Geothermal Resources in B.C.
British Columbia is situated on the Pacific Ocean “Ring of Fire,” and has several volcanic regions conducive to geothermal energy. Many geothermal resources have been identified.
Information about geothermal heat flows in B.C. come from oil and gas well data, mining bore holes, mapping of young volcanoes, and the sampling of over 60 hot springs throughout the province.
High-temperature Geothermal Resources (>80ºC)
There are three belts of young volcanic rocks in B.C., and all have known hot springs. These geothermal resources have potential to be used for electrical generation, depending on depth, temperature and flow. There may be other areas that have not yet been discovered.
Garibaldi Volcanic Belt
- 32 volcanic centres
- Mt. Garibaldi, Mt. Meager, Mt. Cayley
- The most recent activity—a vent on Mt. Meager—happened 2,500 years ago
- Includes a number of hot springs, ranging up to 60ºC
- An east-west fracture zone along an extension of the northern boundary of the Juan de Fuca plate
- Knight’s Inlet
- Much of this belt is in parks or protected areas, remote from transmission lines
Low-medium Temperature Geothermal Resources (<80ºC)
In theory, these can be found anywhere. The deeper a well goes, the higher the temperature of the fluids found. These geothermal resources can be extracted for a broad range of direct-use applications such as heat exchanges and heat pumps.
Electricity and Direct-use Locations
Geothermal reservoirs—close enough to the surface to be reached by drilling—occur in places where geologic processes have allowed magma to rise up near the surface or flow out as lava. The crust of the earth is made up of huge plates, which are in constant but very slow motion relative to one another.
Magma can reach near the surface in three main geologic areas:
- Subduction zone: Where Earth's large oceanic and crustal plates collide and one slides beneath another
- The best example of hot regions around plate margins is the Ring of Fire, which includes B.C.
- Spreading centers: Places where these plates are sliding apart, such as Iceland.
- Hot spots: Fixed points in the mantle that continually produce magma to the surface
- As the plate continually moves across the hot spot, strings of volcanoes are formed, such as the chain of Hawaiian islands
Geoexchange systems can be used anywhere in B.C. Unlike other kinds of geothermal heat, shallow ground temperatures are not dependent upon tectonic plate activity or other unique geologic processes. Thus, geothermal heat pumps can be used to help heat and cool homes anywhere.