Alberta geothermal technology inspired by abandoned wells being tested overseas

WATCH: New stats released by the Alberta Energy Regulator paint a troubling picture of orphaned wells in the province. There are currently more than 170,000 abandoned or inactive oil and gas wells in Alberta. Sarah Offin explores how relics of the province's oldest industries are inspiring new opportunities to develop geothermal green energy technologies in Europe.

For every energy boom and bust, a deep-rooted issue spreads across Alberta’s landscape.

New stats from the Alberta Energy Regulator suggest there are more than 170,000 abandoned or inactive oil and gas wells in the province.

But almost a decade ago, it was in those abandoned wells that Calgary entrepreneur John Redfern saw a hot new opportunity.

“The oil industry was in depression. The only growth industry was well abandonment… ‘Why don’t we just turn them into geothermal wells? Why don’t we generate geothermal energy?'” said Redfern, now president and CEO of Eavor Technologies.

The idea works a lot like a giant radiator, connecting 50-60 kilometres of wellbores into a closed loop of water, circulated using sub-surface heat.

According to Redfern, the resulting “Eavorloop” can generate enough electricity to power up 20,000 homes, in addition to offering options for direct heating.

And while the idea started in abandoned wells, the company says the technology can be used anywhere, ideally optimizing proximity to towns, cities and industries using the energy.

Tests sites have been built in sedimentary oil and gas basins, like Rocky Mountain House, and in traditional geothermal volcanic settings, like New Mexico.

It’s a prospect now also now appealing to energy-starved countries overseas. Construction of the company’s first commercial project is currently underway in Germany.

“It’s the validation from the EU that what we’re doing makes sense when a lot of people thought it was a bit of a radical idea,” said Redfern.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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