Written by Carol Linnit; Huffington Post.
Abandoned oil and gas wells in Alberta are on the rise — but where many see a growing liability, Alberta’s fledgling geothermal industry sees massive opportunity.
“We’ve got these old wells that we know are hot and we’re going to fill them with cement and walk away,” says Tim Davies, CEO of geothermal company Turkana. “It’s just stupid.”
There’s currently no permitting framework for geothermal in Alberta, leaving the renewable energy out of play.
“I own the well, I own the land and I own the oil. But I can’t own the heat,” Davies said. “There’s just no mechanism for that in place.”
“The oil business has drilled 400,000 wells in Alberta alone,” Alison Thompson, president of the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association, told DeSmog Canada. “They’ve already found all the hot water the province has.”
“The oil patch has those skills to get the most out of every well,” Thompson said, adding the workforce has been hamstrung by a lack of forward thinking policies.
The number of orphaned wells — left in the wake of a mass exodus of oil and gas producers — has quadrupled in the last 12 months.
Ben Lee, owner of Raven Thermal Systems, says the oil and gas sector’s loss could be the geothermal industry’s gain.
“For the first time in more than a decade you’ve got very skilled workers that have exactly the skillset that a successful geothermal project needs,” Lee told DeSmog Canada.
Geothermal energy draws on the earth’s natural warmth to create a renewable form of energy with a low environmental footprint and virtually no carbon emissions. Importantly, geothermal provides reliable base load capacity, similar to a hydro dam or gas-fired power plant, enabling system stability.
Despite being home to enormous geothermal potential, Canada is the only country on the Pacific Ring of Fire that doesn’t use the resource to produce commercial-scale energy.
CanGEA released a report in late 2014 that found geothermal could supply all of the energy needs of British Columbia for much cheaper than the Site C dam, currently under construction.
“You’ve got top-notch geologists, reservoir engineers, drilling and completion engineers, surface engineers and all the associated landmen and everything else that comes along with a successful drilling program,” Lee said.
“They are available, and available on the cheap to some extent right now, because there is so much supply.”
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