Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC) and National Central Cooling Company (Tabreed), on Monday announced a breakthrough in the first project in the gulf region to harness geothermal energy following the conclusion of testing on two geothermal wells at Masdar City in Abu Dhabi.

The state-backed oil producer, which is also driving the country's decarbonisation push, said the wells produced hot water at temperatures exceeding 90 degrees Celsius and flow rates of approximately 100 liters per second (l/s).

The hot water generated by the heat from the wells will now pass through an absorption cooling system to produce chilled water, which will then be supplied to Tabreed’s district cooling network at Masdar City, accounting for 10% of its cooling needs, the companies said in a statement.

Currently, the cooling of buildings accounts for most of the UAE’s electricity consumption.

Musabbeh Al Kaabi, ADNOC Executive Director for Low Carbon Solutions and International Growth, said: "Geothermal heat is a clean and renewable source of energy abundantly available in the UAE and capable of providing baseload electricity. However, until now, it has remained an untapped source of energy. By leveraging technological advances, for the first time ADNOC and Tabreed have unlocked this clean energy source to decarbonize one of the most energy intensive sectors in the country.”

District cooling offers a sustainable alternative to traditional cooling methods as it is around 50% more energy efficient in its standard operations. Leveraging geothermal heat for district cooling operations has the potential to significantly reduce electricity demand for cooling from the grid, helping to decarbonize one of the most energy intensive sectors in the region.

The project, enabled by ADNOC’s initial $15 billion allocation towards low carbon solutions, is set to decarbonise the cooling of buildings in Masdar City.

Just last month ADNOC brought the forward the deadline to reach net zero emissions to 2045 from its previous target of 2050. The UAE's National Energy Strategy 2050, meanwhile, aims to grow renewable energy capacity to 14 GW by 2030.

ADNOC is also working with several companies to maximize the contribution of geothermal energy in the UAE using the latest drilling and power generation technologies, it said.

Earlier this year, an ADNOC subsidiary, ADNOC Drilling Co. signed a five-year MoU with Abu Dhabi’s clean energy company Masdar to explore geothermal energy opportunities as a means to drive clean energy transition.

Masdar entered the geothermal energy sector in February with a strategic investment in Indonesia’s Pertamina Geothermal Energy (PGE), one of the world’s largest geothermal players.

(Writing by Brinda Darasha; editing by Seban Scaria)