Novel Geothermal Power Technology Being Deployed in Canada

Geothermal energy is a growth business. Several countries, such as Kenya and Indonesia, are rich in geothermal resources, and others such as Chile, Mexico, and the Philippines are looking to rapidly develop projects. Now comes Canada, which is developing its first geothermal power plants with help from Climeon, a Swedish energy company that recently announced Natural Resources Canada (NRC) had financed the purchase of three 150-kW Climeon Modules (Figure 1), which turn heat into electricity.

Figure 3- Climeon modular system
1. Powerful modules. The Climeon modules being readied for use in Canada each produce 150 kW of power. The modules are mass produced and scalable and can be deployed in multiple-unit configurations. Each module has three parts: a turbine and two pumps. The technology can handle a temperature range of 70C to 120C. Courtesy: Climeon

Borealis GeoPower, a Calgary, Alberta-based company, has ordered the Climeon (pronounced “climb on”) units and is developing two projects—the Canoe Reach Geothermal Project south of Valemount, British Columbia, and the Lakelse Lake Geothermal Project south of Terrace, British Columbia. Climeon said the projects’ time frames depend on drilling and site preparation, but in a best-case scenario could be online by year-end. Alison Thompson, president and CEO of Borealis, has said geothermal is part of the company’s “Sustainaville project,” which—while utilizing expertise from Canada’s oil and gas industry—is designed to support the country’s transition away from fossil fuels toward more sustainable options. The company said its approach to geothermal begins with the pilot projects, ultimately leading to geothermal power plants with 15 MW of capacity.

NRC has said a key for the projects is to prove the viability of a geothermal reservoir through optimized geothermal exploration techniques, along with drilling and well testing, establishing a grid connection, and getting power plant certification. Jim Carr, Canada’s minister of natural resources, in a statement said, “Our government is proud to support Borealis and Climeon to discover how this demonstration project may lead to further geothermal energy deployments that will help our country create a brighter future.” In a news release, Thompson said, “Our impact goes deeper than the drilling. We provide energy and food security solutions with an emphasis on ‘please in my backyard’ from the local community and Indigenous Peoples. We look forward to working with the low temperature Heat Power market leader Climeon and our myriad stakeholders on bringing the Sustainaville project to life.” Carr said NRC has contributed more than CA$1.5 million ($1.18 million) to the project through its Energy Innovation Program.

Andreas Källroos, head of sales for Climeon, talked with POWER about how his company’s modular approach to geothermal differs from a standard approach. “Traditional high-temperature geothermal heat power has significant risks,” said Källroos. “The drilling and exploration of deep resources leads to high project costs and the power plant’s technology must be able to handle the expected temperature and flow. [A] traditional large power plant is custom-built after extensive flow testing, which means that it might take years before such a project is complete. And after completion it will be sensitive to changes in flow and temperature.

“Climeon’s Heat Power system is standardized and modular. The advantage of having a modular system is that you can flexibly adapt the number of modules to the available flow and temperature from the first well,” Källroos said. “This shortens project lead times and enables you to start producing electricity as soon as the drilling is done. It also allows for more affordable financing, sometimes 95% less equity financing, and instead can lead to an increase in low interest rate project financing. The Heat Power module can be installed in serial and in parallel to optimize power output and plant efficiency even if the flow and temperature changes over time. The municipality of Valemount is situated near the end of a transmission line. The distributed power production from the Climeon Heat Power solution will contribute to Valemount’s economic development by providing additional energy to the area.”

The project developers said the goal of the projects is to provide geothermal heat for greenhouses for locally grown food, and also for hot water pools for community and tourist use. Some of the power also could be sold through existing off-take programs. Borealis said in the long-term it wants to make remote communities in Canada less dependent on fossil fuels, providing heat and power from geothermal resources.

Climeon said its modules are highly efficient, able to produce power even at temperatures as low as 70C (158F). Källroos told POWER, “We see a perfect fit for our technology in the oil and gas industry in Canada. Huge volumes of hot water are produced every day and a lot of it is in our temperature range [70C–120C]. We can tap into these water flows, generate electricity, and at the same time cool down the water before injecting it back into the oil well. Our system enables incremental deployment and the electricity can either be used onsite or be sold to the grid. Many oil and gas companies in Canada are right now struggling with increased prices for electricity and have not realized that they have access to a renewable energy source that can produce power 24/7 at a much lower rate than the utility rates.”

The project also could provide a blueprint for geothermal development in areas not previously considered for the technology. “Geothermal heat power has traditionally been focused around ‘The Ring of Fire,’ where you get hot water or steam for larger geothermal heat power plants,” said Källroos. “Because Climeon’s Heat Power system operates at lower temperatures, it is now possible to generate power in areas in the world where low-temperature geothermal heat is available.”

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor.