Community-Based Geothermal Demonstration in Remote First Nations Community

Lead proponent:  Borealis Geopower Inc.
Location:  Alberta
CEF contribution:  $ 469,000
Project total:  $ 1.14 M

Project Background:

Fort Liard is a hamlet of approximately 600 Acho Dene Koe First Nation (ADKFN) people located in the southwestern part of the Northwest Territories (NWT). The hamlet was established on the shores of the Liard River over 100 years ago, and in the last few decades considerable oil and gas exploration has taken place in this remote area.  Although there are currently no significant industrial users of power, a small but viable market exists for renewable base load energy to this community, where a diesel power plant supplies electricity at a cost in excess of 40 cents per kilowatt hour.  The existing plant is owned and operated by Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC). Current power consumption peaks at about 600kW, and is met by one base load generator and a second automatic start peak shaving unit.

Previous geothermal studies have identified the Fort Liard area as having very high geothermal temperatures, relative to other locations in in Canada.  The potential exists to develop a viable power generation project in the area using Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) heat engines.  To that end, the ADKFN in partnership with Borealis Geopower proposed the “ADK Borealis Geothermal Demonstration Project” – geothermal wells and a surface power plant for the community of Fort Liard.  The Clean Energy Fund contributed $469K towards a Front End Engineering Design (FEED) study for the Project.


The Project proposed to replace the diesel generators currently used by Fort Liard with a geothermal power plant, as a primary source of power for the hamlet.  The new plant would use an ORC heat engine to draw heat energy from a geothermal heat source (production well) located in the Fort Liard area.  Superheated geothermal fluid from the production well will be brought to the surface via natural formation pressure assisted by a production pump. The fluid then passes through a heat exchanger where the energy is transferred to a working fluid. The geothermal fluid is cooled during this process and is then returned into a deep formation through an injection well.  All the fluid extracted is returned to the well, and is never exposed to the ambient environment.  In the heat transfer process, the working fluid is vaporized and expanded through a turbine to produce electricity.  The working vapor is condensed back into a liquid phase through air cooled condensers, and then pumped back into the geothermal heat exchangers.

The study identified and confirmed the existence of geothermal energy reserves underlying Fort Liard, with more than sufficient energy to power the community.  It further verified the design of a combined surface and sub-surface technical solution for extracting the heat from the subsurface fluid and converting it to electrical power.  This solution was third party reviewed and met all the necessary codes and regulations for operating a power generation plant in the NWT.  It was also determined that should this project move ahead to the development of the geothermal system, it could demonstrate significant cost savings to the community.  Moreover, Borealis obtained the first geothermal land use permit and Type A Water Licence issued by the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board, and in so doing established a regulatory pathway for permitting future geothermal projects in Canada’s North.

Benefits to Canada:

The Government of Canada has an open mandate to provide financial independence for the people of Canada’s North.  Should the project lead to the development of geothermal power in NWT in the future, Canada’s Northern people will benefit from a new revenue stream, a lower cost of energy, and ready access to large volumes of direct heat.  Canada, as a whole, will benefit from reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Next Steps:

As of April 2013, the proponent was unable to obtain a power purchase agreement from NTPC for supply of power to the Hamlet of Fort Liard.