The world looks ever-more anxiously for tech solutions to climate change, and companies like Alberta-based Eavor are delivering. Eavor recently graduated from Creative Destruction Lab’s objectives-based program and is poised to bring its efficient Eavor-Loop energy solution to companies and communities around the globe.
But even the best ideas need to be challenged, and Eavor President and CEO John Redfern said his company didn’t find that critical component until they came to CDL. When discussing Eavor’s energy and heating system with investors and oil and gas industry veterans, he encountered plenty of enthusiasm, but little understanding.
“Too many people would be polite and go, ‘Oh, that’s fascinating,’ but in reality, they had little idea what we were talking about,” Redfern said. Many, for example, confused our concept with either traditional geothermal or ground source heat pumps. The result was a few polite nods from potential investors and encouraging words from peers, rather than the investments the company was seeking.
“One of the best things I got out of CDL is (ironically) negative feedback, and that’s invaluable. If you’re selling a truly novel idea, you need that negative feedback and you need repeated exposure to the same people to sell the idea,” Redfern said.
Scientists and investors associated with CDL, but especially our CDL mentors, gave frank insights into how Eavor was positioning itself and whether they (and others) thought the technology was viable. That helped Redfern and his team refine the presentation of their concept—and attract new investors. A highlight of the experience was pitching well-known venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, Redfern said.
Sustainable Energy From the Earth, for the Earth
The path toward the Eavor-Loop wasn’t always clear, according to Redfern.
”The concept for the company started out not as, ‘Gee, let’s invent a new form of power’ or anything like that,” Redfern said. “It was simply the idea that we had all these different suspended, but not-yet-abandoned wells in the province. And the question was, ‘Isn’t there better things we can do with these suspended sites other than returning a few of them to agricultural purposes? Can we do something more useful?’”
Initially, the Eavor founders considered turning the suspended wells into sources of geothermal power, but they rapidly found that the economics and thermodynamics of such a repurposing just didn’t seem promising. Then co-founder Paul Cairns suggested the concept of what would ultimately become theEavor-Loop—a closed-loop system that draws on heat from deep within the earth and effectively functions as an industrial-grade radiator and power system. The rest of our rather extensive R&D under our CTO Matt Toews, has basically been to figure out how to implement such a system in a cost effective manner. The resulting technology is so efficient, a single Eavor-Loop installation can heat 16,000 homes.
A key advantage of the Eavor-Loop is that it’s built on existing systems and processes, lowering the development costs. “Most of what we do is already off-the-shelf technology, but we put it together in an unusual, and patentable, combination for an unusual purpose,” Redfern said.
Because of the counterintuitive nature of the solution to many traditional geothermal experts, Eavor built theEavor-Lite Demonstration Project in Alberta so prospective clients can see the technology in action. Although the Eavor-Lite design differs somewhat from the Eavor-Loop, it combines all of the vital components so decision-makers and investors from around the globe can gain a tangible sense of what the latter can do. Eavor seeks to work with a variety of partners, including traditional oil companies, municipal governments, and utilities companies, as well as indigenous communities in rural areas.
Participating in CDL helped advance that goal by providing structure and connections to important mentors and investors.
“I realized it wasn’t an incubator where we were going to lose a bunch of time in an artificial environment,” Redfern said of the decision to enroll. The fact that he and his team could continue working out of their own office while taking advantage of the CDL milestone structure made the program attractive. The opportunity to connect with investors was also a huge draw. Because geothermal is not a new concept, Redfern said Eavor may have struggled to get in front of major Calgary backers without someone to make those introductions.
“It was important to use the CDL platform to get beyond that first reaction of ‘Geothermal? Not interested,’” Redfern said. “When they were forced to look at us a few sessions in a row, all of a sudden, one party after another said, ‘I get it now.’”