Oakville issues advisory note regarding geothermal installations
By HPAC MagazineGeothermal Health & Safety HPAC General HVAC Systems
Following the unexpected discovery of a natural gas deposit during a geothermal drilling project, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton wrote to the Province of Ontario urging a moratorium on deep well or borehole drilling for geothermal energy installations until the necessary regulations can be put in place to ensure public safety.
“This Council supports the province’s commitment to promoting renewable energy sources, however, we are very concerned that unregulated drilling poses a serious risk to the safety of our residents,” Mayor Burton said. “Under the Green Energy Act, 2009, the town cannot pass by-laws that would prevent or restrict the installation of ground source energy systems so it is imperative that the province take action.”
The call to action comes following a recent incident in Oakville in which the Fire department was called upon to respond to high levels of natural gas being found in and around a home. The potential source of the gas leak was traced to a recent borehole that had been drilled for a vertical geothermal heating system at a home about 100 metres away. The driller contacted significant volumes of pressured natural gas at a depth of between 380 and 540 feet and this had resulted in natural gas leaking out through the ground.
“We were very fortunate that the gas was discovered and we were able to take action before it built up to levels where it could have become combustible,” said Oakville Fire Chief Lee Grant. “Allowing unregulated drilling in populated areas is a potential recipe for disaster. The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs is joining me in calling for the province to develop regulations governing the drilling of boreholes for the installation of geothermal energy systems.”
The town continues to work with officials from Halton Region and the Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources to monitor the leak that took place and ensure a permanent solution is put in place to prevent further gas leaking at this location. Monitoring has been ongoing and recent readings have shown no significant traces of gas remain.
The town has issued an advisory for residents and contractors who are considering installing a geothermal energy system in Oakville. Given that there are known gas deposits in this area, the town is encouraging drilling contractors to consult with professional geoscientists or professional engineers, have an emergency contingency plan, and follow safety requirements for natural gas drilling.