Yukon First Nation signs deal for new geothermal project
Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation partners with Alberta-based company on unique project
The Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation in Yukon has entered into a partnership with an Alberta-based company to generate what's described as a new type of green energy.
Eavor Technologies Inc. has developed a geothermal system, dubbed the Eavor-Loop, that harnesses the Earth's natural heat, kilometres underground.
The heat underground is moved to the surface, where it can be used for heating or generating electricity.
John Redfern, president of Eavor, says the technology is different from conventional geothermal-based systems.
"Traditional geothermal is like oil and gas. You're trying to find a formation that has a lot of permeability and then you're going to drill down and try to extract either oil, or, in geothermal case, hot brine from that formation and produce it at the surface and extract heat from that," said Redfern.
"So it involves a lot of water treatment, involves water injection and a lot of parasitic pump load, it involves fracking and sometimes can induce earthquakes."
The company says the Eavor-Loop system is different, as it has no greenhouse gas emissions, no fracking and no water use. It circulates a proprietary fluid that collects heat from below the earth's surface in its 2.5-kilometre loop.
"Benign enough to literally fit in someone's backyard," according to the company's website.
Yukon a 'sweet spot'
A pilot project was launched in Alberta last year. The province's infrastructure minister called the pilot project a "game-changer" after visiting the site near Rocky Mountain House.
Redfern calls Yukon a "sweet spot" for trying out the new geothermal-based technology that will soon be marketed around the world.
"It's the best spot in Canada to do this, and so we're viewing the project we want to do with Little Salmon Carmacks to be one of the first in the world, if not the first," said Redfern.
He says the technology can be used almost anywhere.
"All we need is geological heat. We don't need a particular reservoir, and Little Salmon Carmacks as well is right on the Whitehorse trough which is a nice sedimentary basin — so it's a particularly good part of the Yukon."
The First Nation's development corporation says the partnership is new and the technology is environmentally-friendly.
"It also has a small footprint and doesn't take anything out of the landscape or add anything to the landscape, so it's really attractive to the First Nation and their traditional territory," said Cory Bellmore, president of the Carmacks Development Corporation.
The First Nation is a joint-equity partner in the project, which is expected to cost $30-million to install. Redfern says construction could start early next year.
Similar to a radiator
Redfern describes the technology as a closed-loop process, similar to a radiator.
"Basically we take two wells drilled down several kilometres, turn horizontally and connect the well, toe to toe, to make a huge U-loop," he said.
"Our primary market is electricity generation, but of course every single Eavor-Loop also has a waste heat stream that could be almost as a free bonus, that the community can use for whatever."
Redfern says the Carmacks project could generate 3 megawatts of electricity. Larger-scale projects in the future could potentially create 3 gigawatts of power, he says.
He says an added bonus is that the system works well even in the cold winter months.
"How handy is that for the Yukon?" Redfern said.