September 29, 2021

Team Profile:
Geothermal Reimagined: Learning from the Oil & Gas Industry

photo credit:
Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

What can geothermal, and supercritical geothermal, learn from the oil and gas industry?

Where and how can oil and gas contribute to geothermal energy development and exploration?

Hotter, deeper geothermal energy, and supercritical resources if successful, could deliver larger volumes of much hotter fluids, and efficiencies would translate into greater competitiveness. We are open to learning from international experiences, including in other industries, to pursue the deep geothermal opportunity for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Both the geothermal and oil and gas industries are mature industries with advanced drilling technologies and proven exploration methods. Both industries look for subsurface permeability and volume, looking for huge underground energy resources, and have continually evolved their ways of working.

Cross-fertilisation between these subsurface industries have been going on for decades. But, with the transition away from fossil fuels and rapid acceleration toward renewables, there are more incentives to explore cross-over technologies and ways of working to support geothermal innovation and expansion. Both industries are experienced in working with geological risk, negotiating regulatory systems, navigating social acceptance and raising finance.  

There are, of course, some industry differences. Unlike oil and gas, geothermal heat energy can’t be stored without conversion to another form of energy. This means the geothermal market has to be close by to be commercially viable, which usually means geothermal energy developments are in closer proximity to people. Also, oil and gas generally have higher profit margins and a quicker payback period, requiring less incentives to cover exploration phase. But geothermal use, if managed sustainably, doesn’t exhaust the resource and is a long-term investment.

There are an increasing number of events and information being developed to support cross-fertilisation between the geothermal and oil and gas industries. One such is PIVOT, a decade-long conference series focused on catalysing collaboration and innovation aiming to push geothermal development into exponential growth globally by 2030. It involves start-ups, governments, philanthropists, investors, oil, gas and geothermal industry players.

The presentations are accessible for free from the Pivot2021 conference. A number of 2021 sessions were relevant to our supercritical research, covering topics such as scaling up, social license, next generation technologies, super-hot geothermal and deep drilling.

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