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.
Work on a Front-End Engineering Design, or FEED report, began in Q1 of 2018, with the intent of furthering the scope of geothermally-heated district heating facilities, developing a detailed capital and operating cost model, and confirming the economic viability of geothermally-heated DES in Hinton through a comprehensive financial model. The results of the pre-FEED report, completed in 2017, prompted a more detailed look at the potential for a DES in Hinton.
Hinton, Alberta and 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; in 2015 the Town of Hinton commissioned a study in partnership with the University of Alberta and Alberta Innovates that sought to determine the volume of energy available through geothermal energy.
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, Alberta and 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: The Town of Hinton commissioned a study in partnership with the University of Alberta and Alberta Innovates that sought to determine the volume of energy available through geothermal energy.
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 to-date 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.
Hinton is a community of 10,000 centrally located to numerous parks, lakes, trails and stunning recreation spots. Hinton is the regional centre to neighbouring communities with services, amenities, education and healthcare to meet the needs of those living in the West Yellowhead corridor. Hinton’s economy includes coal mining, oil and gas, tourism, a pulp and saw mill, as well as forestry research and training. Jasper National Park is 15 minutes to the west of Hinton, and Edmonton is approximately 3 hours to the East.
Epoch Energy Development Inc. is an environmentally responsible energy company established to unlock heat energy in Alberta and Canada. Epoch commercializes geothermal resources in partnership with municipalities, First Nations, resource companies, utilities and food growers.
We produce thermal energy from repurposed well-bores and geothermal development and we recover energy from resource production operations.
We supply thermal energy to district energy systems for homes and buildings, power generation and food production.
Proudly, we are a private Alberta company.
Epoch is a force for change, delivering environmentally friendly and efficient heat and power for sustainable communities and economic growth. Albertans and Canadians returning to work, locally grown organic food and industry diversification will come within our creation of an epoch of renewable earth energy.
2018 FEED Report Results
A Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) report was initiated earlier this year 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. This report was accepted by Council, with the option to bring back the recommendations for further discussion in 2019.
“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
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 dollars 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 is underway as of Quarter 1 2018. Results from the FEED study will 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 will 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 will 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 of 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 23 of June 2015, then Mayor Rob Mackin and Hinton Town Council 2013-2017 heard a presentation during their standing committee meeting. In the space of an hour, Dr. Jonathan Banks of the University of Alberta introduced geothermal, and went on to describe 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.
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Town of Hinton
Communications and Strategic Advisor