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  • Writer's pictureChris Blake

Why Geothermal?

Geothermal power generation is witnessing rapid growth worldwide with installed capacity having grown by approximately 75% in the last five years. This growth in capacity has been accompanied and aided by similarly rapid development of geothermal technology that can effectively generate power from relatively low temperatures, in turn increasing the number of viable sites including existing oil and gas production facilities.

The concept of power generation from coproduced fluids from oil and gas wells is not entirely new, initial research projects dating back to the early 90’s. However, the improvement in technology has meant that the rate of development has increased and in recent years useful amounts of power have been successfully generated at several oil & gas sites around the world.

Adopting this technology in the UKCS not only has the potential to create a clean energy source but has multiple other potential benefits. Positive impacts may be seen in maximising economic recovery (MER) by reducing expensive consumption of gas or diesel for site power generation and NetZero by reducing or eliminating emissions from site generation. Deferment of decommissioning may also be possible by prolonging the economic life of the assets as well as creating the opportunity to manage the wells beyond oil production as a clean energy source. Managing the wells for a longer period rather than plug and abandon also prolongs the opportunity for the wells to be used for carbon capture and storage.

If these first order benefits are achieved, second order benefits such as, developing globally saleable technology and skills or providing a stable, clean power source for offshore hydrogen production may also become possibilities.

Individually the first order benefits may present a sound economic case for development, however, due to large variation in oil and gas assets in areas such as; fluid composition, flow rates, temperature, expected CoP, size, decom liability etc. it is likely the economic case will hinge on how these benefits combine. Determining the economics of implementation for any given asset will address whether financially geothermal power generation is attractive, however, to do so will also require greater understanding of constructability and offshore logistics. Even if the geothermal power generation is shown to be financially attractive and technical feasibility there may be other barriers to adoption which will still need to be understood (e.g. perception, knowledge, skills).

SHIFT Geothermal continue to work to understand barriers to adoption, and define the basis of an economic feasibility model that can be applied to UKCS oil & gas assets and examine practicalities of offshore implementation and logistics.

Our primary research objectives are:

Determine barriers to adoption and whether they can be overcome

Define the key elements of an economic feasibility model that considers benefits for MER, NetZero, decommissioning and energy transition that can be applied to UKCS oil & gas assets individually, determining applicability of geothermal power generation.

To define key considerations for constructability, logistics and implementation of geothermal power production on or adjacent to existing UKCS oil & gas production facilities.

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