Jan 2021 Interview with Tómas Már Sigurðsson, CEO of HS Orka, Iceland
Prisma Reports (PR): Geothermal energy is a leading source of renewable energy in Iceland, contributing about 27% of the energy mix. Do you see further growth?
Tómas Már Sigurðsson (TS): In the early 1900s, we started to heat houses using this geothermal energy. For HS Orka, it has always been our mission to let no resource go to waste. With geothermal energy you drill down deeper into wells and bring up steam and fluid at a very, very high temperature under immense pressure. Once you generate the electricity and heat the houses, you have other resources like steam and CO², and we have focused on building up opportunities in both.
We have also developed a lot of interesting site projects around our Resource Park. We see this as a responsible way of working with the resource and try not to over utilize so as to sustainably maintain its potential. This approach has been a great success. We have been a successful company for a long time, and have seen a lot of offsprings in our resource products become very successful and grow with us.
That is very rewarding to see: the sustainable economy that we are creating around this and generating a lot of jobs for the communities.
PR: At the global level, what do you see as the biggest obstacles to boosting investments in geothermal production, and what regions have the most potential to tap such opportunities?
TS: The obvious obstacle is that the resource isn’t everywhere, but with the heightened awareness of global warming and the environmental impact of such utilization, geothermal energy becomes much more attractive.
Coal is a very prominent medium to produce heat. When people start to explore geothermal areas and resources, there are actually possibilities for replacement and a lot of potential for this particular method going forward.
It’s not all around energy production. It’s also around heating houses and heating water. Obviously, the primary resource lies where you have geothermally active areas or seismically active areas. Iceland is remote, and those areas are not necessarily close to big capital areas. There are certain geological constraints, but with more technology and increased focus we overcame most constraints and transfer technology much better.
PR: What makes your Resource Park so unique?
TS: It’s completely unique because it’s about letting no resource go to waste. With geothermal drilling you bring up a lot of different resources, not only just the energy, but also brine, steam, and CO².
We have converted that traditional waste into a valuable resource, for example, next door is a hydrogen production facility.
We also use the heat to warm up water for fish farming. We have a small economy thriving on the utilization of the resource. You have a long-term natural resource where you develop multiple applications, and nothing goes to waste.
PR: Do you have a final message to the readers of Foreign Policy?
TS: Utilizing resources in a sustainable way is possible, and good business. We have a society without waste and have fully utilized all our natural resources.
That has built us a healthy company, and multiple healthy firms around us in our society and provided jobs in the community. We think that approach is both best practice and good business.