Calgary-based Borealis GeoPower will be back in Valemount this summer to continue their exploration of geothermal potential south of town.

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Working with researchers from McGill University, Borealis’ Chief Geologist Craig Dunn says work will include ground probe analysis, biogeochemistry and soil samples.
Borealis is focused on developing high temperature geothermal energy projects. Established in 2007, it is currently working on geothermal projects in Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and the Yukon Territory.

The company was awarded $2.4 million last month from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to help them refine their method of exploring for geothermal resource.

Dunn says one of the biggest challenges in developing geothermal is the high risk of failure during the early stages.

He says by doing an optimized geothermal program they will help to de-risk geothermal projects in Canada.

The optimized program is a set of procedures used to stage exploration. Each step takes on a little more risk.

“We’re appeasing the bankers,” Dunn says. “We’re saying, ‘Hey, it’s only a little bit of money to find out if it’s actually pretty good or a complete dud. We can eliminate a lot of bad choices.”

Dunn says it allows investing companies with different risk tolerances to invest in geothermal exploration. Instead of losing $50 million on the front end of a project, the exploration company can show the investor the areas that seem promising for another stage of exploration, adding stages incrementally.

“We call it a gated approach.”

Dunn says if all goes well this year with the early-stage exploration, the company could be doing initial drilling (one of the most expensive parts of the exploration) by 2014 or 2015. But he says
it requires a lot of permits and knowledge before the drilling can happen.

If Borealis develops the site south of Valemount, it would be the first commercial geothermal plant in BC, producing up to 10 MWe of power.

The company is interested in sharing the benefits by selling waste heat from the plant to the village at a discounted rate. The village could use the heat to power one or several facilities or
developments, as yet undetermined.

The idea would be for the Village (or a Village-run utility company) to act as a broker of the excess hot water and find a suitable company to use it for production.

Valemount Village Council has received a report from MMM consulting group on the potential uses of waste heat received from Borealis, but the report has yet to be made public. A draft report noted
dried mushrooms and wood manufacturing as possible options.

Laura Keil