Success Stories

Harnessing Heat from Deep Underground Using Eavor Technology

Eavor (pronounced "Ever") is a geothermal technology-based energy company dedicated to creating a future of clean, reliable and affordable energy on a global scale. Eavor's solution―the Eavor-Loop™―represents the world's first truly scalable form of clean, dispatchable baseload power.

We interviewed Eavor Technologies' Vice President & Representative, Japan, James Heatherington, to find out more about the technology, why the company decided to enter the Japanese market, and what the Japanese government can do to encourage growth in the industry to meet its goal of doubling geothermal energy output and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 46 percent from 2013 levels by 2030, on its way to attaining carbon neutrality by 2050.

Establishment
2020/10
Destination
Tokyo・Kanto

  • Environment & Energy
  • Canada

Update : 2024/04

Turning Hot Rock into a Source of Green Energy

Dig deep enough into the ground and sooner or later you will hit heat. Generated in the Earth's core, this heat radiates outward, heating the rock that makes up the Earth's mantle. This is where Eavor seeks to extract heat energy with its ground-breaking Eavor-Loop™ technology.

An Eavor-Loop™ consists of two vertical wells with a series of horizontal or angled wellbores creating a closed, sealed radiator-like system deep below ground where the rock is several hundred degrees Celsius—the deeper you go, the hotter it gets. The closed-loop system is filled with fresh water, which naturally circulates within the system due to the thermosyphon effect, bringing up heat from the Earth that can be converted to electricity or used for district-heating.

James Heatherington, Vice President & Representative,
Eavor Japan KK.

Furthermore, because the Eavor-Loop™ extracts only heat, its productive life is long and predictable. Eavor calls it an unconventional geothermal revolution: "If we're successful, it could change the energy world in Japan, Europe and across the globe," says Heatherington.

"Eavor-Lite," a Demonstration facility in Canada

Japan's Appeal to Eavor—and its Challenges

Eavor Technologies decided to enter the Japanese market due to several compelling factors. Japan boasts a sizable and stable electrical demand. Furthermore, a feed-in tariff system (a system designed to accelerate investment in renewable energy technologies by offering long-term contracts to renewable energy producers) adds predictability to market prices for renewable projects. The stability of contracts and a robust legal system also contribute to making Japan an attractive environment for business operations.

"With any energy project, major concerns include economic viability, and who's going to actually buy the energy. In Japan, the market is set. From a business perspective, it's quite easy to understand, without any surprises," explains Heatherington.

The potential for growth for a company like Eavor in Japan's energy market is enormous: "Between the high demand, the policy drivers, the good geothermal gradient, the sky's the limit," says Heatherington.

For a country that has so much untapped geothermal energy potential, it is surprising to learn that there isn't a clear geothermal law, especially when it comes to utilization of pure heat resources, as opposed to the water resources that conventional geothermal relies on. While this leaves a great deal of uncertainty regarding ownership of resources, "Japan remains very attractive," confirms Heatherington.

Moving Forward: Chubu Electric's Investment Impact

Chubu Electric Power Company, a major Japanese utility company, has played a pivotal role in Eavor's expansion into Japan. Their substantial direct investments in Eavor Technologies, as well as in Eavor's first commercial project near the German town of Geretsried, have not only provided financial backing but also added credibility to the company's endeavors. "This really helps the project go forward," says Heatherington. "It brings in the name value of a traditional Japanese utilities company." Chubu Electric will take lessons learned from this overseas project and roll out the proof of concept to develop further resources in Japan.

"For Chubu Electric, it was the combination of our technology, our people and our promise for the future that made them realize that we are a genuine game-changer for the geothermal industry," says Heatherington.

Commercialization Project in Geretsried, Germany

The Path to Success in Japan

To become a true success in Japan, however, Eavor will have to surmount regulatory barriers, particularly the absence of specific geothermal laws and the lack of legal clarity regarding resource development rights. "Licensing exists for oil and gas and for mineral resources in Japan, but it does not exist for geothermal. Geothermal is controlled by the onsen law, which regulates the hot spring resources here but does not account for new technology like an Eavor-Loop," says Heatherington.

Another hurdle is getting buy-in from local communities—a prerequisite for any kind of resource development project. But as Heatherington explains, "If you spend time on the ground talking to people, you can explain the benefits we bring not only in terms of clean, green energy, but additional jobs and other positive impacts on the community. With proper engagement, you will get buy-in—which is paramount."

Finally, addressing supply chain issues in the Japanese drilling industry, such as ensuring the availability of drilling rigs and a skilled workforce, are crucial steps. "Personnel remains a barrier, which can be overcome either by training more people domestically or bringing in crews from overseas," says Heatherington. "We need to get a few projects in the ground in Japan, and then build on that base as we work towards our mission to bring free, clean, green and infinite energy to Japan and the world."

As Japan works towards its 2030 target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 46 percent from 2013 levels and its long-term goal of attaining carbon neutrality by 2050, many green innovation opportunities are opening up in Japan's rapidly growing renewable energy sector, including geothermal, onshore and offshore wind, solar and hydro generation. This "Green Growth Strategy" aims to create a virtuous cycle of environmental responsibility and economic growth, allowing Japan to lead the way in creating a green and sustainable society.

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