Hydrocarbons transported by truck, train and boat are the main source of heat and electricity in the North, a situation that comes at a high financial and environmental cost. Geothermal technologies offer an alternative that can be used to diversify energy sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This could give rise to new business activities of great benefit to northern communities, such as greenhouse operations for producing fruits and vegetables locally.
However, the extent of geothermal resources available in the North is still largely unknown. The region is vast and the thermohydraulic properties characterizing shallow and deep geothermal resources vary greatly. The research chair aims to demonstrate the potential of northern geothermal resources so that this renewable energy source can be developed.
The research will be used to evaluate strategies for reducing hydrocarbon consumption and increasing the productivity of geothermal systems in northern environments to make them more affordable and provide access to clean energy. The strategy for meeting this goal is threefold:
- Identify northern geological environments with high geothermal potential
- Improve the design and operating procedures of northern geothermal systems installed in a permafrost area
- Develop technologies to facilitate geothermal development in the North
Advance Knowledge and Develop Technologies
The research project focuses on two northern regions with distinct energy supply profiles:
- the mines and villages connected to a distribution system, primarily in the James Bay area
- the Aboriginal villages deserved by off-grid systems in northern Québec, mainly in Nunavik
The researchers will assess the state of local geothermal resources, develop hydrogeological and energy models to predict the operating temperatures of potential geothermal systems, develop new modelling strategies to improve the methods used to design heat pumps, improve underground thermal energy storage, and study the impact of permafrost, among others.
The chair seeks to innovate by developing underused geothermal resources and technologies, one of very few local alternatives for continuous heat production. With the acquisition of new knowledge, use of these resources and technologies can be extended to northern Quebec and new simulation approaches can be tested to determine if geothermal technology is a viable alternative in the North.