Geothermal has been a known source of energy and heating for hundreds of years, with industry and consumers largely overlooking the opportunities it provides.
Geothermal has done a “good job at preaching to the choir”, said Patrick Hanson, senior geothermal development manager at Expro, on a recent Evol X episode. “As we quickly found out, solar and wind lapped us multiple times in terms of uniting an industry around the world, in terms of messaging, in terms of lobbying, in terms of policy making and incentives.”
This is an opportunity missed. Geothermal avoids the intermittency challenges that solar and wind power bring. However, “it’s very regional, it’s very cost intensive up front and the [return on investment] is a bit extended. However, once successfully online, it’s is good to go.”
For Patrick, the challenge is one of securing as much attention for geothermal as has historically focused on other energy vectors.
Bringing in interest from the oil and gas sector provides an opportunity. Interest from hydrocarbon producers “expands our bubble quite dramatically and gives us a bigger seat at the table. Geothermal does compete.”
Making the move
While many of the subsurface skills involved in geothermal are translatable from an oil and gas industry background, even while new skills are required in generating and selling power.
Nick Cestari, business development manager at Criterion Energy Partners, highlighted the transferable skills between hydrocarbons and geothermal.
“There are differences in how they’re actually done, on a project level, but the skill sets are almost exactly mirroring each other and transferable,” he said. Nick, who trained as a geologist, said he had spent his life working on oil and gas, with a shift to geothermal “only changing a little bit, where now we’re looking for the water, whereas before that was the thing that we steered as far away from as possible”.
Patrick explained it was this commonality that had led Expro to establish his role. “There are so many transferable solutions within the Expo product lines that, without any modification, directly apply and add value to the geothermal industry.”
As geothermal knowledge expands, into increased uptake of advanced and enhanced geothermal systems (AGS/EGS), the geographic options open up, he continued.
“Conventional geothermal is largely regional”, such as the Asia Pacific Ring of Fire. “If you don’t live in or within those regions, geothermal could be just a fancy term you see in a textbook one time in your life,” he said. New developments “will allow us to develop and explore geothermal systems theoretically anywhere”.
Time to team up
Given these opportunities, both speakers were keen to stress the importance of collaboration in propelling geothermal.
“The world is going to need more energy,” Nick said. “We have to find energy somehow. We’re not out with pitchforks, saying that gas has to go away. We’re actually saying well, we need you and your global supply chain, your workforce, your money, frankly, and investment. We need you and we need to partner with you.”
One thing that operators or end users are looking at, when seeking geothermal projects, is a desire for an integrated solution. They want to go out to tender, Patrick said, “and they want one bidder to do it all. Quite frankly, there isn’t a company around that can do everything on a project, from exploration to commissioning. Collaboration is required whether we like it or not.”
For the industry to keep moving ahead, he said, companies must be willing and able to deliver these integrated bids – which means collaboration and co-operation. “We have to be able to have a cordial and productive conversation for the betterment of the industry – even if we compete head to head 90% of the time.”
You can listen to this episode of EVOL ✕ Expro: Geothermal’s time to shine hereEVOL ✕ Expro: Geothermal’s time to shine here.