The DEEP Earth Energy Corp. continues to make progress in its effort to build Canada's first geothermal power plant near the Boundary Dam Power Station.
Kirsten Marcia, the former Estevan resident and self-described “resource junkie” who is at the helm of the project, provided an update on DEEP Earth at the Estevan Energy Expo on June 12. She is hopeful that the plant will be on-line in early 2017, and generating five megawatts of power, with the potential for more in the future.
DEEP Earth's objective is to drill into heat resources at least three kilometres below the earth’s surface.
“It's a unique resource indeed for our already resource-rich province,” said Marcia.
Marcia said her interest in geothermal power started several years ago, when she learned it is a perpetual energy source that can provide renewable power. It's been used elsewhere in the world, particularly the U.S., but not in Canada.
DEEP Earth was formed with private investors to determine whether the hot waters deep beneath the Williston Basin in southeast Saskatchewan would be economically viable for geothermal power production. They have been raising capital since then.
Geothermal is unique, she said, because it is renewable, with zero carbon dioxide emissions, and an ability to provide baseload power.
“I think that's probably the most attractive component to geothermal, is that it is a baseload power supply,” said Marcia.
As long as the centre of the earth remains hot, geothermal will be an option, she said.
It's not intermittent like wind power, she said. It can be cost-competitive with renewables and new coal power technologies, and it doesn't require a lot of space.
“All of the wells are sub-surface,” she said. “The surface facility is quite small; it's about the size of a Quonset.”
They would need three production wells and two injection wells to make the project happen, she said. Hot water is taken out of the ground and run through a heat exchanger. The heat is harvested, and introduced to a working fluid with low temperature that would serve as a refrigerant.
The refrigerant then flashes, and the vapour cools back down to a liquid state for reusing. There are two loops: a closed loop that is constantly flashing, and another for hot water.
The full project is an estimated $40 million. The federal government can fund up to $20 million of the project. They have already supplied $1 million, which was matched by SaskPower.
DEEP Earth's next requirement is $8 million for a proof of concept study; the feds can supply up to $4 million.
“Once the proof of concept study has been completed – that's the beauty of it – we can go into conventional bank debt,” said Marcia. “Certainly there may be some additional small capital injections here, but this a developmental well. This is no different than if I've got one Bakken well, and I'm twinning it with a 200-metre offset or a 500-metre offset.”
Marcia admitted that the proof of concept phase carries the largest risk.
She would like to eventually see geothermal account for 200 megwatts of power, which would represent more than 10 per cent of Saskatchewan's power production, and it would make geothermal an important source of electricity.