OU team wins big with idea to repurpose oil and gas wells for geothermal

OU team wins big with idea to repurpose oil and gas wells for geothermal The Sooners Geothermal Team, first-place winners of the U.S. Department of Energy 2022 Geothermal Collegiate Competition, pose with competition organizer Caity Smith during their community event. (source: NREL)
Carlo Cariaga 16 Oct 2022

A team from the University of Oklahoma has won the US DOE's Geothermal Collegiate Competition, demonstrating how well oil and gas skills transfer to geothermal projects.

A few months ago, the Sooners Geothermal Team from the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy of the University of Oklahoma (OU) were selected as the winner of the 2022 Geothermal Collegiate Competition hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The team composed of students from a school of petroleum and geological engineering may seem likely unlikely winners, but they are a testament to how well oil and gas skills can be transferred to geothermal.

The Sooners Geothermal Team took first place for designing a system to repurpose six abandoned oil and gas wells in Shawnee, Oklahoma to supply geothermal energy. This reduces the drilling costs for a project that could potentially provide geothermal power for local schools, religious centers, and government buildings.

The funding that the team received from the competitions was used in hosting a community event that shared details on the project and the benefits of geothermal energy.

The Sooners Geothermal Team shares their project to repurpose abandoned oil and gas wells for geothermal energy with the community. (source: NREL)

The positive reception of the project has prompted some of the team members to pursue further projects in geothermal energy. “The cool thing is that I got so interested in geothermal energy from this competition, and how we can transfer oil and gas skills, that my third and final doctoral project is going to be based on geothermal,” said Karelia La Marca, the team’s geophysicist.

“I am a postdoc, and the most attractive projects I work on are the renewable energy projects like this one—geothermal storage, hydrogen storage. I would like to continue renewable energy research and maybe even become a professor to have more researchers involved in this field.” added Yuxing Wu, a postdoctoral researcher who was responsible for modeling and economic development for the project.

“Next step, we want to let more people know we have this project, collect some funding, and then we want to make it real—not just on paper,” further said Wu.

The next round of the Geothermal Collegiate Competition opens for registration in November 2022.

Source: NREL