This post brings you geothermal headlines from Canada, Montserrat, Indonesia, China, and Holland.
Valemount, a Canadian forestry town trying to go geothermal.
Image Credit: www.desmog.ca
Canada – Meet The Forestry Town Striving to Become Canada’s First Geothermal Village
The mountain village of Valemount, British Columbia, located along the Rocky Mountain trench is eyeing the nearby Canoe Reach hot springs – one of the hottest surface hot springs in Canada – as a source of geothermal heat and renewable electricity generation.
“Valemount used to be a typical northern forest town,” Silvio Gislimberti, head of the Valemount Geothermal Association, told DeSmog Canada. “But now we would like to create a geothermal industrial park.”
An old mill that shut down in 2007 provides a near perfect location for Borealis Geopower, the company working with the community to make something of the region’s geothermal potential.
Craig Dunn, chief geologist with Borealis Geopower, said Valemount is one of the best-known hot spots for geothermal development in all of Canada.
“The resource opportunity is pretty incredible all the way down the Rocky Mountain trench, including opportunities like Radium and Fairmont, which are all a part of the system.”
Valemount has a “competitive advantage” according to Gislimberti.
“We know we have a good heat source, that heat source is – relatively speaking – close to the surface, so 1.5 to two kilometres down, and we have easy road access to the Kinbasket Canoe Reach region from existing forestry roads,” he said.
Valemount sits on the end of a long power line, which means any electricity generated in the area could be fed back into the provincial grid. Unlike large-scale hydro projects like the Site C dam, geothermal has a very small environmental footprint. And unlike wind and solar, geothermal can provide base-load electricity production even when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.
“I think the concept is great,” said Steve Grasby, geochemist with Natural Resources Canada. “Instead of looking at where the high potential regions are in Canada – which can sometimes be far from demand – they’re starting with the demand.”
Grasby said it just makes sense to explore heat resources “near a town that is closer to people and demand.”
“The question is can they find a reliable heat source,” Grasby said. “My understanding is there hasn’t been any exploration drilling done yet. That will be the telltale thing.”
Grasby added geothermal is similar to oil and gas exploration: “You just don’t know until you start drilling,” he said.
Borealis began to engage with the community in Valemount in 2010 after the company received a geothermal exploration permit from the B.C. government. The permit grants Borealis the opportunity many other geothermal developers across the border in Alberta are desperate for – taking a commercial geothermal project from the drawing board to the drill bore.
But for Borealis, and for the villagers of Valemount, the geothermal dream amounts to much more than power generation.
Borealis hopes to build a 15-megawatt power plant that will supply power back to the BC Hydro grid but the community envisions a “holistic energy development program,” as Dunn put it, that will support a whole host of community-led projects.
“Places like Iceland are getting more and more use of what is called heat-cascading,” Dunn said. “So you have a high-temperature resource that may be used for power, then it may be used for brewing applications, and then greenhouses and in the end it may be used to make sure your sidewalk doesn’t freeze.”
Beyond that, Dunn said locals already have plans for the residual heat leftover from the proposed 15-megawatt power plant Borealis wants to power with steam-driven turbines.
“That creates an opportunity for what looks like an eco-village or a geo-park…That means we can have a number of organizations like greenhouses, fish farming, brewery, silviculture, or timber industry applications in close proximity and they can actually take advantage of each other’s opportunities, trading CO2 with each other if necessary from the brewery back to growing operations.”
The local Three Ranges Brewery is already lined up to use the geothermal resources developed by Borealis.
“Three Ranges brewery is one of the Robson Valley highlight reels of new development in the area. It’s a small microbrewery that brews incredible beer – if I do say so myself,” Dunn said with a laugh.
Three Ranges owner and brewer Michael Lewis said he is excited to incorporate geothermal energy into his operations.
“As a brewery we use a lot of temperature control – both on the hot side and the cooling side. My options here are either propane and electric and we use primarily electric, but it would be nice to have a renewable energy resource like geothermal that we could use on the heating and cooling sides and get the best bang for our buck.”
“It would make us the first geothermal brewery in Canada,” Lewis said.
Lewis said the village was quick to establish a Direct Use Heat Committee and the Valemount Geothermal Society when the idea of developing the heat source first arose.
“There’s a rising tide making sure we get something going and become the first geothermal village in the entire country.”
The idea of creating a new zero-waste community while also using geothermal heat is exciting, Lewis said.
“It has the potential for being a really ticketable showcase to show the world what can be done with geothermal.”
Despite the excitement, there is still the issue of the high upfront cost of geothermal. “It’s significantly more expensive because it’s not highly practiced.”
Lewis said even transitioning his brewery to use a geothermal heat-exchange system is going to cost him. “It’s more expensive than doing something with natural gas, but it’s smarter.”
“It’s a part of that pioneering spirit that is this valley.”
Alison Thompson, president and founder of the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association, said the community of Valemount has exhibited an extraordinary amount of interest in geothermal, which puts the project at a huge advantage.
“You can have an association, you can have government, industrial project proponents pushing for projects, but there’s something to be said for pull,” Thompson told DeSmog Canada.
“The villagers are very well informed. That’s what really sets them apart.”
Thompson added the community established a Geothermal Committee and has sought out independent experts to weigh in on questions that come up about the project.
“I think this is what is so unique in Valemount – it’s not one person or one committee, or one business, or group: it is the village.”
“For other communities that are interested, I think they could take a lesson from the way Valemount has nurtured this and rolled it out to be inclusive,” Thompson said.
Corie Marshall, president of the Valemount Geothermal Society, said locals are prevented from growing food beyond the short summer season so the community is planning on using warm water leftover from the proposed geothermal power plant to heat greenhouses throughout the colder months.
“A lot of times in the winter we can get minus 35, sometimes minus 40…We tend to get a lot of snow. There are also times in the summer where people lose their tomatoes because of frost.”
Many people feel conflicted about burning wood for heat and even for heating greenhouses because of the impacts on air quality, Marshall said.
“We’re at the end of a transmission line that comes up from Kamloops. There are times when a branch falls near Kamloops and we’re out of power, three hours away,” she noted.
Geothermal electricity production offers a way to both stabilize the local grid as well as limit the need for electricity from direct heat use, Marshall said.
Marshall said that at this stage the project needs financial support to take it to the next step. Borealis is currently on the hunt for project investors.
“The biggest thing is we need to actually drill holes. Borealis Geopower has done lots of surface studies, a lot of good science, good information but at one point we need to drill holes. The drilling is expensive but now is the best time to do it because so many of the drill rigs are out of work in Alberta.”
“Somebody needs to find – or fund – the first drills and then we go from there.”
When asked when she hopes that will happen, Marshall smiled and said, “yesterday.”
Montserrat – 3rd Well Drilling Soon to Begin
About three weeks ago we reported that as preparations for drilling a third geothermal well just south of the Week’s area above the Cork hill main road almost under St. George’s Hill, DFID local rep Martin Dawson reported, “Geothermal is going very well.”
He had said he was unable to give an exact date of the arrival of the drilling rig, but I knew the rig “is on its way across the Pacific having encountered some “bad weather around the Philippines area.” “I anticipate that the drilling rig group will arrive on the island sometime mid-August around about the 20th,” he said.
This week according to a ZJB report, they had been speaking with the geothermal project manager was trying to put an end to speculations as to the parameters as to the third geothermal well at the bottom of St. Georges Hill.
Once again there seems to be some concerns about the “drilling direction” of the well. Geologist Nicholas Reas talks about the drilling direction. He says, it is intended to be vertical, but he also makes a case for changing the direction during the drilling process.
“There is a possibility to count on…changing the direction of the well while you are drilling. But in this particular case from my point of view there is no real need to give the drill any specific direction when you don’t know the pattern of what you’re drilling.”
He says when you to give a well a specific direction is when you have a very good knowledge of your reservoir and you know that taking some specific direction, you will enhance the production or whatever.
Reas points out that the well is also an exploratory well and, “we still have to learn a little bit more before giving the well a specific direction.”
He went on to speak about the likelihood of the well, being a reinjection well, saying that MON3 as this is termed, may also be a production well. “… Mon3 could eventually be a reinjection well if we realize that we are drilling in a retired zone or it could be that Mon3 turns out to be a very good production well inside the up flow zone and then we will have Mon1 and Mon2 probably conceptualize in the retired zone and good for the reinjection.”
Prior to the Geologist project manager had confirmed that the drill rig was soon to arrive and ventured to say that he is doing everything he could to help Montserrat realize its ultimate aim of being able to provide cheaper electricity to its people.
The Geologist informs that he has a geology background and that he was contracted for two years to coordinate all activities on the geothermal project. He said he has worked on “geothermal projects like this on, in exploration phases, and I’m here for coordinating the whole project you guys are doing here, and to finally and hopefully finish with the power plant producing electricity.”
He also had reported that dredging had begun in preparation for the arrival of the drill rig at the Plymouth jetty. The dredging he said would take about nine working days. The best news he could give perhaps, was saying that electricity would probably be forthcoming in, “say fourteen to sixteen months after MON3 is drilled.”
Asia and the Pacific
Indonesia – Geothermal Companies Against PGE Acquisition by PLN
Geothermal companies in the Indonesian Geothermal Association (INAGA) are against PT PLN’s plan to acquire Pertamina Geothermal Energy (PGE), a subsidiary of PT Pertamina. INAGA argues that PLN’s reason to acquire PGN, which is for operational efficiency, is just an excuse.
INAGA chair Abadi Purnomo said geothermal exploration and development costs will not drop because of an acquisition. The reason is because geothermal business chains depend on investment climate, which determined by oil and gas factors.
“The acquisition plan is nothing but a plan to spend money. That fund is better off used for expanding electricity distribution or building new power plants,” he told Tempo Wednesday, August 17, 2016.
Abadi said that the acquisition, initiated by the SOE Ministry, was not decided based on in-depth analyses. Geothermal, he said, is a risky business with a 50-percent chance of drilling failure due to dry hole. Even if the drilling goes well, the state will not compensate for the cost recovery of the exploration.
“Anywhere in the world, geothermal energy projects are done by oil and gas companies because they have similar stages of development. Just look at Chevron, Star Energy, Philippine National Oil Company,” Abadi said.
The SOE Ministry’s deputy for energy, logistics, and tourism Edwin Hidayat said PLN’s plan is the government’s way of creating a parent company for all geothermal business owned by the state. “Especially since we have a target to produce up to 2,700 MW of renewable energy by 2025.”
PLN plans to inject PGE with capitals until they have 50 percent ownership. Although half of the stake will be owned by PLN, PGE will remain a subsidiary of Pertamina. The acquisition is targeted for completion this year.
PLN actually already have a subsidiary engaged in the geothermal business, PLN Geothermal. But the subsidiary has made no significant actions. Meanwhile, Pertamina’s PGE manages eight geothermal power plants.
Pertamina president director Dwi Soetjipto said there is no certainty about PLN’s plan to acquire PGE. The decision depends on the process of due diligence and feasibility studies.
China – Tibet Pushes Geothermal to Solve Power Shortage
There’s a big push for green energy in the tiny autonomous region of Tibet.
The region is rich in resources, but it has a bigger power shortage problem than other parts of China.
CCTV’s Cheng Lei reports.
Tibet’s capital city, Lhasa is called the city of sun, because Tibet’s annual solar resources can power China for 100 years. And in hydropower and geothermal power resources, Tibet also ranks no.1 in China.
Renewables make up 43 percent of Tibet’s energy mix. That’s three times more clean energy than the rest of the country. In addition, the electricity generated by the Yangbajing geothermal plant is enough to power 50,000 Tibetan households.
Bian Dun, has seen 24 years of development, at China’s first and biggest geothermal plant. Geothermal diversifies Tibet’s energy mix. Tibet mainly has hydro power, so there’s a power shortage in winter. Geothermal is more stable, there’s no seasonal impact.
Tibet’s power challenges are manifold. The high altitude and difficult climate take a toll on power equipment and the people that run them.
Unlike in the rest of the country, Tibet’s residential power usage is a much bigger portion of the total than industrial usage, that means less tariff revenue for power plants.
Difficulties aside, the potential for geothermal power is enormous – China has 100 megawatts of installed capacity, that’s less than one sixth of Iceland’s capacity.
Because China is going big on geothermal power, private firms want to invest.
Developing energy has been welcomed by locals, because they’re the first to benefit.
The Tibetan government plans to double investments in generating capacity and grid construction over the next five years. More power without clouding, Tibet’s incredibly blue skies. The answer may be in the ground.
Holland – Start of Drilling at Aardwarmte Vogelaer
After months of preparation, the geothermal project Aardwarmte Vogelaer has started drilling in Poeldijk, Holland. The official start took place on 12 August. The seven participating glasshouse companies are expected to begin using the geothermal energy station located at the Wateringseweg and the heat distribution network to be set up at the end of 2016.
Drilling company DrillTec GUT GmbH will perform the drilling. The drilling work takes place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is expected to take approximately three months.
First the production well will be drilled, from which the well water will be pumped up. Then the injection well will be drilled. Through this well the cooled water will be pumped back into the sand layer. Both wells will be located at 2,500 meters depth and extract hot water of approximately 85 degrees. The heat from this water is used to heat the greenhouse farms in a sustainable manner. This way the related horticultural companies expect to annually emit approximately 23 kilo tonnes less C02 and save more than 13 million m3 of natural gas. This is equivalent to the consumption by approximately 8,000 households.
With Aardwarmte Vogelaer participating companies Optiflor, Fachjan, Kwekerij Apartus, Amazone Plants, Gebr. Grootscholten Handelskwekerij, Kwekerij Barendse and Zuidgeest Growers have made a conscious choice towards the sustainable cultivation of their products and contribution to a cleaner, healthier future.