May 29th, 2024

Project aims to re-use abandoned well sites

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - LETHBRIDGE HERALD on November 10, 2021.


The Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs hosted Keith Hirsche presenting on ‘The RenuWell Project: Turning Liabilities into Assets’ which proposes the possibility of re-using abandoned oil and gas well sites for solar power generation.
Hirsche, originator of the RenuWell Project, began his presentation by stating that we are facing a lot of challenges today in the energy business and it has certainly impacted Alberta for the past decade.
“One of the major issues we are facing is that we are seeing an increased dependence in our conventional gas and oil, like the oil sands and the shale production. This is because the conventional resources that we depended on over the past decades are reaching an end,” said Hirsche to the audience.
He explained in his presentation that an average of 750 kilowatts of solar energy can be installed on abandoned oil well sites by converting those without further impact on the farmland, thus creating a long-term source of revenue in the form of taxation to municipalities and lease payments to landowners.
Hirsche explained that more than 450,000 wells have been drilled in Alberta with 178,000 of them drilled between 2000 and 2019. Which accounts for approximately 40 per cent of all wells drilled in the history of the province.
On a table from his presentation, Hirsche explains that in the MD of Taber, there is a total of 9,865 wells. With only 2,509 that are active, which amounts to 25 per cent of them, while 1,743 are suspended and 1,209 are abandoned. Some 3,612 wells have been reclaimed but that is only 37 per cent of all wells.
Hirsche explained that when it comes to the cost of energy generation, solar energy generation cost has been dropping consistently. While on the other hand, the cost of oil and gas production has increased.
He added that renewable energy is now less expensive than fossil fuels, but while that is great news indeed, projects usually require major land allocations which can take land away from agriculture and often need costly transmission and distribution upgrades which frequently rely on experienced, out-of-province crews.
“What RenuWell Project is looking at (is) the opportunity of taking some of the abandoned oil and gas well sites which already have service routes and power connections, on land that has already been prepared for power generation and be able to re-use the sites for solar, rather than starting with a greenfield project,” said Hirsche.
With support from Alberta’s Municipal Climate Change Action Centre, the MD of Taber and three irrigation districts (St. Mary River, Taber, and Raymond), two 1 MW pilot projects are scheduled for construction in the spring of 2022.
The key objectives of this project involve the increase of distributed solar generation to support seasonal irrigation power requirements, conserve land for agriculture, accelerate oilfield reclamation, employment and economic diversification and generate revenue for the MD of Taber and irrigation districts.
Hirsche concluded by saying that their vision is to bring together a range of stakeholders from government, the oil and gas industry, renewable energy companies and academic institutions to establish Alberta as a world leader in the integration of conventional and renewable energy systems and retrain oil and gas workers to build the green energy infrastructure.

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