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Work on geothermal energy, hydrogen production continues at Mount Meager

Developers headed out to Pemberton Meadows to meet with community during recent Slow Food Cycle

Almost a year and a half after purchasing the geothermal lease to Mount Meager, the developers working to harness the natural resource and turn it into a clean fuel alternative are making progress.

“It’s been very busy,” said Craig Dunn, managing director of Meager Creek Development Corporation (MCDC) and president of WellDunn Exploration.

So far, the MCDC team has moved forward with permitting under both the province’s Ministry of Forests and the BC Oil and Gas Commission’s geothermal file, with preliminary support from the Lil’wat Nation.

According to the Lil’wat’s website, the Nation is conducting several studies to better understand the impacts and benefits of the project, including a socioeconomic study, a traditional use study, an environmental assessment and archaeological assessments.

A Lil’wat community survey will be sent to members to collect feedback on the project at Qw’elqw’elústen (Mount Meager), which is in Líl’wat territory.

To date, MCDC has already conducted its own extensive environmental monitoring, investigating how its work could impact everything from anthropological sites to bears, goats and fisheries.

MCDC is looking to create geothermal energy using steam from the volcano, located about 65 kilometres northwest of Pemberton. That energy would power an electrolyser that would then split the clean water (or H2O) apart into hydrogen and oxygen. The plan is to bring the resulting green hydrogen to market, where it can be sold and used to fuel—and help decarbonize—the heavy transportation industry.

In addition to advancing the permitting process, the MCDC team has spent a considerable chunk of the last year cleaning up what has historically been one of the most heavily-researched, promising geothermal sites in the country.

That grunt work happened to reap a few rewards, Dunn explained.

“One of the things we did find was over 2,500 metres of core,” he said, located in an old sea can that had been left at the site by previous researchers and developers. “We had a chance to document [the rock], photograph it, image it and retest, do analysis on it.”

The find represents “a big win for the project” that only complements the “30 boxes of data” previous leaseholders handed over to Dunn and his partners when MCDC acquired the site, he added. Those historic datasets have “been a phenomenal windfall for the project, to understand what information was previously gathered [during] those previous drilling projects,” said Dunn.

MCDC representatives previously appeared in front of Pemberton’s mayor and council in December to present their plans for the site. While Dunn acknowledged community feedback on the project has “been fairly quiet” up until this point, he said he’s noticed that “a lot of [people] are interested to see what’s going on with the project and want to know it’s moving forward.”

Pembertonians Dunn has spoken with have been, for the most part, “advocates for renewable energy developments and have asked some good questions while we’ve been in the community,” he said, “But [at the Slow Food Cycle], we got a really good feedback loop.”

The MCDC team set up a station at the old Pemberton Meadows schoolhouse during the Slow Food Cycle on Aug. 21 to meet with community members, field questions about the project and offer some sweet, sweet air conditioning to cyclists battling the sizzling summer temperatures.

“It was amazing,” said Dunn. “We had, we figured, over 1,000 people by noon, but there was probably over 1,500 people that visited.”

Slow Food cyclists from across the corridor came armed with “lots of great questions,” he said, “about everything from environmental concerns to aspects of what kind of heat resource we had, to why hadn’t it been developed. We had an amazing opportunity to talk to people about the project, and the general feedback was quite positive.”

The developers also heard from more than a few Sea to Sky residents inquiring about the mountain itself, Dunn added, regarding everything from the catastrophic landslide that occurred 12 years ago to when access to the Meager Creek hot springs might be restored.

“We’ve had to be very clear with folks that this is a very sensitive area, from some of the environmental impacts and as well as the safety hazards of driving down a logging road,” he said. “Many of the folks are a bit disappointed that the Meager Creek [hot springs] wouldn’t be back open to the public, but there’s a lot of very, very good reasons to minimize the impact back there. At the heyday, 30,000 people driving to the hot springs was not minimizing that impact.”

As talks with the Lil’wat Nation and work on permits continues, MCDC is still on target to have both the power plant and hydrogen production up and running at Meager by 2025, said Dunn. Developers hope to begin drilling within the next 18 months.