its way back toward the first well, where it is used again in a continuous, sustainable cycle of renewable energy production. A single well may produce 20-100 MW of thermal energy (2-10 MW of electricity.)
Hinton and the surrounding area has long been home to oil and gas exploration and activity that have provided employment to our citizens and economic growth to our community. As well, this work has provided a sense of what lies beneath.
There are 4000+ wells drilled below 2,500m within a 70km radius of the Town of Hinton, many which have bottom-hole temperatures higher than 140 degrees Celsius. Through research and general understanding of the region, Hinton is located in the epicentre of geothermal potential from hot water aquifers in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin.
In 2015, the Town of Hinton commissioned a study in partnership with the University of Alberta and Alberta Innovates hoping to determine the volume of energy available through geothermal energy. This was followed by a Front-End Engineering Design, or FEED report, in 2018 that investigated the scope and economic viability of geothermally-heated district heating facilities. The report concluded that due to a lack of suitable or available existing wells, a geothermal supplied district energy system as originally scoped would not be feasible, but an option to drill a new well was possible but could make project economics challenging to satisfy.
In early 2022, the Town was approached by Novus Earth, an Alberta-based renewable energy company with a proposed project to the develop a 400,000sqft vertical farming facility in Hinton, heated by geothermal energy from a new drilled well. The innovative project aims to bring together closed-loop geothermal technology and innovative aquaponics to grow organic, highly nutritious, and affordable local produce and seafood. The project also intends to provide a sustainable source of heat for community buildings.
November 2018At the November 20, 2018 Regular Council Meeting, Epoch Energy presented the findings of the FEED report and Council accepted the report as information.
Conclusions of the report found that due to unexpected localized geological formations in Hinton, and a lack of suitable or available existing wells, a geothermal supplied district energy system (DES) as originally scoped would not be feasible.
On February 6, 2018, Western Economic Diversification Canada, The Government of Alberta, and Alberta Innovates together made a monumental announcement, described by Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Baines as “ground-breaking”; a cross governmental partnership representing an investment of 1.2 million to determine the viability of a Geothermal District Energy System in Hinton.
(See the full release, including comments from the Minister of Environment and Parks and Minister Responsible for the Climate Change Office as well as Alberta Innovates here.)
The Feed Study went ahead in Quarter 1 of 2018. Results from the FEED study would help Hinton understand what infrastructure could be connected to the geothermal district heating system, should it proceed to development. Such buildings may include schools, government buildings, the hospital, community centres and the seniors centre. It is expected to be completed in Quarter 3 2018.
February 2017On February 7, 2017, Representatives from Epoch Energy presented an update to Hinton Town Council on the progress and plans for the Geothermal Study. You can find the full presentation here.
The Town of Hinton has announced a partnership with Epoch Energy to advance Hinton Geothermal; an innovative district energy heating system leveraging heat energy from deep, hot reservoirs in the Hinton area as well as a future goal of geothermal power generation. Hinton’s location is central to oil and gas exploration, well bore infrastructure, and the requisite geology to be repurposed for geothermal energy—an approach that is creative and novel in its vision. View the announcement here.
October 2016On October 12, 2016, Hinton Town Council directed Administration to provide $225,000 from the Automated Traffic Enforcement reserve to fund the Pre-FEED study to determine the feasibility of the Hinton Geothermal District Energy Project. The feasibility study would provide Hinton Town Council with important information and analysis including options, risks and opportunities with financial implications of the Hinton Geothermal District Energy Project. It would be a key resource in support of grant funding applications from the Provincial and Federal Governments.
September 2016On September 6, 2016, Dr. Jonathan Banks returned to Hinton to present preliminary findings of capacity and potential of the Devonian Basin. His presentation, including heat mapping and regional information, is available in the meetings agenda, available here.
August 2015In August 2015, a letter of intent was signed, representing a $25,000 contribution into the evaluation of this potential. Hinton was not alone in this initial investment, with other regional bodies like the County of Grande Prairie and MD of Greenview also committed to investigate the potential of this developing opportunity. And the data that came back looked promising. View the meeting minutes here.
June 2015 On the June 23, 2015, then Mayor Rob Mackin and Hinton Town Council 2013-2017 heard a presentation during their standing committee meeting from Dr. Jonathan Banks of the University of Alberta. Dr. Banks introduced geothermal and described why he believed Hinton had the potential to turn heat, emanating from deep beneath the earth’s surface, into something no one else had done before in this country. Read more in the meeting minutes, available here.
From Novus Earth:
At Novus Earth, we focus on sustainable and renewable solutions that solve today’s real world problems. From food supply to the production and consumption of energy, we focus on what matters for the future.
The world struggles with food supply and the energy required to sustain it. Our mission is to change the way we address food and energy insecurity. Our sustainable energy solutions provide a clean baseload power that is scalable and dispatchable, all while maintaining a small environmental footprint.
2018 FEED Report Results
A Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) report was initiated in early 2018 to examine the upstream, midstream, downstream, and financial components of a geothermal district energy system (DES).
At the November 20, 2018 Regular Council Meeting, Epoch Energy presented the findings of the FEED report. and Council accepted the report as information.
“This project has put Hinton on the map for making conscious and deliberate choices about our community’s energy future,” stated Mayor Marcel Michaels. “The information and understanding achieved through each stage of the pre-FEED and FEED processes are vital to the development of geothermal projects in Alberta.”
Conclusions of the report find that due to unexpected localized geological formations in Hinton, and a lack of suitable or available existing wells, a geothermal supplied DES as originally scoped would not be feasible. An option to drill a new well is possible but may make project economics challenging to satisfy.
Technical and financial potential exists through the midstream components and would increase through an increase in energy density in Hinton’s downtown areas. Downstream results need further examination through additional information sharing and engagement of buildings interested in tying-in to a DES. Both midstream and downstream components support DES use of an alternative heat source to geothermal.
Report recommendations include conducting a study on a combined geothermal heat and power plant; increasing energy density in the Hinton downtown core; confirming building specifics and increasing consumer engagement and participation; and identifying alternative viable heat sources for the DES.
Announcement of FEED Partnership
Hinton tapped for geothermal agri-project, The Hinton Voice (Also published in The Star, on Yahoo News, and MSN News)