The Clarke Lake geothermal project in Fort Nelson is receiving nearly $40.5 million in federal support.
Federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan made the announcement Friday, heralding the plan as “groundbreaking,” and one of the first major geothermal projects in Canada.
“How we produce energy for tomorrow will go a long way in determining how we tackle the urgent climate crisis today and how we get to net zero emissions by 2050,” O'Regan said.
“The way we produce and use energy accounts for 80% of Canada's annual greenhouse gas emissions. We’ve got to find way to power our cities and towns, to heat our homes, to get around, with lower emissions. A lot lower.”
The project, led by the Fort Nelson First Nation, plans to tap the hot water from the depleted Clarke Lake natural gas reservoir.
Site preparation work is underway, and last month the Clarke Lake Geothermal Limited Partnership picked up a 269-hectare lease from the province at its Crown petroleum and natural gas rights sale.
A drill rig is currently being mobilized to deepen an existing gas well to 2,000 to 2,500 feet as well as developing a new full sized geothermal production well. Test results will be available by the end of August 2021 to help quantify the heat energy available.
The generation plant would produce seven megawatts (MW) of electricity in its initial phase – enough electricity to power about 5,000 homes. The project could be expanded to 15 MW, enough to power up to 14,000 homes.
Besides electricity generation, the energy can be used to power other activities such as timber drying in the forestry sector and greenhouse food production in the agriculture sector.
Fort Nelson First Nation Chief Sharleen Gale said the proposal will "revolutionize the north."
“I believe this project will act as a catalyst for our nation’s economy and for the entire Northern Rockies region,” said Gale.
“The past few years have not been easy for us. We have experienced a downturn in forestry and gas, and the pandemic has served to compound those struggles. But today I see that turning point as we create good jobs and livelihoods right here at home, and provide opportunities for our youth so they don’t need to leave our community to meet their full potential.”
The estimated $100 million project is planned to be operating by the end of 2024.
Fort Nelson Mayor Gary Foster said he was excited for the project, and that he was privileged to watch the two First Nations advance their proposal and spearhead it for the region. He said it will restore the economy in an environmentally sustainable way.
“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that geothermal is going to provide unmatched source of clean, sustainable electricity for future need,” Foster said.
“The re-purposing of idle gas fields is such an innovative idea that will benefit the entire country and set us on a path for a cleaner future, not just for ourselves, but for the planet.”
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