Creating New Energy Through Old Sources

by madibaileey on October 6, 2017 - 11:14am

A town in Alberta is hoping to create new energy sources from abandoned oil and gas wells that surround the area. Hinton, is located west of Edmonton on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, their plan is to be Canada's first to install a geothermal heating system in its downtown.

They are proposing to reopen an old gas well and use the heat from the bottom of the hole to warm their municipal buildings. The water that now fills the well sits at 120 C, the plan is to be pump the water topside and used to warm another fluid, then it would be pumped downtown to the chosen buildings. After the cycle the water would then be re-injected. Through their partnership with academic researchers, their study has gauged the cost for 12 public buildings, including schools, government offices, the hospital and the RCMP building. The estimated cost is 10.2 million and would be paid back in 16 years. On top of that, the town would cut back on cO2 emission by 3795 tonnes a year.

The Alberta Energy Regulator says it is already considering how to adapt to geothermal. The province as well as the Alberta Energy Regulator say there needs to be some kind of structure or regulation that encourages oil and gas producers to transfer end of life wells to geothermal  producers. This is so that the province can cut back on costs of transferring them over themselves.

After reading the article, I think that this is a great idea for recycling energy sources. It would be ideal if we could fund more research into using geothermal energy to heat towns. Considering Alberta has thousands of oil and gas wells that offer opportunities for being transferred in to clean energy at the end of their lives. As mentioned in the article, there needs to be some kind of regulation enforced for energy producing companies to transfer their wells over. This is related to substantive tools for state resource management that we have talked about in class. Since the guidelines would be directed at regulatory and economic instruments. On top that, this case can also be related to procedural tools as well, since there will need to be refining done to the policies that would surround geothermal energy like both the provincial government and the Alberta Energy Regulator have already mentioned.

I am curious about the environmental impacts that this will have. How will the pump move that much water to support such large buildings. The buildings they have chosen would use a lot of energy heating them, especially through the rough Alberta winters. Schools and hospitals use a lot of heat energy, notably hospitals because there is no down time in the heating schedule throughout the winter season, they must always keep it warm as they are open 24/7. Will one well be able support that much demand without putting the system under too much pressure? I suppose to solve that issue, the carrying capacity of each well must be determined to avoid such issues. Another question that came to mind was the installation of the pipes and pumps, the construction will have an impact on the natural habitats surrounding the area. How can we minimize the impact on ecosystems will installing the pipes? Or what will the physical disruptions look like? 

Overall, I think that the recycling old oil and gas wells and using them to create geothermal energy is a huge step for clean energy in Canada. If we can answer the questions and provide some more knowledge then this could be setting the bar for clean energy in Canada.