Converting oil wells to geothermal a real opportunity for Colorado

Converting oil wells to geothermal a real opportunity for Colorado Oil well in Weld County, Colorado (source: flicr/ CL.Baker, creative commons)
Rachel McRae 8 Dec 2021

A Colorado energy startup is eyeing the utilisation of abandoned oil wells in the State of Colorado for its geothermal potential.

A recent article published locally in Colorado talks about the various energy production facilities in eastern Colorado, including wind parks and oil and natural gas operations.

With the reality that the oil wells, while productive today, might at some time not be comfortably profitable. This is the reason for Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Committee is in the process of setting up rules to determine how much money oil and gas operators will be required to set aside to pay for plugging wells at the end of their useful lives. The goal is to prevent orphan wells upon abandonment by the operator and the state being liable for cleaning things up.

So while this could prove a liability for the state and the operators, there is an opportunity in extending the operating life of the aging oil wells.

Colorado based Transitional Energy is interested in utilising those wells to tap geothermal energy.  Which wells would be the hottest with the highest flow rates would determine where the company could go.

It is a common problem, yet not widely known, that every barrel of oil or gas geothermal energy is already mined as hot water is part of the fluids produced to the surface, so Maria Richards, geothermal lab coordinator at SMU. Today, the operators have to get rid of the water produced with every barrel of oil.

So while a liability now, these abandoned wells could become an asset to be tapped and actually pay for managing the wells as well. The temperature of the wells is though not as high as traditional hotter geothermal resources, but with 65 degrees Celsius (150 F) to 120 degrees Celsius (250 F), there are opportunities to use it either for power generation or direct use.

With the heat exchange technology available now, this could mean that oil fields in northeast Colorado could become hubs of geothermal energy utilisation.

Selena Derichsweiler and Ben Burke of Transitional Energy estimate that up to 65% of wells in Colorado are good candidates for geothermal energy production. This could extend the life of aging wells by decades — and keep them profitable long enough for operators to pay for their own clean up, plugging and abandonment.

For the full article, see link below.

Source: KUNC