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Repurposing oil & gas wells for geothermal development – a new database for Alberta, Canada

Screenshot of Data Dashboard (source: CanGEA)
Alexander Richter 20 Jun 2018

A new report prepared by the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA), provides details on what oil and gas wells drilled in the province of Alberta, Canada have geothermal potential and are close to relevant infrastructure. According to the study, more than 60,000 wells have the potential for geothermal production, either for power generation (>120°C), industrial heat (>90°C) or direct heat (>60°C).

The Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA) has announced the release of an Alberta Well Filtering Report titled, “Potential of Geothermal Energy from Co-Production in Alberta using Existing O&G Wells.” The purpose of this study was to identify oil and gas wells in the province of Alberta, Canada as of October 31, 2016 with the potential to be repurposed for geothermal heat and electricity. The results indicate that there is significant potential for geothermal development, able to be harnessed by Alberta’s pre-existing oil and gas expertise.

Filtering Study Overview

As of October 31, 2016 Alberta has 60,935 wells with bottom hole temperatures greater than 60°C. Of those 7,702 are hotter than 90°C and 500 are greater than 120°C. The filtering study is an outgrowth of CanGEA’s first Alberta geothermal resource assessment, which was funded in partnership with the government of Alberta.

The temperature of a well determines what it can be used for. The 60°C wells are classified as direct use and can heat homes and grow fresh produce in greenhouses year?round. 90°C wells are classified as industrial heat and can be used for such businesses as food processing, and refrigeration. Lastly, Alberta’s 120°C wells can be used for power generation. Geothermal power is base load and is a viable option for Alberta.

If only 10% of these geothermal opportunities are developed then that is still ~6000 new geothermal systems in Alberta providing heat and/or power, and employment opportunities for Albertans. The geothermal future in Alberta is looking bright because our industry is re-imagining Alberta’s oil and gas fields as a key partner in renewable energy development

Wellhead Analysis – Data Obtained October 31, 2016

In Alberta, there are nearly 600,000 wells registered in the Alberta Energy Regulator’s database. To determine which wells have the potential for geothermal applications, an extensive filtering and quality control process was applied to these wells to ensure data accuracy. The Wellhead Analysis summarized the methodology used to discover the potential for geothermal energy in Alberta using existing oil and gas wells. The full geological and filtering methodology report can be found in the appendix of the Wellhead Analysis.

Well data (obtained October 31, 2016) for all wells in Alberta was exported from geoSCOUT. This data included true vertical depth and temperature data such as bottom hole temperature, log based bottom hole temperature and drill stem test bottom hole temperatures.

Methodology

The methodologies (phases of filtering) taken to achieve a final filtered list of potential direct use and/or co-generation geothermal wells for development in Alberta by categories (i.e. Direct Heat, Industrial Heat, and Power Generation).

The Questions (each their own dashboard):

  • Which Alberta Oil and Gas Wells have Geothermal Potential?
  • Which Potential Geothermal Wells are Close to Relevant Infrastructure?

The purpose of the study was illustrate the size of the opportunity to co-produce geothermal energy from existing Oil & Gas wells in Alberta. The goal of the study was to gain better public awareness and engagement with these results; CanGEA worked with Fuzeium to create an interactive experience to complement the report.

The Approach

A pair of interactive dashboards were created; enabling the general public to easily connect with the results of this study and imagine how geothermal co-production could impact and benefit their communities.

Insights

Over 60,000 oil and gas wells in Alberta have the potential for geothermal production. Three categories, based on the temperature at the bottom of the well:

  • Power Generation (>120c) : about 500 wells
  • Industrial Heat (>90c): about 7,200 wells
  • Direct Heat (>60): about 53,000 wells

The report and database is available on the CanGEA website for purchase.

Source: CanGEA