Robson Valley geothermal project nears drilling phase

Borealis Geopower, a Calgary-based geothermal exploration company, says this could be the year they begin a drilling program on the west side of Kinbasket, south of Valemount.

The company has been doing research at the Canoe Reach site for several years, trying to determine the best place to drill. Drilling is one of the most expensive and risky parts of exploration. If they are successful the company hopes to build a 10MW year-round energy source that connects to the grid. If developed, it would be the first commercial geothermal power production in BC.

Craig Dunn of Borealis Geopower told the Goat last week that it is difficult to bring on an investor prior to significant exploration, but they are doing innovative research and moving forward even on a limited budget.

“I don’t know how many non-science-geek types are going to be fascinated by this,” says Dunn. “But I think it is important to know that we are doing the best technical work we can given a limited budget.”

The field team has been in the Valemount area over the last few months, doing things you might expect geologists to do, like gathering soil and water samples, and geologic mapping.

They’ve also been doing some things you might not expect, like aerial photography with an unmanned drone.

They’ve done biogeochemical sampling, which means taking samples of tree bark that can actually tell them about the chemical composition of the water that the tree is drinking. The composition of that water tells them about the heat and water movement under the ground.

They’ve done CO2 sampling, measuring the amount of carbon that is coming through the soil. All organic matter gives off gasses as it decomposes, and percolates through the soil, or through cracks in rocks, so measuring finding low off-gassing means solid rock, and high off-gassing means cracks where water and heat can flow. They can also measure isotopes of the carbon, which helps them determine how much ground water may be mixing with their samples.

They’ve done temperature analysis at 30 cm depths, which is very shallow, but allows them to see individual and unique heat flow patterns in the area.

Dunn says no single data set is going to give you the answer, but correlating all those data sets helps you isolate hot spots. The goal is to narrow down their nearly 15,000 hectare lease area into areas of a few hectares. Then they intensify the surveys of these smaller areas. Once they narrow it down to three or four isolated target areas, they hope to bring in the slim drill, which drills a 30 cm hole. With the drill, they will have options ranging from drilling a few hundred meters to gauge temperature, soil and some other indicators, to full blown production which could be in the range of a couple kilometers deep. With the drill on site, those decisions would be made as the results from each drill site come in.

There is some work planned for over the winter, mostly involving aerial photography, because road access is not good. Dunn says they also have some exploration strategies planned for April, when the lake bed is dry.

With the results of all of this research, Borealis Geopower is hoping to move forward next spring and summer with some financing and joint venture partners into the beginning of a drill program.

“I have to say that we are very excited to have a community that is so engaged and so supportive,” says Dunn, explaining that they want to do a better job of letting area residents know what is going on, and that the project is not stalled.

“I don’t know if ‘under the radar’ is the right term, but there is not a real need for us to make a big fanfare when we come into town looking like geologists,” says Dunn. “A lot of this is gathered by two guys in a truck.”

Dunn says the remainder of their general exploration program will cost under $1 million. Moving into the slim-hole drilling will cost anywhere from a few hundred thousand dollars per well to over a million dollars each. Their planned phased approach means if the results from one well are good, they can continue into production with that well, and then look at possibly drilling more.

By: Korie Marshall

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