Research begins on retrofitting Oklahoma oil wells into geothermal
The University of Oklahoma is heading a research project that aims to retrofit retired oil wells in Tuttle, Oklahoma to produce geothermal energy for heating.
A research project led by the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy of the University of Oklahoma (OU) seeks to retrofit four retired oil wells in a well site in Tuttle, Oklahoma into geothermal wells. If the venture proves successful, the goal is to use these wells to provide geothermal heating to two nearby Tuttle schools.
The ribbon-cutting event for the project was held on September 22, 2022 with representatives from the OU, officials from the City of Tuttle and Tuttle Public Schools, Oklahoma state senators Mary Boren and Lonnie Paxton, and a representative from the US Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO).
The project was funded by a USD 1.7-million grant from the US Department of Energy. This was supplemented by additional funding from Baker Hughes and wells and equipment donated by Blue Cedar Energy. The project is valued at near USD 3 million.
Once modifications to the wells have been completed, the research team will spend the next year making actual output measurements from the wells. If the output aligns with estimates and models, the team will then apply for more funding for the connection of wells to nearby facilities.
“This project shows the synergy that can occur when we work together,” said Mike Stice, dean of the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy.
Saeed Salehi, associate professor in the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering and project principal investigator, notes that the thousands of retired oil wells across Oklahoma are a unique asset and can potentially make Oklahoma a prime location for geothermal energy. “We are blessed with so many of these wells throughout the state. They are close to schools, close to factories, close to farms. In Oklahoma, we do not need to invest in miles of pipelines to deliver energy to end users,” Salehi added.
Earlier this year, the Sooners Geothermal Team from the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy won the top spot and USD 10,000 in funding in the 2022 Geothermal Collegiate Competition hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy. The team’s winning project was a design for a system that repurposes abandoned oil and gas wells in Shawnee, Oklahoma for geothermal energy production.
Source: University of Oklahoma