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Folks with abandoned wells on their property, or people who work in drilling, might be interested to know that the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA), says that at least some of the 77,000 oil wells listed as inactive or suspended, and another 180,000 formally abandoned or “orphaned, are suitable for geothermal retrofits.

CanGEA says that all that would be required to make a promising pre-existing well operable for geothermal capture would be a deepening of the well by as little as 10 or 20 metres (since water reservoirs tend to sit just below oil and gas pools).

That’s good news for landowners, and also welders, steel fabricators, electricians, crane operators and pipefitters. Geothermal energy production requires very little retraining. CanGEA is already hosting workshops for rig operators.

But, in order for this to happen, stakeholders have a lot of work to sort out the issues and share the risk. Any company that takes on an abandoned oil well also has to deal with remediation and environmental concerns. Companies who currently own a messy well will be eager to get rid of it, and geothermal companies are right to be wary. We have to create the right business and regulatory environment to make this happen.

So there is a lot to work out, the least of which is whether to sell the resulting power to the grid or locate industries closer to the geothermal hotspots to avoid the ridiculous expense of transmission.) Some farmers are likely sitting on enough hot water to power a value-add operation and create local jobs.) In any case, this is the sort of opportunity every Albertan ought to be focused on.

There is a window of opportunity here: let’s not  miss it.

~ Nora Abercrombie
CEO, Green Party of Canada for Battle River – Crowfoot