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.In August of that year, 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.In 2016, pre-FEED studies began being carried out locally, following the Council of the day committing $225,000 from automated traffic reserves to fund the study. These studies gave positive indication that Hinton had an opportunity in this region to do something unique.While the election of 2017 saw extensive public engagement on the subject from the Council, the Council Candidates, and the since elected Council, administration and partners were hard at work. Town staff were seeking opportunities to use grants and partnerships to secure the funding for this phase of the project.
This afternoon, Western Economic Diversification Canada, The Government of Alberta, and Alberta Innovates together made a signifigant 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.
“Today, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD), announced $400,000 for an engineering and design initiative to determine the viability of a Geothermal District Energy System in the Town of Hinton. The Government of Alberta and Alberta Innovates will provide a total of $800,000, bringing the investment amount for the Town of Hinton’s project to $1.2 million. The proposed system would produce renewable geothermal heat from marginally producing oil and gas wells to heat the town’s public buildings.”(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)
Mayor Marcel Michaels was proud to reiterate this announcement during this evening’s Hinton Town Council Meeting (recording available soon on the Town of Hinton Webpage). While speaking on the matter, he stated:
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Hinton’s natural, long renowned resource wealth has once again provided for our region with this remarkable potential. Now, with the provincial and federal government both on board, we can go out and find our future, not wait for it to come to us.”
What Happens Next?
With the support of federal and provincial governments, strong partners like Epoch, and a long resource history, Hinton is positioned to be the ideal test case for technology and methodologies that may very well change the way our entire nation thinks about heat. There are over 4,000 wells reaching below 2,500 m within 70km of Hinton, some of which have temperatures as high as 140° Celsius. The potential of using both the bores, and the expertise, of our areas historic extraction industries to provide jobs in the renewable energy sector represents an exceptional synergy, feeling almost predestined as the perfect scenario for our region. In the same spirit as Hinton grew historically, from end of rails outfitter to mining to timber to oil and gas and now beyond, Hinton now looks to the future.
What is the FEED study?
FEED refers to: Front-End Engineering Design.The Town of Hinton and Epoch Energy completed a pre-FEED study, which identified a well pair could recover a significant amount of heat, with the possibility of a 16-year payback and an internal rate of return of 5%, amounting to a level cost of service equivalent to natural gas without emissions.The FEED study, now, will build on this success, diving deeper into improving economic returns and finding technical solutions for the possibility of a District Energy System. This will include a great deal of technical aspects in the course of a multiphase program.
How can Hintonites get involved?
This investment from the federal and provincial governments are the pieces needed to act on the initial evaluations funded by investment by the Town of Hinton and Epoch Energy.Now, Epoch will carry out work to move forward. This will likely mean some stakeholder engagement and other opportunities. You may also see Epoch’s staff in the community, including possibly visits or calls to businesses or apartment buildings.The Town of Hinton would recommend that anyone who receives a call or visit to take the opportunity to learn more and evaluate whether you may be able to be a part of this historic endeavour.Hinton Residents can also call T.M. Gunderson at (403) 998-0312 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.Find more about the Hinton Geothermal project at Hinton.ca/Geothermal