In 2008, Vermilion teamed up with four agricultural engineers who wanted to create an economically and ecologically viable greenhouse operation in which to grow tomatoes. The concept was to use geothermal energy from our Parentis oilfield’s produced water to supply an industrial-sized tomato greenhouse operation.
Not only is this now an ongoing operation in which we’re providing heat free-of-charge and free of carbon emissions for 25 years – which has made the greenhouse operation profitable to build and operate – it has sparked an entire agricultural sector in Parentis. Today, this sector represents:
We are incredibly proud of the role we played in catalyzing this economic growth, with its social and environmental benefits. Not only have we helped create new jobs in a new industry, we have effectively decoupled economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions for this sector.
Here’s how it grew.
It was the mayor of Parentis who brought Vermilion and the tomato growers together in the mid-2000s. The ensuing discussions led to the rezoning and issuance of related municipal permits, and the signing of our 25- year partnership agreement. Tom D’Aqui (the tomato growing cooperative) built their first 10-hectare greenhouse next to our Parentis battery, we installed the heat exchange technology, and brought the operation online in 2012, establishing that this model not only worked, but worked well.
Within the overall agricultural sector listed above, the direct impact of our produced water geothermal system is 7,500 tonnes of tomatoes grown annually, 10,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases avoided each year and 250 direct jobs. This heating system also allows the Tom d’Aqui greenhouse to be heated without carbon emissions, a key element in their certification as an eco-greenhouse. The project also reduces the cost of traditional tomato growing operations in the region, allowing the producers to compete with warmer climate producers.
This shared focus on innovative technology and environmental responsibility earned our partnership the 2013 Circular Economy Award for Industrial and Regional Ecology from the French government, recognizing economically successful enterprises that operate within a circular economy. G4-OG2/3
Based on our success, we supported AVENIA, an industry partnership that advises the French government on energy, to launch an industry and country-wide study to identify the potential for waste energy use from oil and gas operations. In addition to contributing financial support, we provided the expertise of our people, and actively encouraged other companies to participate. The results were shared following a detailed review by AVENIA.
By demonstrating proof-of-concept, our partnership with Tom d’Aqui has been credited as being a catalyst for three new projects launched independently of Vermilion. But that’s only part of the story: our heat contributes 40% of the sector’s needs (representing the 15-hectare Tom D’Aqui greenhouse next to our battery); the other projects have been developed using recycled biomass, with the result that this is now the largest tomato production in France from non-fossil fuel sources.
We are using a similar geothermal concept to support an Eco-Neighborhood being built in La-Teste. This 30-year partnership with the city and the French land developer Pichet will use our recycled geothermal energy to heat 450 apartments, saving 50% of the heating bill for the residents and 680 tonnes per year of CO2. The community, which has reserved one third of the apartments for low-income social housing, also features a community centre and various sports facilities. The technology works the same way as in our greenhouse partnership: