UK firm teams up with Cuadrilla to harvest geothermal heat from wells

Volcano, geothermal energy
Source: DollarPhotoClub

UK firm Geothermal Engineering Ltd (GEL) has teamed up with the British shale driller Cuadrilla Resources to look at the feasibility of delivering deep geothermal heat from oil and gas wells.

The project, backed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, will initially focus on the technical design of the system before considering a potential field trial. This work follows on the success of GEL’s field trials of an innovative deep geothermal single well solution that were carried out in Cornwall in 2014.

The announced project aims to show that geothermal renewable heat can be sustainably delivered from deep wells that were originally drilled for other purposes such as oil and gas extraction. By using existing wells, deep geothermal energy costs will be reduced by up to 80 per cent, leading to significantly better economics for the technology. As heat can only be delivered locally, this innovative technique also offers the opportunity for local communities to access low cost heat energy from existing wells drilled in their locality.

Dr Ryan Law, Managing Director of Geothermal Engineering Ltd said, ‘The successful trial last summer of our equipment in an existing deep geothermal well demonstrated how the technology could contribute to the UK’s energy portfolio. The possibility of using existing wells enables us to not only deliver renewable geothermal heat at a much lower cost but also to recycle wells that would otherwise be wasted. I am pleased that the Department of Energy and Climate Change are backing this project and that Cuadrilla has agreed to assist us.’

Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla said, ‘We are delighted to support GEL in looking at the feasibility of using one of our exploration well sites to conduct a pilot of a geothermal heat exchange system. There is still some investigation to be done, but significant potential exits to utilise appropriately located onshore oil and gas wells, after they have ceased production, to generate low cost, carbon free, sustainable geothermal heat energy for local consumption. Whilst we recognise that there will continue to be a big demand for natural gas for decades to come, given that over 80% of UK homes rely on it for heating and cooking, we also support the need to develop other forms of low or no carbon energy.’

Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy said, ‘Geothermal heat could play a huge role in Britain’s low carbon future, but the cost of drilling coupled with the risks of not succeeding have proved significant barriers. If we can develop these technologies so that exhausted shale gas wells can then be used for renewable geothermal heat, we can not only use gas to replace coal, but use shale gas as a bridge to true low carbon heat.’

Geothermal energy originates from the heat retained within the Earth since the original formation of the planet, from radioactive decay of minerals, and from solar energy absorbed at the surface. Most high temperature geothermal heat is harvested in regions close to tectonic plate boundaries where volcanic activity rises close to the surface of the Earth.

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