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Northeast B.C. geothermal project enters testing phase

Geothermal plant in testing

A second round of water testing for Fort Nelson First Nation's geothermal power plan is expected by next week, ensuring groundwater in the region is commercially viable for geothermal electricity and heat production facilities.  

Owned by the Fort Nelson First Nation, the Tu Deh-Kah power plant will be B.C.’s first geothermal electricity plant once completed, using 120-degree water sitting 2,000 to 2,500 metres below the earth's surface to generate power and heat year-round greenhouses.  

Project co-ordinator Jamie Capot-Blanc, a member of the Fort Nelson First Nation, is hopeful the tests will yield positive results, and excited for the possibilities of clean energy production and local food sustainability. 

“It’s exciting. There have been challenges, not necessarily from a technical standpoint. I’ve got an oil and gas background, so going through the commissioning process and going through this type of development, this is kind of normal,” he said. “But when you’re dealing with a first, there’s a lot of eyeballs on it.” 

As a former oil and gas plant operator, Capot-Blanc says much of the technology is similar and ultimately a matter of repurposing for the green project.  

“We need to prove that we can pump this fluid for 30 days in order to go into commercial financing and develop the rest of the field,” Capot-Blanc said. “In our first round of well testing we pumped 10,000 cubes, which is 10 million litres over 50 hours, and we saw temperatures from 112 to 128 Celsius.” 

“There is a large of water down there. We proved that the rock is porous enough that it allows that water to flow. We proved that we are seeing commercial-grade temperatures,” he said. “If this goes according to plan, we’re one step closer to being a first commercial electrical generating facility in Canada.” 

The geothermal wells in the former Clarke Lake gas field are expected to generate seven megawatts of electricity in their initial phase – enough to power about 5,000 homes. There's potential to expand to 15MW. 

The federal government announced $40.5 million for the project in March 2021, with an additional $100,000 in provincial funding awarded this past January.  

“We have a great opportunity here to revolutionize the North, and not only provide something for our people, but prosperity and unity. And that’s what it’s really about, bringing everyone together,” Fort Nelson First Nation Chief Sharleen Gale said during a blessing ceremony for the project last fall.  

Fort Nelson mayor Gary Foster penned a May 24 letter to Geothermal Project Manager John Ebell, expressing the municipality's support for the nation's application for funding assistance through the CleanBC Communities Fund

“We see in the proposed development an unparalleled opportunity to stimulate economic recovery and at the same time, contribute to B.C.’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions,” Foster said.   

“While the project will be developed and implemented by the Nation, the integrated nature of our economy and infrastructure ensures that it would provide healthy employment and development prospects for everyone in the region,” he added.



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