"Geothermal Whitecourt projects not currently ‘economically viable’: Report" by Brad Quarin
Now is not the time to develop geothermal heat or electricity projects in the Whitecourt area, according to a Geothermal Development Feasibility Study.
Town planning director Jennine Loberg spoke on the study at Whitecourt council’s policies and priorities committee meeting Monday.
“Unfortunately with the current market conditions, the economics of using geothermal are not quite there,” Loberg told council.
“However, the good news is that there have been several spots of hot sedimentary aquifers confirmed for our area.
“I think having this information publicly available is going to increase the discussions on the potential for our area, and increase the likelihood of a project that is a good fit for geothermal.”
According to council’s agenda package, high capital costs for geothermal projects mean using geothermal direct heat instead of natural gas wouldn’t meet the 10 per cent rate of return needed for investment.
Loberg said grants and lower drilling costs could address some of the economic concerns to make geothermal projects feasible in the area.
The potential for geothermal development in Whitecourt and Woodlands County became evident through local oil-and-gas wells showing hot subsurface temperatures, according to the study.
“It (geothermal development) is something that previous reviews had found potential in, and we were identified as a potential hotspot,” Loberg told council.
Geothermal projects involve less land footprint and produce little greenhouse gas emissions, the study states.
Whitecourt and Woodlands had secured an Alberta Community Partnership grant to hire Borealis GeoPower in 2020 to complete the study, according to town administration.
The company finished the study in July 2021.
Whitecourt and Woodlands councillors reviewed the results during a Feb. 23 workshop, and the report is now available at whitecourt.ca/reports.
Loberg told council Monday that administration applied for a federal Smart Renewables and Electrification Pathways Program (SREP) grant for further site investigation but was unsuccessful.
Abigail Lixfeld, a Natural Resources Canada senior director, wrote in a letter to the town that the program received 234 applications from across the country, and the program budget couldn’t accommodate all.
Coun. Braden Lanctot’s motion to accept the study was carried.
Study looks at serving three local areas
The study showed hot sedimentary aquifers were located below both the town and county.
Some reservoir temperatures reached as high as 140 C, Loberg told council Monday.
The three areas within Woodlands County with the highest energy demand are the Town of Whitecourt, a Woodlands area west of town and another southwest of town, according to Borealis GeoPower.
There are eight formations (hot sedimentary aquifers) at differing depths that could serve these areas that the study explored. Some, like the Nisku Formation (which has depths of 2.1 to 2.25 kilometres), are located underneath all of Woodlands County.
Other formations can be found in certain local areas. The Gilwood Sandstone is beneath the Whitecourt area at depths of 2.65 to 2.75 km while the Swan Hills Formation can be found in southwest Woodlands and north of Whitecourt, and reaches 123 C in places.
Of the three areas, the study found a geothermal heating project is most economically viable in Whitecourt.
This is due to its high demand and potential to access seven of eight formations the study explored, with temperatures in Whitecourt’s targets varying from 45 to 120 C.
For example, the Viking Sandstone, which is shallower (1,250 metres) and cooler (45 to 57 C) than the other formations, could be used for direct use heat in the town and nearby business parks, according to Borealis GeoPower.
Southwest Woodlands County around Highway 32 has greater heat of 54 to 125 C that could “serve higher temperature industrial purposes,” Borealis GeoPower states.
The area west of town doesn’t currently have great heat demand, Borealis GeoPower notes.
However, the study states it may see greater energy demand due to the possible development of a business park, with the area having potential for electricity generation.
Other formations looked at included the Nordegg formation in western Woodlands County that could also be used as a direct use heat reservoir, and the Eldon Sandstone on the northwest of Woodlands.
The Leduc Formation in the northeast and southwest of Woodlands County is distant from areas of high energy demand but has 111 C temperatures, the study notes.
The Village of Valemount and the combined efforts to resume the development of our Sustainaville project were commemorated by Laura Keil in her editorial, "What is Canada's energy vision?", for the Rocky Mountain Goat. Keil called the project "a brilliant idea" and invited the Canadian government to "show as much leadership on the geothermal file as they have on the [Trans-Mountain] pipeline, and support Canadians who are making a difference."
Written by Rod Link. Published January 15th, 2022, by the Terrace Standard:
Geoscience work on the potential to pump super hot subsurface water from near Lakelse Lake so that heat extracted could replace fossil fuels as an energy source in the area continues thanks to a $500,000 grant from the provincial government.
Announced Jan. 13, the money furthers what is approaching seven years of probing by Kitselas First Nation-owned Kitselas Geothermal and Borealis GeoPower of Calgary of the potential for an income producing industry.
When brought to the surface, the superheated water’s steam can be used to turn electricity-generating turbines or pumped to clients who use the heat from the hot water as needed.
“Basically just like a hot water radiator heating system in a house, the hot water is piped to where [the heat] is needed,” explained David Try, the chair of Kitselas Geothermal. “The cooled water returns to the heat source/geothermal system.”
The $500,000 from the provincial government’s First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund is the maximum amount that the program can provide.
It’s also viewed as something that can prompt further investment by other agencies or investors, acknowledged Borealis president Alison Thompson.
Both Kitselas Geothermal and Borealis have emphasized the prospect of clean energy alternatives to fossil fuels to help meet the province’s overall emissions reductions effort as well as local employment and economic spinoffs.
Some of the ongoing field work to better map out where the superheated water is located involved seismic testing using a technology that did not require clearing trees.
The Lakelse Lake area has long been regarded as having the potential for a viable geothermal project, something Kitselas Geothermal and Borealis began exploring more in depth in 2014 with drilling following in 2018 on the west side of Lakelse Lake across from the Mount Layton Hotsprings location.
Should an eventual project be feasible, Kitselas Geothermal and Borealis already have a potential customer in Skeena BioEnergy’s pellet plant.
It sees value in an eventual pipeline from a geothermal hub to its plant so that heat from the water would replace natural gas in drying fibre before being turned into pellets and so reduce its carbon emissions.
The City of Terrace was also attracted to the potential and last summer provided support letters for applications by Kitselas and Borealis for additional government grants through the provincial government’s CleanBC Industry Fund.
“We view this as a positive step forward in an exciting and promising project for Skeena,” said Roger Keery, the president of Skeena Sawmills Ltd, about the $500,000 grant.
Kitselas Geothermal and Borealis are expected to hear if their application is successful within several months.
On January 13, 2022 the Honourable Murray Rankin, the B.C. Cabinet Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, announced funding for Kitselas Geothermal Inc.’s Fuel for Reconciliation project via a First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund grant. Borealis GeoPower is an affiliate of KGI and minority owner of the 'Fuel for Reconciliation' project in which the Kitselas Development Corporation owns the controlling stake.
Borealis is grateful to be in collaboration with Kitselas Geothermal who has aligned itself with the BC First Nations Climate Strategy and Action Plan. A Guiding Principle of the Plan is “Collaborate and develop true partnerships between First Nations in BC and governments, the private sector, other Indigenous Peoples, and our society as a whole to effectively address the climate emergency.”
The proposed geothermal district heating system, Fuel for Reconciliation, would build capacity, resiliency and self-sufficiency in the BC North Coast region. Fuel for Reconciliation seeks to decarbonize industries in and around Terrace by providing a clean and affordable energy alternative to fossil fuels. The clean energy transition is an act of guardianship that will protect the North Coast from climate change for generations to come.
Click here to read the official press release.
Alison Thompson, our CEO, describes how hydrocarbons are a valuable building block in the economy and value chain in her interview. However, the unnecessary combustion of fossil fuels creates harmful emissions that pose a risk.
Thompson encourages people to use a thought experiment where they choose to use or not to use fossil fuels and instead choose a type of renewable energy that is abundant and non-emitting.
The energy transition does not have to be painful, and geothermal energy is here to help.
Click here to visit TheFutureEconomy.ca's page.
"It is an honour to join the ranks of such esteemed professionals." APEGA bestowed the 2020 Centennial Leadership Award to our CEO, Alison Thompson, recognizing her distinction in geothermal engineering.
Click here to learn more about the Centennial Leadership Award.
The Borealis project, Fuel for Reconciliation, is displayed in the bottom-right corner of the #My2030 piece dedicated to the UN Sustainable Development Goal #13, Climate Action.
The Future of Good’s #My2030 art collection artistically showcases the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Loogart, an illustrator from Cantley, Quebec, says his use of fun colours with lots of people is bound with thick bold lines to create a storyline throughout the SDGs.
While Borealis believes in all the SDGs, its projects seek to build resilient infrastructure (SDG #9) by making cities sustainable (SDG #11) through the development of affordable and clean energy (SDG #7) while promoting gender equality in energy (SDG #5).
Click here to view more artworks!
Ernest Granson, from Avenue Calgary, featured our CEO, Alison Thompson, in a geothermal expose. Thompson says geothermal energy isn’t a buzzword. It’s here to stay. If you’re interested in finding out more about Thompson’s history in energy, take a look.
Alison Thompson, in her role as director of the industry association, CANGEA, appeared alongside NDP Premier Rachel Notley to share her excitement for the proposed Bill 36: Geothermal Resource Development Act.
The progress we’ve made in developing geothermal resources would not be possible without the oil & gas and mining industries having first spearheaded essential technologies that helped expand our understanding of subsurface geothermal reservoirs.
Progressing geothermal in Alberta and Canada is a valuable employment opportunity to transition highly-skilled out of work Albertans and into clean energy. Moving from a carbon heavy economy towards a more sustainable future is socially and economically beneficial to Albertans.
[NOTE: Thompson starts speaking at the 12:00 mark]