Hopes are high that the geothermal potential of the decommissioned and flooded potash mine in Penobsquis will be tapped in the near future, a possible source of valuable green energy for the Sussex area.

Natural gas supplier Liberty Utilities has been in discussions with Sussex officials and other interested parties with regards to producing geothermal energy from the mine. There’s no firm commitment yet, but there is interest.

“Assuming the financials and customer requirements can be met, this is exactly the kind of renewable energy investment Liberty is seeking, as it complements our hydro, wind and solar energy facilities very well,” Liberty’s New Brunswick vice-president, Gilles Volpé, said in a statement.

It has been two years since a comprehensive feasibility study was completed into whether the brine-filled potash mine working in Penobsquis was capable of turning the region’s tough times around by becoming a positive resource again – this time through geothermal heating and cooling.

The town-commissioned study concluded the potential is real and would take an investment of about $14.4 million. With the savings in heating and cooling costs, it could pay for itself in just under 10 years.

After modelling 20 geothermal scenarios, it was determined an open loop system has the most potential. In that process, water would be pumped to the surface, run through heat pumps to generate heating and cooling power, and then returned below ground after use. The cost savings for businesses would be between 40 and 60 per cent.

Liberty Utilities has a distribution network that includes more than 1,200 kilometres of natural gas pipeline and serves 12,000 customers across central and southern New Brunswick.