Our Expanding Mandate
Under the direction of the Government of Alberta the Alberta Energy Regulator's (AER's) mandate has expanded from oil, oil sands, natural gas, and coal to include new areas of resource development, such as geothermal. We will continue to ensure the safe, efficient, orderly, and environmentally responsible development of resources within Alberta.
Once the Government of Alberta sets the acts and rules, we will use these regulatory instruments to create the directives (i.e., specific requirements) to regulate each new area of resource development. The directives will ensure that development is carried out to protect public safety and the environment while ensuring that the regulatory system is as efficient as possible.
In 2020, the Government of Alberta announced the opportunity to develop emerging energy and mineral resources in Alberta. This work is part of the government's economic recovery effort to relaunch and diversify Alberta's economy and secure long-term prosperity following the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn in the oil and gas sector.
Alberta Energy and Alberta Environment and Parks began work on diversifying the province's resource sector by developing legislation that would establish the AER as the primary regulator for new areas of resource development within Alberta. We are working with the Alberta Geological Survey branch within the AER to understand the development and regulation of new resource areas and map the province's geology and resource potential.
New Resource Potential
Geothermal Resource Development
Using emerging made-in-Alberta technology and building on decades of drilling expertise, the Government of Alberta is taking steps to create the conditions for industry to harness clean geothermal energy safely. For example, existing oil and gas wells may be repurposed for geothermal energy, encouraging new investment with minimal environmental effects.
Over the next decade or so, the primary market for geothermal energy produced in Alberta will likely be local municipalities and industries needing power and heat. The Government of Alberta anticipates the development of Alberta's geothermal resources will help meet long-term energy demand across Canada and the United States. The knowledge and technical expertise gained in the near term will help Alberta build a successful geothermal export market.
Alberta has several advantages for developing geothermal energy:
- natural geological advantage
- the opportunity to repurpose inactive oil and gas wells, well sites, and infrastructure
- leadership and innovation in drilling technology
- extensive oil and gas expertise and a well-established service sector
While the Act is now in force, the AER is working to finalize the requirements that industry must follow when developing geothermal resources. The AER will publish final requirements in the spring of 2022.
We are committed to building programs, systems, and processes to help industry reduce liability throughout the entire life cycle of resource development. We work collaboratively with governments and companies to develop and implement liability management programs for all resource sectors, helping protect Albertans from potential environmental issues and costs associated with the closure of resource projects. Our liability management programs will also apply to geothermal development. More information on liability management will be available in 2022.
As we develop new directives, we will continue to seek input from stakeholders and Indigenous communities to help shape the directives for each emerging resource.