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Scientists to take ‘CAT scan’ of B.C. volcano to locate best geothermal energy spots

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Scientists are planning a “CAT scan” of a British Columbia volcano to help harness the underground heat that turns rock into magma for renewable energy.

“Canadians are often surprised to know there’s volcanoes in the country,” said Steve Grasby, a geologist with Natural Resources Canada. “But there are active volcanoes.”

Grasby and his colleagues are headed about 24 kilometres west of Whistler, B.C., to Mount Cayley, part of the same mountain chain as well-known volcanic peaks such Mount St. Helens in Washington State.

Cayley’s last lava flow was back in the 1700s, but plenty of heat remains. At nearby Mount Meager, a well drilled in the 1970s showed temperatures of 250 C at 1.5 kilometres depth.

That much heat at such a relatively shallow depth is a great opportunity for geothermal energy, said Grasby. For comparison, underground temperatures in Alberta — where some see geothermal potential in the energy wells dotting the province — only rise by 50 C for every kilometre of depth.

“In terms of temperature, it’s a world-class resource,” Grasby said.

But how do you tap it?

Geothermal plants generate power through the heat contained in underground water. Their success depends on sinking wells in just the right place to find the most water at the highest temperatures.

Grasby said because the work is so expensive, geothermal drillers need a 50 per cent success rate to be viable. Oil and gas drillers, he said, only need to be right one time out of seven.

He and his colleagues are trying to find ways to help drillers improve their hit rate by building a 3-D map of Cayley’s innards — without using traditional tools such as seismic lines.

Part of the map will be drawn through basic geology. The team will analyze which rock types are present to find out how permeable or porous they are, or locating and diagramming fault systems that may hold hot water.

But they will also use methods such as examining how electromagnetic energy moves through the volcano. For example, when lightning strikes — even in a remote part of the world — the geologists can examine how that energy moves through the earth, where it is being absorbed and where it passes through.

“We have to go all around the volcano, so you’re looking into it from all these different angles,” Grasby said.

“You can start to develop a 3-D image of what’s underground. By collecting these observations all around the volcano, you can start to see there’s a magma chamber at 10 kilometres depth or a hot fluid-filled reservoir at two kilometres.

“You can think of it as a CAT scan.”

That alpine scan could be used by drillers to determine exactly where to position themselves to get to the best heat resources.

“Our goal is to reduce that exploration risk,” Grasby said. “You can’t afford to drill a lot of dry holes.”

Canada has a few geothermal projects underway.

Companies in Saskatchewan and B.C. have drilled wells and a couple more have plans. Alberta has recently joined B.C. in developing a regulatory regime for geothermal development.

But no geothermal wells are yet producing energy, making Canada the only country in the Pacific Rim of Fire not to do so.

The energy source could be a significant zero-carbon contributor to Canada’s energy needs, Grasby said.

“Until someone sees a producing geothermal well, it’s hard to believe it could be true. You need to see that first one,” he said.

“It’s not going to be the saving grace, but geothermal could be a big contributor, that’s for sure.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 21, 2022.

— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960

 

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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Canada boosts capacity of key supply hub for weapons to Ukraine – CBC News

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Defence Minister Anita Anand says Canada is boosting its capacity at a key transportation hub in Scotland, so weapons and other supplies can more easily be shipped to Ukraine and other countries in eastern Europe.

Canadian forces have been responsible for delivering four million pounds of cargo since March, and the Prestwick, Scotland hub will now be expanded into an air mobility detachment with a third CC-130 aircraft and 55 Canadian Armed Forces members present.

“We are expanding the ways in which we are assisting Ukraine and getting military aid to Ukraine by delivering even more aid,” Anand told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton in an interview airing Sunday.

CBC News reported earlier this week Ukraine has written to the Canadian government to request armoured vehicles, howitzers and winter clothing.

Canada has promised to deliver 39 armoured troop carriers, and Anand said she’d be meeting with industry partners in Canada to talk about the issue of supply.

Anand said NATO countries are all trying to strike a balance between arms shipments to Ukraine and maintaining supplies to their own armed forces.

“This is front and centre in my mind,” she said.

Canada must say yes to Ukraine: Rae

Canada has committed or delivered $626 million in military aid to Ukraine since February.

Asked about Ukraine’s list of weapons requests in an interview on CBC Radio’s The House that aired Saturday, UN Ambassador Bob Rae said Canada would be hard pressed to deny the asks.

“It may be a career-limiting move for me to say this, but I don’t believe we could say anything less than yes,” Rae said.

“That’s been my consistent advice to whoever, whoever, whoever is listening. Obviously, governments have to decide the pace at which they can do it.”

LISTEN | UN Ambassador Bob Rae discusses latest developments in Ukraine war:

Some NATO countries have struggled to strike the balance Anand described Sunday, due in part to a lack of robust inventory.

“Since the end of the Cold War, not only have allies considerably restructured their armed forces, they also don’t hold the stockpiles anymore that they used to have,” Christian Leuprecht, a political science professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, told CBC News earlier this week.

“And so, effectively, most of what you ended up giving away today comes out of your current stockpile. So this is equipment that you’re actually going to be actively short.”

The calls for more aid from Ukraine come as offensives in both the country’s east and south continue, but also as Russia announced a partial mobilization to bring hundreds of thousands more soldiers into its ranks. Russian President Vladimir Putin also threatened this week that Russia was prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend itself.

Russia also announced and rapidly began referendums in occupied Ukrainian territories.

Anand said Putin’s decision to raise the threat of nuclear war and mobilization were “acts of desperation.”

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Atlantic Canada begins assessing, cleaning up damage from Fiona – CBC.ca

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People across Atlantic Canada are beginning to assess the damage and clean up after post-tropical storm Fiona swept through the region Saturday.

As of 9 a.m., remnants of Fiona are over southeastern Labrador and have merged with a trough — a long region of low atmospheric pressure.

Fiona spent early Sunday morning moving inland in southeastern Quebec as a post-tropical storm, according to Environment Canada. It’s expected to dissipate over the Labrador Sea.

The agency said winds were at 80 km/h and all wind warnings associated with the storm have ended.

In Newfoundland, some homes were washed away or flattened, others were flooded, roads were washed out and people were evacuated. The damage was most striking in Port aux Basques, where boulders and debris were scattered across the community.

On Sunday morning, CBC meteorologist Ashley Brauweiler said the bulk of the damage in Port aux Basques was caused by storm surge.

The Salvation Army has co-ordinated an emergency shelter for people displaced from their homes in the Port aux Basques area at the local school.

In Nova Scotia, hundreds of thousands of customers were without power on Sunday, and the Canadian Armed Forces has been called in to help restore electricity.

Nova Scotia Power president Peter Gregg said in a statement Sunday that the utility knows “there will be customers who face outages for multiple days” given the damage created by the storm.

Two municipalities in Cape Breton declared a state of emergency. The fastest winds clocked in at 171 km/h in Arisaig, just north of Antigonish.

The devastation of a day: Scenes of Fiona’s damage across Atlantic Canada

6 hours ago

Duration 3:05

Within hours, post-tropical storm Fiona caused destruction and upheaval in all four Atlantic provinces, as well as in eastern Quebec. See some of the impact as gathered by CBC News crews.

Ottawa has also approved Nova Scotia’s request for funding for disaster assistance to help municipalities repair damaged infrastructure, and to assist individuals and small businesses pay for uninsured losses

On Prince Edward Island, winds hit 150 km/h and almost 100 millimetres of rain fell, homes and businesses were damaged and flooded, and at one point about 95 per cent of Maritime Electric customers had lost electricity.

Premier Dennis King said Sunday that his province’s road to recovery “will be weeks or longer” since the damage may have been “the worst we’ve ever seen” from a tropical storm. 

Residents in Charlottetown are now being asked to stay off the roads and shelter in place after the storm rushed over the Island. 

In New Brunswick, roads were flooded, a bridge was destroyed and tens of thousands were without electricity. Residents there are also being asked to stay away from dangerous, storm-ravaged areas.

Bill Hogan, the province’s public safety minister, said it will take time to fully calculate the damage caused by post-tropical storm Fiona, but he expects help will be made available to affected residents.

Power outages are still widespread on Sunday morning, with more than 365,000 customers in the dark across the four Atlantic provinces, including more than 260,000 in Nova Scotia.

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Officials across Eastern Canada set to begin assessing full scope of storm damage

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After hammering Atlantic Canada, post-tropical storm Fiona has moved inland in southeastern Quebec, with Environment Canada saying the storm will continue to weaken as it tracks across southeastern Labrador and over the Labrador Sea.

As of 6 a.m. local time, nearly 267,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were still affected by outages, 82,414 Maritime Electric customers remained in the dark and more than 20,600 homes and businesses in New Brunswick were without power, with some provincial utility companies warning it could be days before the lights are back on for everyone.

Newfoundland Power reported outages affecting more than 3,600 customers, as high-end tropical storm force winds knocked down trees and power lines, although Environment Canada said winds would diminish in the morning.

In an early Sunday morning update, Environment Canada said strong winds continued over the northern Newfoundland, southeastern Labrador and parts of southeastern Quebec.

A wind warning remained in effect for the western part of the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, while storm warnings are in place for parts of the Northeast Gulf and Strait of Belle Isle marine areas.

As Fiona continued to weaken, government officials across Eastern Canada prepared to survey the full scope of the damage left behind.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, along with several members of his cabinet, were scheduled to tour some of the hardest hit areas of Cape Breton by helicopter Sunday morning.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who cancelled his planned visit to Japan for the state funeral of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, said he will visit as soon as possible, while noting he doesn’t want to displace any emergency teams who are focused on important work on the ground.

Defence Minister Anita Anand said Saturday members of the Canadian Armed Forces had begun preparing to respond before receiving the request for assistance from Nova Scotia, and troops will be deployed to other provinces that ask for help.

No details were provided on the number of troops being deployed, but Anand said reconnaissance was underway to ensure they go where and when they are needed most.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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