CALGARY — A small, Saskatoon-based company has drilled and fracked the world’s first 90-degree horizontal well for geothermal power in a potentially landmark move that signals the arrival of a new energy source in Canada and provides fresh opportunities for oil and gas workers to apply their skills in renewable power.
No company in Canada has produced electricity from geothermal heat, but Deep Earth Energy Production Corp. chief executive officer Kirsten Marcia told the Financial Post that there’s a “big, big future for geothermal power in Western Canada,” as demonstrated by the results of the first ever horizontal geothermal well, which is also the deepest horizontal well ever drilled in Saskatchewan.
“We were looking for a way to explain to people that we drilled a gusher,” said Marcia, a geologist who worked in the mining and petroleum industries before pioneering a geothermal business in Saskatchewan. In the oil and gas world, a “gusher” is an extremely productive well that pumps substantial volumes of oil and gas.
The well is a first for the global geothermal industry
In Canada’s nascent geothermal power industry, Deep’s “gusher” can produce steaming-hot water and brine with a temperature of 127 degrees centigrade at a rate of 100 litres per second. Marcia said those flow rates mean the well will actually be limited by the hardware, such as pump capacity, that are connected to the wellhead. She said the well, called the Border-5HZ well, is capable of producing 3 megawatts of renewable, reliable electricity, enough to power 3,000 homes.
The well will form part of a larger 20MW geothermal power project, which is expected to commence construction in 2023 in southern Saskatchewan close to the U.S. border.
The well is also a first for the global geothermal industry.
Directional geothermal power wells have been drilled in California, but Marcia said those were drilled at a 75-degree angle, rather than being truly horizontal. Her company’s Border-5HZ well was drilled into the earth at a depth of 3,450 metres before turning at a 90 degree angle and drilling through sedimentary rock along a 2,000-metre lateral route.
“This is a sedimentary geothermal project. There aren’t a lot of them in the world,” Marcia said, noting that most geothermal power projects, including those in world-leading Iceland, drill vertically into volcanic rock formations. “In terms of drilling into a sedimentary basin, you’re drilling into sedimentary units that are like a stack of pancakes.”
Deep is also responsible for the deepest vertical well ever drilled in Saskatchewan, after announcing in Nov. 2018 it had drilled a 3,530-metre well.