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Timmins geothermal project lands city in hot water: use of abandoned mines examined for potential energy project. (Timmins: Special Report).

Potential energy savings of half-a-million dollars annually was enough to convince the City of Timmins to forge ahead with investigating the possibility of using naturally heated water from two abandoned gold mines, near the city's downtown to heat and cool public buildings.

In striking a three-way partnership with Kinross Gold Corp. and the Timmins and District Hospital, project leaders behind Timmins' geothermal project were sifting through, and shortlisting, proposals received from a number of engineering firms to explore and evaluate the potential behind what is being called cavern thermal energy storage at the decommissioned McIntyre and Hollinger mines.

The city released a request for proposals (RFP) in March to secure an engineering team for a feasibility study. The study will provide the technical and economic details of piping heat around the city as part of a huge heating convection system to offset energy costs in two public properties, namely the hospital and the McIntyre Arena.

Though declining to disclose the number of submissions received, Mark Jensen, the city's director of planning, building and economic development, expresses amazement at the level of interest shown from outside Northern Ontario, considering their RFP was only posted in local papers and on the city's Web site.

"At this point we won't get into the numbers because we're not finished negotiating," he says, adding there were still some details to discuss with some of the submissions.

"I can say we've had a lot of interest. Obviously local firms showed interest, and we had firms from the U.S...from Utah and Colorado.

"It's so very hard to find (expertise) with one firm, so you have strategic partnerships to try and cover all the expertise that's required."

For Jensen, the geothermal project is definitely not some pipe dream, but has the potential to turn a liability for Kinross into some significant cost savings for the city.

"The world leaders in this technology say this is worth looking at, so if they're telling us that, I think we would be negligent not to go ahead and take a look at it."

A similar proposal is in use in Springhill, N.S. where warm water from an abandoned coal mine is being extracted for use in a business development park.

"I think they realized about a 40 to 60 per cent savings in energy costs in using it as an economic development tool," says Jensen.

"Ultimately if this technology proves beneficial, what a way to promote a city."

The project is the brainchild of Kinross and Rod Cooper, the company's technical services director.

Last year the gold producer completed a pre-feasibility study conducted by Ottawa-based consultants, Canadian Environmental Technologies Inc., one of the leading experts in geothermal energy.

"There were some very basic assumptions (in that report) that need to be tested, but the original study suggested there could be savings of a half-million dollars a year between the hospital and the McIntyre," says Jensen.

"They basically looked at the temperature profile in several mine shafts in analysing the water temperature from surface on down," says Dave Bucar, Kinross's environmental co-ordinator.

At Hollinger, water temperature from 400 metres down was 12 degrees C. At McIntyre, from 50 metres down, it was 13 degrees C. "The full feasibility (study) will determine more, in detail, the potential volume of energy produced," Bucar says.

On the basis of those encouraging findings, Kinross approached the city with the idea, and the city immediately jumped on board, volunteering to lead project management by organizing meetings, handling advertising for the RFP for a feasibility study and applying for government funding through FedNor and Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. to support the project, says Bucar.

The feasibility study is estimated to cost $225,000, and all three parties have contributed an undisclosed amount of money towards the project, says Jensen.

The project team expects to make their recommendation to city council for the hiring of a firm this summer, subject to receiving confirmation of a government funding contribution for the feasibility study.

Discussions on who the owner and operater of the proposed geothermal plant would be have yet to take place, Jensen says.

"Obviously Kinross has an interest in generating a return on their properties, and the city and the hospital, and potentially other interested private-sector companies may want to hook up to a system that could result in energy-cost savings," Jensen says.
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Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jul 1, 2002
Previous Article:Expansion leads to opportunities: local manufacturer maps out strategy to tap into world markets. (Timmins: Special Report).
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