Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

Potential for enhanced geothermal systems in Alberta, Canada

Publication date: Available online 16 April 2014
Author(s): Hannes Hofmann , Simon Weides , Tayfun Babadagli , Günter Zimmermann , Inga Moeck , Jacek Majorowicz , Martyn Unsworth
The province of Alberta has a high demand of thermal energy for both industrial and residential applications. Currently, the vast majority of the heat used in these applications is obtained by burning natural gas. Geothermal energy production from deep aquifer systems in the sedimentary basin could provide an alternative sustainable source of heat that would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To date there has been no geothermal field development in Alberta because the average geothermal gradient was considered to be too low for economic geothermal energy generation. However, with new technologies for Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS), it may be possible to develop geothermal resources from the sedimentary rocks in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB). A numerical feasibility study based on a regional geological model and existing and newly gained data was conducted to identify scenarios for geothermal energy production in the region. In central Alberta, three Devonian carbonate formations (Cooking Lake, Nisku, Wabamun) and the Cambrian Basal Sandstone Unit were identified as the highest geothermal potential zones. Thermal-hydraulic reservoir simulations for a 5 km × 5 km site in the city of Edmonton were performed to evaluate reservoir development concepts for these four potential target formations; therefore, hydraulic fracturing treatments were also simulated. Different utilization concepts are presented for possible applications of geothermal energy generation in residential, industrial and agricultural areas. The Cooking Lake formation and the Basal Sandstone Unit are potentially the most promising reservoirs because the most heat can be extracted and the applications for the heat are widespread although the costs are higher than utilizing the shallower formations. Reservoir stimulation considerably improves the economics in all formations.

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