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WotW - Into the fires of Mount Meager

In the land of Mordor British Columbia, in the fires of Mount Doom Meager, the Dark Lord Sauron Bright Geologists forged in secret investigated, with government support, a master ring the Geothermal Research Initiative.... One ring project to rule them all influence others. …And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and a half thousand forty years, the ring project passed out of all knowledge.

With apologies to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (the movie, not the book)

As mentioned in the initial post of this Petro Ninja – Enlighten Geoscience Well of the Week series on geothermal energy development in western Canada, there are manifold paths to ultimate success.  Let us start with some of the more esoteric projects and progress to a finale looking at projects on the cusp of commerciality.

 

Figure 1.  Location map and aerial view of Garibaldi Geothermal Research Initiative


Our first review will be of the Garibaldi Geothermal Energy Project.  A recent GeoscienceBC initiative seeks to resurrect a project originally driven by a crisis.  Not a climate crisis, but an energy crisis.  Unfortunately, while volcanoes certainly do exemplify “hot rocks,” and although Canada does have a surprising number of volcanoes, their location is a long distance from where we would need homes heated or electricity generated.

In the early 1980’s the Geological Survey of Canada led the effort to drill four wells to test the potential of Mount Meager, a dormant volcano part of the Garibaldi Volcanic Belt, to provide geothermally generated electricity.  Crises come and go.  And so did the oil embargos of the 1970s and 1980s.  But not before temperatures as high as 260 oC were measured.


 Figure 2.  Testing one of the four original wells back in 1980.


The GeoscienceBC Phase 1 project report is an impressive and comprehensive investigation of a holistic scientific investigation of the site.  The breadth makes it nigh on impossible to provide a succinct digest-style summary of the results so I encourage those interested to read the report.  For my part, I found the resistivity portion interesting and a spark to remember field seasons past.


The response to our current crisis has led the investigation of hydrogen as an alternative fuel source to hydrocarbons.  Enter, stage left, Meager Creek Development Corporation and their plan to use geothermal energy to synthesize hydrogen from water.



Figure 3. Schematic representation of process to convert geothermal energy to hydrogen.


All in all, the projects at Mount Meager illustrate that, while some of the technical skills and tools are transferrable from oil and gas, there is a lot of additional knowledge required.  This knowledge base makes the possibility of “instant” geothermal expertise unlikely.  Lots of hard work and research is required!


References


Grasby, S.E., Ansari, S.M., Barendregt, R.W., Borch, A., Calahorrano-DiPatre, A., Chen, Z., Craven, J.A., Demer, J., Gilbert, H., Hanneson, C., Harris, M., Hormozzade, F., Leiter, S., Liu, J., Muhammad, M., Quane, S.L., Russell, J.K., Salvage, R.O., Savard, G., Tschirhart, V., Unsworth, M.J., Vigouroux-Caillibot, N., Williams Jones, G., and Williamson, A., Vestrum Z.E., 2021. Garibaldi Geothermal Energy Project - Phase 1 Final Report. Geoscience BC. https://www.geosciencebc.com/projects/2018-004/. [accessed 2024-05-06].


Harnessing the power of volcanoes: The search for geothermal energy, 2022. Government of Canada. https://natural-resources.canada.ca/simply-science/harnessing-the-power-volcanoes-the-search-for-geothermal-energy/24844. [accessed 2024-05-06].


Segal, M., 2022. Old volcanoes, big energy. CBC Radio. https://www.cbc.ca/radiointeractives/features/old-volcanoes-big-energy

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