While the BC Ministry of Environment continues to promote the LNG (liquified natural gas) industry as the world's cleanest and decisions are being made to build a third dam in the Peace River Valley, a new report from CanGEA (Canadian Geothermal Energy Association) shows that BC has the potential to power the entire province with geothermal energy.

The new report and maps show areas that have a geothermal energy potential of 5,500 MW using current technology. Only 23 percent of the province is included until more data becomes available. The report states that the full  technical potential could provide more than the needs of the entire Province. Most of the research is in the region of NE BC where there are reports from the oil and gas industries. This is also the area of the proposed Site C dam.

The report of the Joint Federal/Provincial Review Panel of BC Hydro's Site C Dam proposal  includes statements that question whether BC Hydro has pursued alternatives to the expensive dam project. The Panel states there are alternative sources of power available at similar or somewhat higher costs, notably geothermal power. These sources, being individually smaller than Site C, would allow supply to better follow demand, obviating most of the early-year losses of Site C. The Panel concludes that a failure to pursue research over the last 30 years into B.C.’s geothermal resources has left BC Hydro without information about a resource that may offer up to 700 megawatts of firm, economic power with low environmental costs.

British  Columbia  Geothermal  Resource  Estimate  Key  Findings:

1. British  Columbia  has  enormous  potential  to  produce  geothermal  power.    There  is  a  sufficient developable resource  to meet  the  entire  Province’s power  demand.  The  most  conservative  view  of  the  Technical  Potential  of  geothermal  power  in British  Columbia  is  5,500 MW using  only  “Indicated  Resources”  data. The  value  rises  to  6,600  MW  when  “Indicated”  and  “Inferred”  data  is  contemplated. This  amount  is  considered achievable  with  current  technology (binary  power  plants),  accessible  at  the  shallowest  studied  depth  of  2,500m,  and  with  the  lowest  studied  recovery  factor  of  5%.    These estimates  are calculated under  the  “Geothermal  Reporting  Code” using  an  NTS  grid  system  that  only  has  data  coverage  in  23%  of  the  Province.  Further,  it  is  well  understood  that  the  volcanic  and  crystalline  rocks,  which  make  up  the  preponderance  of  the  ‘white  space’  outside  of  BC’s  current  data  coverage,  have  greater  geothermal  potential  than the  sedimentary  zones,  for  which  data  exists.    As  such,  an  estimate  of  British  Columbia’s  full  Technical  Potential  should  be  multiples  of  that  calculated  for  the  sedimentary  zones,  and  therefore  much  more  than  the  entire  requirements  of  the  Province.                                                                                                                                                           

2. There  is  significant  room  to  improve  both  the  Data  Coverage  and  Confidence  of  the  estimates  of  British  Columbia’s  geothermal  potential
Data  Coverage:    It  is  not  within  the  scope  of  this  report  to  acquire  data.    However,  within  British  Columbia,  there  are  many  other  sources  of  potentially  useful  data  that  could  be  easily  acquired.    These  include  taking  relevant  measurements  from  existing  mining  exploration  and  water  wells.    Currently,  taking  relevant  geothermal  measurements  are  not  part  of  the  required  reporting  for  these  activities.
Confidence:    Significant  water  production  data  exists  from  the  Oil  &  Gas  properties  being  exploited  in  northeast  British  Columbia.    While  not  within  the  scope  of  this  work,  this  information  can  be  combined  with  the  relevant  thermal measurements  to  produce  a  “Measured  Resource”  estimate  of  the  geothermal  potential  of  specific  reservoirs.    This  is  a  higher  degree  of  confidence  than  “Indicated  Resources” and  “Inferred  Resources”,  where  these  reservoirs  are  currently  categorized,  and  is  a  large  step  forward  in  moving  between  resource  and  reserve  categories  in  the Geothermal  Code  for  Public  Reporting  of  Resources  and  Reserves.

3. Priority  geothermal  exploration  areas  are  identified  through  the  confluence  of  key  surface  and  subsurface  data.
Progress  at  the  Industry  level  is  predicated  on  individual  project  success.    Accordingly,  priority  exploration  areas  for  geothermal  energy  production  need  to  not  only  consider  subsurface  contexts  but  also  highly  relevant  surface  features  (demand,  transmission,  roads,  parks,  lakes,  et  al)  that can  greatly  influence  project  economics. This  is  what  CanGEA  refers  to  as  Favourability  Maps

 Also this week, the Minister of Environment Mary Polak issued a press release outlining B.C.’s Liquefied Natural Gas Strategy in clean energy and climate action .

“The export of B.C. LNG is both an economic and an environmental opportunity for the province. As the cleanest-burning fossil fuel, natural gas is part of a global climate solution” said Polak.

  The Province consulted with industry on the best way to achieve these goals and concluded:

   An emissions benchmark with flexible options - including purchasing offsets and a technology fund - will be the most effective at meeting the Province’s goals while maintaining LNG industry competitiveness.

  •   An emissions benchmark with flexible options - including purchasing offsets and a technology fund - will be the most effective at meeting the Province’s goals while maintaining LNG industry competitiveness.
  •   The benchmark and its compliance costs must be viewed in the context of total B.C. operating costs to ensure the province remains a competitive place to invest.
  •     A program will be included to provide a pro-rated incentive to companies for achieving the benchmark based on the LNG industry’s compliance costs, which will ensure the competitive investment environment continues. By encouraging investment in advanced technology and rewarding achievement of world-leading performance, the program will help ensure the development of the cleanest LNG facilities in the world.

CanGEA is a non-profit industry association that promotes the industry and the potential of geothermal energy in Canada through outreach events, research, policy work and representation of Canadian interests internationally.http://www.cangea.ca/