Norcliffe’s recent investment in Roc-Drill also marks its entry into the renewable energy sector through its subsidiary Geothermal Industries.

Renewable energy has been on the upward trend in Australia but the geothermal heating and cooling segment is still in its infancy and Norcliffe Mining Services is in on the ground floor following its acquisition of Roc-Drill.

The acquisition of Roc-Drill includes Geothermal Industries, a specialist provider of geothermal drilling and supplier of geothermal equipment such as ground source heat pumps and specialised earth loop piping.

Geothermal heating and cooling works by taking advantage of the fact that the temperature of the Earth remains relatively constant throughout the year. Energy can then be stored in the earth like a very large thermal battery.

In colder months, heat energy from the ground is extracted through a series of pipes installed below ground and moved into the building. This process is reversed during the warmer months and the heat energy is extracted from the building and stored in the earth.

Norcliffe geothermal industries
Geothermal process. PIc: Supplied

The technology is scalable and applies to everything from a small two-bedroom home to large commercial developments where energy can be shared amongst buildings.

The use of geothermal energy could reduce the energy footprint of a building by up to 50-70%, making it particularly attractive for large commercial buildings that typically use a lot of energy such as council pools, hospitals or aged care facilities. In addition to the energy savings the systems also reduce maintenance requirements, eliminate outdoor noise and give back valuable space within the building.

While Australia is in the infancy stage with the technology, Geothermal Industries general manager Clint Patzack notes that the technology is very well-known and applied overseas.

During a trip to Europe company CEO Nigel DeVeth noted that “In Sweden, a fifth of all buildings are heated or cooled with geothermal energy while 80 per cent of all new construction is looking at the technology as part of a sustainable solution for their heating and cooling needs,” Seeing how common the application of geothermal systems overseas is DeVeth immediately knew he had an opportunity to apply the same principles in Australia.

“Over in the US, they have predicted that the demand for geothermal heat pumps will grow upwards of 62% by 2025 with states such as New York passing a bill to make it mandatory to consider geothermal if financially viable on new construction ;” Patzack added

“What we’re seeing overseas is large energy companies installing district style geothermal systems and operating them as a utility because they see the long-term investment potential and protection against rising energy costs. With the efficiency of the geothermal technology it will enable them to capture that revenue off energy savings year after year while reducing their annual maintenance requirements.”


Australian demand

Patzack believes that in Australia, the combination of new environmental laws, energy awareness and rising energy costs means that the company is now at the tipping point of providing geothermal systems at a level not yet seen in Australia.

“More and more it’s becoming not just a nice thing to have, but a necessity to tick the boxes and to take some of that power away from the grid and into more renewables,” he said.

“Recently we have had some very big successes in incorporating geothermal systems in some of Australia’s most advanced buildings”

He noted that one of the things he is passionate about is working with industry peers to put together a national body that will start lobbying the government both at the state and federal level.

“Once we do that, we open up grants and other avenues for funding, which will really take the industry towards its next step forward,” he explained.

“Right now we’re in a rapid growing phase and I believe what we are going to end up seeing is that we will steadily add more projects and larger projects onto the books and organically grow the business.”

Patzack adds that companies such as Google and Microsoft have heavily invested and developed start-up geothermal companies overseas and uses the ground source technology in it’s own facilities.”


Norcliffe connection

The acquisition of Roc-Drill and Geothermal Industries is expected to have a positive impact on the latter’s growth plans.

Speaking to Stockhead, Norcliffe managing director Charlie Massarella expressed his belief that the future for the green economy is very real and that there’s a great future for the geothermal business.

“We are really going to pump some more capital and grow it. We’ve got good relationships and delivered many recent projects in Victoria and NSW,” he added.

DeVeth notes that Norcliffe will provide the company with more capital to bring on more equipment, staff, marketing power and reach that will help grow the business.

For Norcliffe, the addition of Geothermal Industries provides access to a completely new market apart from its mining services business along with a new investor base that is more interested in renewables rather than mining.

Massarella adds that it also brings DeVeth’s and Patzack’s expertise into play for the company.

Patzack has more than 15 years’ of experience in designing and installing geothermal heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems throughout many countries in the world.

DeVeth brings over 30 years of experience managing successful drilling companies to Geothermal Industries. It was his passion for the technology and its adoption overseas that attracted him to start Geothermal Industries in Australia with its huge untapped market potential.

This article was developed in collaboration with Norcliffe Mining Services, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.