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Kootenay Lake Geothermal Project - Phase Two

Lead Researcher(s):  G. MacMahon

Key Researcher(s):  D. Gatto

Project ID:  2022-004

Key Research Organization(s):  South Kootenay Lake Community Services Society

Project Location:  Southeast BC

Strategic Focus Area:  Energy-Geothermal


Geoscience BC supported the second phase of research through Selkirk College in partnership with University of Victoria to characterize hot spring occurrences in the Kootenay Lake area of British Columbia’s Southeast Region, and to assess their potential as a direct-use geothermal resource (using hot water to, for example, heat buildings or for industrial processes).

The study took place in an area of deeply rooted faults (preferential pathways for hot geothermal fluids to flow) that date to the Eocene (55.8 to 33.9 million years ago) and that are associated with nearby hot springs. Prior to the study, the Dewar Creek hot spring was known to have the hottest measured surface temperature in BC (82°C) and data for the Ainsworth Hot Springs suggested a maximum temperature at depth of 165°C. This, combined with a detailed evaluation of the area’s geology, indicated that the east shore of Kootenay Lake was ideally situated to test the feasibility of developing a geothermal resource.

This second phase study conducted geological, geochemical and geospatial analyses over an area encompassing Gray Creek in the south, Tam O’Shanter Creek in the north and Mount Crawford in the east. Fieldwork was conducted in summer 2022 to collect bedrock and water chemistry data, with twenty select samples submitted for laboratory analysis. Drone-based remote sensing data was collected around Crawford Creek where several compelling observations had been made.

Study results identified several sites worthy of further study, with the focus around the Crawford Creek and Orebin Creek area. This site lies adjacent to the Orebin Creek Fault which may act as a conduit for geothermal fluid movement from depth.

The Need

As Canada transitions to clean energy resources, there is a need to better understand the potential for BC’s province’s geothermal regions to be developed as assets that can provide heat or energy sources. This project is helping to understand the geothermal potential in the Kootenay Lake area.

Project Goals

This Energy project fits under Geoscience BC’s Strategic Objective of Identifying new natural resource opportunities. Its goal was to:

  • Continue geothermal resource mapping and research focusing on economically viable projects and sites with high geothermal energy potential.
  • Develop a hydrogeological model that supports the evidentiary geology and structure of the area as well as advance our understanding of the geothermal processes at work in the Kootenay Lake area.

Geoscience BC funded geochemical analyses of surface water samples. The project is also funded by the Regional District of Central Kootenay, Colleges and Institutes Canada, and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada – NSERC.

Phase 2 aimed to:

  • Assess further evidence of a fault/fracture based geothermal flow model and the potential of encountering hot, near-surface geothermal water;
  • Carry out structural mapping, construct stereonet ‘beach-ball’ projections and create a 3D fracture model for the areas of interest;
  • Characterize subsurface geothermal reservoirs leading to the development of a hydrogeological model to highlight potential geothermal fluid flow pathways which will permit prioritizing of prospective target areas for drilling and testing in a future phase;
  • Utilize geospatial and drone based remote sensing technologies to gather data on the study area in Crawford Creek;
  • Process and map geospatial data and identify geologic features;
  • Characterize subsurface geothermal reservoirs leading to the development of a hydrogeological model to highlight potential geothermal fluid flow pathways which will permit prioritizing of prospective target areas for drilling and testing in a future phase; and
  • Conduct community engagement, building on previous activities, to solicit community feedback and support.

With two phases successfully completed, there is potential for further work, including test drilling in a future phase.

Project Benefits

The first project stage with Selkirk College was to compile all available public domain open-file data. It was part of a separate project not funded by Geoscience BC and is included in the Deliverables section below for context.

The second stage of mapping the surface and near-surface geothermal properties for the target areas aimed to verify open fault/fracture sets that support active movement of geothermal fluids. This, along with the gathering of geochemical data across the project area, assists in the construction of a local, hydrogeological model for geothermal water in the area. This in turn can facilitate decisions regarding refined objectives and drill targets for the next phase.

Survey Area

The research was conducted on the eastern side of Kootenay Lake, in the area around Crawford Bay, in BC’s Southeast Region. The project is in the territory of the Ktunaxa Nation.

Geoscience BC encourages anyone planning exploration work to first contact Indigenous groups in the area. The Province of British Columbia’s Consultative Areas Database can help with this (https://maps.gov.bc.ca/ess/hm/cadb/). The Association for Mineral Exploration (AME) also produces an Indigenous Engagement Guidebook.

What was Found

Fieldwork conducted in summer 2022 collected geological and geochemical data from across the study area. Bedrock structure and orientation data was used to generate a structural model that aids in characterizing subsurface geothermal reservoirs leading to the development of a hydrogeological model. To establish the chemical signatures of water at the sites, water was tested from over 100 sites, with temperature, pH, conductivity, total dissolved solids (TDS) and salinity measured. These field measurements identified twenty sites from seeps, creeks or springs for laboratory analysis. Using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICPMS), the samples were analyzed for concentrations of sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, carbonate/bicarbonate and sulphate plus a range of other ions to assess suitability for geothermal exchange.

Like the Crawford Creek hot spring, local area hot springs were all found to be acidic. Acidic sites with anomalously high TDS or conductivity were selected for laboratory analysis. Results indicate similarity between the Crawford Creek hot spring and others in the area: slightly acidic with elevated levels of sulphate, magnesium, and sodium or potassium. The host reservoir of the Crawford Creek hot spring is the Hamill H1 massive quartzite, highly fractured when proximal to the Orebin Creek Fault and suggestive of potential enhanced permeability with improved movement of geothermal fluids from depth.

Drone-based remote sensing conducted over the Crawford Creek valley provided LIDAR (laser imaging, detection and ranging) imagery and thermal infrared data, with the latter showing a surface geothermal expression extending for 400 metres in the valley. Results strengthen the case for geothermal potential for the area, however further processing of data is required to better define the thermal anomaly.

Separate project reports from two of the project researchers, Colin Vandenbrink (Simon Fraser University) and Aidan McQuarrie (University of Victoria) are included as an Appendix within the Phase 2 final report.

This project phase provides a foundation for a future phase, targeting the Crawford Creek and Orebin Creek areas to gather remaining geotechnical data for the generation of a geothermal model to identify test drilling locations. Should test drilling encounter geothermal fluids in the 40-80oC range with substantial and sustained flow rates, it could lead to the development of a commercial-based pilot demonstration project within two years.


  • Technical Articles

    • Geoscience BC Report 2023-06: Kootenay Lake Geothermal Project – Phase 2 (PDF, 55.1 Mb)
    • Phase One Geothermal Interpretation Report FINAL (PDF, 27.7 Mb)
      • This first phase of research summarized existing research in the area to build a well-documented case for the location of a Kootenay Lake geothermal resource. It was supported by the Regional District of Central Kootenay with participation by Selkirk College and further funding support from Mitacs. It was not funded by Geoscience BC and is included here for context only.