Project in Alberta plans to tap heat in abandoned oil wells for greenhouses

Project in Alberta plans to tap heat in abandoned oil wells for greenhouses Oil well in Alberta/ Canada (source: flickr/ davebloggs007, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 24 Aug 2016

In efforts to utilise some of up to 78,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in the province of Alberta, a project seeks to tap heat from the wells for agricultural use in greenhouses.

At Leduc#1, an Energy Discovery Centre in the province of Alberta/ Canada, oil firms can demonstrate their environmental technology at one site.

Leduc #1 is an accessible, visitor-friendly, 55-acre park which enjoys the support and sponsorship of the oil industry, making the centre an excellent platform to launch a new way of looking at the province’s energy resources. The centre’s volunteer board of directors has a total of more than 400 years’ experience across three continents in fields including renewables, drilling, oil services, steam boilers, electrical installation instrumentation, and local government.

As part of the things the centre is looking into is an “oil well to geothermal” pilot project, as reported recently by Reuters.

In the article it is described that Alberta has a incredibly large number of disused oil and gas wells. The Living Energy Project pilot at Leduc #1 could help make use of about 78,000 disused wells, providing jobs for thousands of unemployed oilfield services workers in the province.

Under the pilot project, the wells could be used to extract heat for agriculture use in greenhouses above the surface. In early August, a local politician submitted a proposal for the project, which would allow those wells for this purpose. Under current regulations, the wells can only be used for extracting hydrocarbons. The provincial government is considering the project under its climate plan, which features renewable energy projects – among them geothermal.

If the provincial government gives its ok, then the company Sundial Energy could start setting in pipes, “used in high-pressure plumbing, down the wellbore’s steel casing to a depth of more than 1 kilometre, where temperatures are 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit (21-27 degrees Celsius).

The cost to tap an abandoned well could be up to C$300,000, converting it to geothermal and utilising it for greenhouse operations could half that cost.

In a statement, Alison Thompson, Chair of the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA) said: “It is entirely fitting that Leduc #1 is also the site of Alberta’s first coproduced fluids style geothermal heat project. Geothermal energy from the Hot Sedimentary Aquifers in Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan, Yukon and Northwest Territories offer a significant opportunity for renewable power and heat, as well as enabling local food via geothermal greenhouses and fish farms. While this concept has been discussed for years in the industry, the team at the Leduc Energy Discovery Centre is on their way to making it a reality. CanGEA is pleased to support The Living Energy Project’s incorporation of geothermal heat and is even more pleased that the oil and gas services industry helped build the facility.The technology transfer between our two industries is significant and the deployment of renewable, geothermal energy in Alberta is a meaningful way to put the oil patch back to work.”

Source: Reuters, Alberta Oil Magazine