Interview series: Craig Dunn, COO and geologist with Borealis GeoPower

Interview series: Craig Dunn, COO and geologist with Borealis GeoPower Fort Liard, NWT, Canada (source:
Alexander Richter 10 Oct 2010

Continuing with the interview series, ThinkGeoEnergy got the chance to hear from the COO and geologist of Canadian Borealis Geopower, Craig Dunn on his views on the industry and developments.

ThinkGeoEnergy continues its interview series, now with Craig Dunn, COO and geologist with Canadian Borealis Geopower and a passionate advocate of geothermal energy development in Canada.

How would you describe your company and your key activities?

Borealis Geopower is a private geothermal energy company based in Calgary, Alberta. We assist energy developers with geothermal energy assessments and innovative project development. “Trusted advisors to geothermal energy industry”

What are your company’s key projects and what is their development status and outlook?

With the support of government funding, we are currently partnered with a technology company for the development of co-produced fluids project in Alberta and partnered with Native community in remote Northern Canada for an innovative heat and power project. We also are moving forward with assisting companies in other energy industries to understand potential in geothermal energy development projects, both in Canada and internationally. This project include mining operations, remote power development and conventional geothermal energy/project development.

What incentives or support do you think would be crucial to spur development in Canada?

Education is still a huge barrier to geothermal energy development in Canada, both from a policy and finance perspective. Borealis has already been granted funding (both provincially in Alberta and Federally) to develop projects which we hope will open the door to further development; the reality is Canada needs a working geothermal energy project to reference. That being said very few jurisdictions have an geothermal energy policy, so any developer needs to be patient with the regulatory process. There is just a lack of legal precedence, or any regulatory environment; two of our project areas have no geothermal energy policy at all. Very difficult to calculate project risk and reward and to bring in financing to projects when there is such a regulatory grey area.

Regarding industry support, we are very grateful that CanGEA (Canadian Geothermal Energy Association) has been a strong voice for the industry in Canada , and they have worked hard for the recent development and implementation of the geothermal energy code. The code will help bring credibility to the geothermal energy industry and allow assessments to bring in the key financing necessary for further growth.

What do you think holds back speedier development of geothermal energy projects globally?

As whole the industry needs more effective policy regimes that encourage development; the initial economic support to get things rolling and the legislative framework that acts as a risk reducer. Efficient land tenuring, drilling assistance, renewable portfolio standards, feed-in tariff pricing are just a few of the options available to help geothermal energy to move forward. In 2008, Borealis completed a study looking at policies from a number of countries involved in geothermal energy development. The overriding theme was that countries (like Germany, Iceland and Japan) that took an aggressive policy approach to supporting the industry, were well-rewarded with early development of geothermal energy projects.

Another key issue to speedy development is education of the mainstream finance community about geothermal energy. We have heard time and time again from the bulk of the investment community that they just don’t “get” geothermal. It has one of lowest $/installed MW values, smallest environmental footprint and it is renewable, baseload power… how is it still in the shadow of wind and solar? It is still very difficult to raise capital for initial exploration and development as the huge upfront investment is daunting for investors; the industry needs to do a better job of making geothermal energy well understood to the finance community.

What are your expectations for the event in Sacramento? Who do you look forward meeting at the trade show?

Both our CFO Tim Thompson and I are very much looking to our involvement at the GRC this year and we are already realizing that the schedule is filling up fast. Personally I am looking forward to the reservoir workshop, as there is always something new to learn.

I am looking forward to sitting down with some of the project developers (Susan Petty with AltaRock, Brian Fairbanks with Nevada Geothermal, Saf Dhillion with US Geothermal) and discussing how their projects are moving forward.

I am keen on meeting up with the crew from Geoscience Australia and to hear about all their developments in bringing geothermal energy into their country’s energy mix. The Australian geothermal energy industry have been incredible help to the CanGEA code design and deserve at least a few beers from their Canadian counterparts.

I am also excited to see the next generation of geothermal advocates get to share the opening stage.. so good luck with your presentation Alex! [thanks Craig 😉 ]