A green energy future for Svalbard

Thomas Beka (to the right) and researchers from the University of Oulu testing equipment for measuring of thermal energy.

OULU: Scientists are now looking into the potential for electricity production wined from geothermal energy reservoirs in Svalbard. Further, they are considering the possibility of combining this with carbon dioxide capture and storage.


Currently, Svalbard is getting all of its energy supplies from burning fossil fuel. In the future, the settlements on the archipelago can become be self-efficient with energy from a local renewable source.

Countries such as Iceland, the US and the Philippines have already harvested a significant amount of their electricity supply from geothermal energy reservoirs. In theory most countries can harvest geothermal energy, simply because the temperature in the ground will increase the further down in the Earth’s surface you penetrate. However, dependent on how far down one has to drill in order to hit a high enough temperature, some places on Earth are far more cost efficient for harvesting geothermal energy than others. Svalbard is located close to the mid-Atlantic rift. The earth’s crust is thin there, which makes it more cost efficient for production of geothermal electricity, Teknovatøren writes. 

The University of Tromsø in northern Norway has for the last couple of years investigated the potential for geothermal energy both in Longyearbyen and in the research community of Ny-Ålesund.

The scientists are also studying the possibility to combine production of geothermal electricity with carbon dioxide capture by circulating carbon dioxide instead of water to harvest electricity. The carbon dioxide comes from fossil fuel production plants already located on Svalbard. Norway recently opened a new coal mine on Svalbard, as BarentsObserver reported.

Studying geothermal energy on Svalbard from Oulu

Thomas Beka from Tromsø is a phD student from Tromsø currently studying geophysics at the University of Oulu, Finland. “Oulu is known for its well-established research community within geophysics, that’s why I wanted to study here”, Beka says to BarentsObserver.

He was in Svalbard last summer to conduct field measurements of the geothermal resources and is now in the process of analyzing them. “Geothermal energy is one of most promising energy resources for a clean and sustainable future. In mainland Norway geothermic energy is not that commercially viable because we already have cheap energy, but Norway can have advantages because of our competence and knowledge from oil exploration and drilling”.

Beka is now planning tests in Svalbard during wintertime and is testing the equipment in the woods around Oulu. Permafrost is no problem when measuring the Earth’s electrical characteristics in order to detect heath sources, he says.