Geoscience work on the ground continues by Kitselas Geothermal and partner Borealis Geothermal over the winter of 2021-2022 on a potential geothermal project in the Lakelse Lake area. (Photo courtesy Borealis GeoPower)

Grant fuels geothermal project potential south of Terrace

$500,000 welcomed by Kitselas Geothermal and Calgary partner

Geoscience work on the potential to pump super hot subsurface water from near Lakelse Lake so that heat extracted could replace fossil fuels as an energy source in the area continues thanks to a $500,000 grant from the provincial government.

Announced Jan. 13, the money furthers what is approaching seven years of probing by Kitselas First Nation-owned Kitselas Geothermal and Borealis GeoPower of Calgary of the potential for an income producing industry.

When brought to the surface, the superheated water’s steam can be used to turn electricity-generating turbines or pumped to clients who use the heat from the hot water as needed.

“Basically just like a hot water radiator heating system in a house, the hot water is piped to where [the heat] is needed,” explained David Try, the chair of Kitselas Geothermal. “The cooled water returns to the heat source/geothermal system.”

The $500,000 from the provincial government’s First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund is the maximum amount that the program can provide.

It’s also viewed as something that can prompt further investment by other agencies or investors, acknowledged Borealis president Alison Thompson.

Both Kitselas Geothermal and Borealis have emphasized the prospect of clean energy alternatives to fossil fuels to help meet the province’s overall emissions reductions effort as well as local employment and economic spinoffs.

Some of the ongoing field work to better map out where the superheated water is located involved seismic testing using a technology that did not require clearing trees.

The Lakelse Lake area has long been regarded as having the potential for a viable geothermal project, something Kitselas Geothermal and Borealis began exploring more in depth in 2014 with drilling following in 2018 on the west side of Lakelse Lake across from the Mount Layton Hotsprings location.

Should an eventual project be feasible, Kitselas Geothermal and Borealis already have a potential customer in Skeena BioEnergy’s pellet plant.

It sees value in an eventual pipeline from a geothermal hub to its plant so that heat from the water would replace natural gas in drying fibre before being turned into pellets and so reduce its carbon emissions.

The City of Terrace was also attracted to the potential and last summer provided support letters for applications by Kitselas and Borealis for additional government grants through the provincial government’s CleanBC Industry Fund.

“We view this as a positive step forward in an exciting and promising project for Skeena,” said Roger Keery, the president of Skeena Sawmills Ltd, about the $500,000 grant.

Kitselas Geothermal and Borealis are expected to hear if their application is successful within several months.