Research partnership to explore conversion of oil wells to geothermal heat and power

Research partnership to explore conversion of oil wells to geothermal heat and power Oil wells in the Central Valley, California/ U.S. (source: flickr/ Bill Abbott, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 23 Nov 2020

Green energy technology player Petrolern LLC and Southern Company announce a research collaboration to help convert oil wells to profitable geothermal energy utilisation.

Announced late last month, U.S.-based Petrolern LLC has agreed on a research collaboration with Southern Company, Research & Development, to evaluate geothermal opportunities in the Southeastern United States, including the conversion of late-stage oil and gas wells to profitable geothermal heat and electricity sources. This partnership addresses a significant problem with low-producing oil and gas wells which are sometimes simply abandoned without being plugged, which can have negative environmental impacts. As reported in the Oct. 1, 2020, issue of the Houston Chronicle, Texas alone is currently facing an estimated $117 billion clean-up problem from unplugged abandoned wells. Identifying and converting appropriate oil and gas wells to geothermal sources of clean energy, prior to abandonment, has many advantages. Besides protecting the environment, additional revenue streams from geothermal energy can be generated for years.

Petrolern LLC has developed a novel workflow and screening tool integrating geology, geomechanics, well integrity, infrastructure, and economic considerations to select and convert appropriate late-stage oil and gas wells to clean and low-cost geothermal energy sources. This technology encourages the oil and gas industry to power their operations in a more environmentally friendly way by using geothermal energy and also delivers heat and electricity to utility companies and households.

The partners are in discussions with electrical utilities, oil & gas companies, state geologists and prominent experts from academia and national laboratories to ensure widespread application of the methodology. The pilot geothermal projects will be done in the Southeastern United States – which build on previous work done to map prospective low-temperature geothermal play fairways – but Petrolern is already screening and scoping similar opportunities elsewhere in the country and internationally.

Geothermal energy production in the United States originates mainly from deep hot volcanic rocks. However, opportunities exist to produce cost effectively from shallower lower-temperature sedimentary rock formations, re-purposing already-drilled oil and gas wells and either converting them to geothermal wells or co-producing heat and hydrocarbons.

The company is exploring options across the U.S. and internationally. It has engaged Maria Richard of SMU and Jeremy Boak (former State Geologist of OK), who are leading the team.

Source: Company release via Newswire