Alberta geothermal technology inspired by orphaned wells being tested overseas

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 orphaned 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.

Read more: Going green: Geothermal innovation in Alberta creating buzz

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.

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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 orphaned 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.

Read more: Solar project seeks to replace abandoned oil wells in rural Alberta

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.

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“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.

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