CANGEA – the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association – has been making a concerted case for the development of direct utilization of geothermal in Alberta. They propose to use existing abandoned oil wells and repurpose them for geothermal electricity power production (at low temperatures) and as sites for geothermal heat exchange for local heating – such as building a greenhouse above or adjacent to the well.
In this report, Geothermal Alberta A Cause for Caution June 21 2016 REV Friends of Science Society reviews the potential of geothermal in Alberta and explores the differences between geothermal in well-known spots like Iceland and the differences in Canada that make geothermal a less likely power producer for Alberta.
Additional literature is reviewed regarding various Enhanced Geothermal Systems around the world
This is intended to be a plain-language document for the average reader though the information has been compiled with the assistance and direction of expert Professional Geophysicists, Professional Geologists, Professional Engineers and energy economists.
In general, there may be some potential in repurposing old wells, however due to serious concerns that are unique to the Alberta geology – specifically the risk of deadly hydrogen sulfide (H2S) leaks along with deep well high-pressure risks– we strongly recommend that reasonably long-term pilot work on a demo project that properly evaluates all costs and risks, be undertaken before proceeding down this path.
Though somewhat different in nature, Australia’s Geodynamics “Cooper Basin” Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) 1 project offers numerous lessons. MIT reviews a number of EGS projects.2 We would hope a similarly thorough assessment of any Alberta pilot project be documented, reviewed and approved or rejected, before any further initiatives on the CANGEA proposals for geothermal for Alberta or Canada.