Ontario is strengthening the regulation of vertical closed loop drilling for geothermal energy systems. This is in response to an incident in Oakville where an installer of a vertical closed loop geothermal system hit a natural gas pocket when drilling a hole more than 165 metres (540 feet) below the surface. There was a release of gas to the surface that posed a public safety risk.
That is why the ministry now requires installers of new vertical closed loop geothermal systems to obtain an Environmental Compliance Approval and submit a work plan prepared by a licensed engineering practitioner or professional geoscientist before a vertical closed loop geothermal system can be constructed, altered, extended or replaced.
Installers must also notify the landowner, occupant of the building, municipality, fire department and the ministry’s Spills Action Centre if they encounter hazardous natural gas during installation of a vertical closed loop geothermal system.
Ontario Regulation 98/12 became law as of May 18, 2012.
Moving forward, we will work with ministry partners, industry and stakeholders on the development of long-term solutions.
The new regulation requires anyone who constructs, alters, replaces and/or extends vertical closed loop geothermal systems located more than five metres below the surface to obtain an Environmental Compliance Approval under section 9 of the Environmental Protection Act.
As part of an application for an Environmental Compliance Approval, the installer is required to submit a work plan prepared by a licensed engineer practitioner or professional geoscientist that includes:
If hazardous natural gas is encountered when drilling to install a vertical closed loop geothermal system, the installer is required to notify the:
If these measures fail to remove all potential hazards, then the installer must decommission the vertical closed loop geothermal system.
For more details on how to complete an application for an Environmental Compliance Approval form, please refer to the Instructions for Completing an Application for an Environmental Compliance Approval for Vertical Closed Loop Ground Source Heat Pumps.