The geothermal opportunity of 150,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in Alberta/ Canada

Oil well in Alberta/ Canada (source: flickr/ davebloggs007, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 19 Dec 2018

With more than 150,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in the province of Alberta/ Canada and expected extensive maintenance costs for the future, utilising the heat found in these wells for residential and industrial use could provide a great business opportunity instead.

With a large oil and gas sector, the province of Alberta in Canada faces a large bill for cleaning up abandoned oil and gas wells of up to CAD8 billion (around USD 6 billion), so a report by CD Howe Institute. The report”All’s Well That Ends Well.” is topic of a recent article in

So while discussions seem to focus on the cost and challenge, it neglects the fact that these wells actually could provide a rather big opportunity. With hot water to be found in many of those ca 61,000 wells of more than 60 centigrades, they provide a great energy opportunity.

The Canadian Geothermal Association (CANGea), in a report form 2016, estimated “that Alberta has 60,935 wells with bottom hole temperatures higher hot enough (if harnessed) to heat homes or grow fresh produce in a greenhouse. Of these wells, 500 have temperatures higher than 120 degrees, or potentially hot enough to generate electricity.”

“If only 10 per cent of these geothermal opportunities are developed,” says CanGEA, “then that is still approximately 6,000 new geothermal systems in Alberta providing heat and/or power, and employment opportunities for Albertans.”

The report the article mentions says that the province has around 155,000 idle oil and gas wells – one third of the existing 450,000 wells in the province. They are located all over the province in farm fields and near to towns.  These abandoned wells are unproductive and often abandoned. With limited to no environmental requirements for further management, this constitutes a large challenge.  The clean up would cost up to CAD 8 billion (around USD 6 billion).


The article talks about the examples in Canada that are either already utilising geothermal heat, as in Springhill in Nova Scotia, as well as in Hinton in Alberta.

Heating could provide heating for local community and businesses. So while traditional geothermal projects face high up-front drilling costs (and risks), these existing wells are essentially providing a limited risk opportunity. The wells are there, the temperature is known – what is required now is to find a way to derive the heat from the ground to use it economically.

For the full article see link below.

Source: Rabble