New Brunswick

Into hot waters: Sussex awards tender for study into Potash mine's geothermal potential

An engineering company will spend the next five months researching if geothermal heat, locked in water inside the closed Penobsquis mine near Sussex, can be used to pump energy back into the town.

Geothermal heating works by tapping into the heat the water absorbs from the ground

Since mining operations in Sussex, formerly run by PotashCorp, halted at the end of last year, the mine has been allowed to fill with water. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

An engineering company will spend the next five months researching if geothermal heat, locked in water inside the closed Penobsquis mine near Sussex, can be used to pump energy back into the town.

"All the benefits might not come to Sussex but we'll get our fair share," said Scott Hatcher, the town's chief administrative officer.

The municipal government issued a request for proposals for the study in June and granted it to Amec Foster Wheeler, an engineering and project management company, last week.

Extracting hot water

Since mining operations in Sussex, formerly run by PotashCorp, halted at the end of last year, the mine has been allowed to fill with water.

Geothermal heating works by tapping into the heat the water absorbs from the ground.

The hot water deep inside the mine is pumped to the surface. Then the heat gets extracted and used, before the water is pumped back into the ground.

"It should give us a strategic advantage lowering energy costs," said Hatcher. "As much as 65 per cent."

Scott Hatcher, chief administrative officer for the town, said Amec Foster Wheeler outlined a fee proposal of $56,810 to conduct the study. (Scott Hatcher/Submitted)

Hatcher said once the study is complete and the town knows how it can use the water, an agricultural company might want to extract the heat to warm its greenhouses.

Alternatively, he said a company using refrigeration might want to extract the water and use it for cooling.

The study conducted by Amec will take five months to complete.

The company will analyze how much heat the water absorbs, and if salt in the mine could cause any issues with equipment or heat exchangers.

While the mine is outside the town's limits, Hatcher said Sussex will feel the economic boom if a considerably sized company moves nearby.

Mitigating losses from closure

Liberal MP Alaina Lockhart said since the closure of the mine citizens have worked hard to mitigate the loss.

More than 400 people lost their job at the time.

But she said Sussex has transitioned away from being a mining town relatively well.

"I really think this greater Sussex area has taken a positive attitude to the closure," she said.

We're trying to access all of the strengths in the greater region, things that can really move the needle.- Alaina Lockhart, Liberal MP

"We're trying to access all of the strengths in the greater region, things that can really move the needle."

As of Monday, no one from Amec Foster Wheeler responded to CBC's request for an interview.

Hatcher said the town applied to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency for grants and designated $65,000 to undertake the work to access the mine.

He said Amec's outlined a fee proposal of $56,810.

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