The drilling of a preliminary well for the planned five-megawatt power facility was announced by DEEP Earth Energy Production Corp. on Thursday afternoon during an event at The Hotel Saskatchewan.
“From a government perspective this is just a win-win-win situation to have a local home-grown Saskatchewan company come up with an idea that helps SaskPower, that helps our environment and helps our government with our commitment to … have 50 per cent renewables by the year 2030,” said Minister of Central Services Ken Cheveldayoff.
The facility will draw steaming hot water from deep underground, pumping it up 3,400 metres to run turbines on the surface.
Flow testing will follow the completion of the preliminary well, which will be used to determine the design and size of the wells that will go into operation. The preliminary well will likely later be used as a monitoring well, said DEEP CEO and president Kirsten Marcia.
It will also be the province’s deepest well once it is complete.
Once fully operational, Marcia says the power generated, by what she previously described as a “small test plant,” will service approximately 5,000 homes, offsetting about 27,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
She said that is the equivalent of taking 7,400 cars off the road annually.
“At the base of the Willliston Basin we’ve always known that there’s this hot resource there, but we’re chasing oil and gas and potash and other of our wonderful resources here,” she said about why geotheral energy wasn’t pursued sooner. “We’ve been ignoring water.”
She said this is just the first of many, likely larger, facilities to be built in Saskatchewan along the U.S. border to take advantage of the abundance of hot water within the aquifer, which registers at 120 degrees Celsius.
In May, the provincial government announced that it was investing $175,000 in the project through Innovation Saskatchewan. It has also received $1.3 million from Natural Resources Canada, which DEEP says helps mitigate financial risks to allow renewable resources to play a larger role in the province’s power supply.
“This has been a really unique experience for me to take some of my tools in my toolbox from our more typical resources and then apply them to a heat mining project,” said Marcia.
The facility would generate “renewable, zero-emission, base-load power,” said a DEEP news release, but the green project still comes with an environmental impact.
“There’s the footprint of the plant, which has an impact,” said Marcia. “And of course all of our pipes that are carrying this brine, we’re going to have to very, very carefully monitor those pipes because the last thing we would want in an agriculture community is to have a spill of brine.”
Cheveldayoff said the project fits in well with the province’s climate change strategy.
“Minister Duncan and our government are committed to Prairie Resilience to ensure that we lessen our carbon footprint in Saskatchewan in a way that promotes the economy as well,” he said.
The energy produced will be sold under an existing Power Purchase Agreement with SaskPower.