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The future energy mix: Let’s talk geothermal

© Shutterstock / saiko3pexpro geothermal
Expro has recently been awarded a contract for the long-term well flow management services for an operator in the Upper Rhine Valley.

The world needs energy sources that contribute to global energy security, while also tackling the problem of carbon emissions and climate change.

Geothermal has the potential to play a major role in this.

In the past, discussions around geothermal have tended to conjure up images of Icelandic geysers and high enthalpy projects in the Pacific Rim of Fire. While these continue to offer opportunities for geothermal energy, operators have come to consider less dramatic and tectonically inclined locations where geothermal energy can be tapped almost anywhere in the world.

Simplistically, thermal energy can be extracted from the ground for utilisation on surface in a number of ways.

Direct use of geothermal energy can be accessed to support local communities via heat pumps – such as heating homes or regulating the temperature of greenhouse farms. In geologically favourable locations, geothermal resources can offer enough heat from deep inside the earth to generate steam to make electricity.

Geothermal ticks many of the energy transition’s boxes. Similar to solar and wind, it provides a low carbon form of energy, but it does not suffer from their variability issues.

The source of geothermal energy is the heat generated by the Earth’s core. This heat is naturally replenished making it both a renewable and sustainable baseload source of energy with the potential to make a significant contribution to the goal of a Net Zero world.

The geothermal industry offers opportunities familiar to companies working in conventional oil and gas by utilising transferable skills and engineering problem-solving capabilities to help drive the transition.

Essentially, geothermal resources are typically defined in four categories: 1) Shallow geothermal heat pump; 2) Hydrothermal resources; 3) Enhanced geothermal systems; and, 4) Advanced geothermal systems.

Additionally, the concept of utilising old oil and gas wells to generate geothermal energy has also recently been proven. This provides oil and gas operators with the ability to turn depleted wells into useful energy-generating sources.

Factors such as well integrity and assurance are essential for geothermal wells, just as they are when developing hydrocarbon resources. Customers seek engineering expertise for all wells, and need service partners who maintain safe, efficient and sustainable operations.

© Supplied by Expro
Picture shows; Expro’s Senior Portfolio Manager Ingrid Huldal . Unknown. Supplied by Expro

Expro is no stranger to geothermal, having been active in the geothermal business since 1986. Just as this sector has expanded from its high enthalpy to low and mid enthalpy regions, so too have Expro’s capabilities in the geothermal arena expanded.

Where it was previously a provider of discrete services – such as well integrity logging – Expro now takes a holistic approach as a solutions provider in support of the geothermal market.

Today, the company’s wells expertise and range of well intervention, integrity and flow measurement offerings are easily transferable to the geothermal industry. This offers a low-carbon line of business adjacent to its oil and gas portfolio across its global footprint.

As the energy industry seeks to address the challenges of tomorrow, Expro is well positioned to play a leading role in enabling its clients to achieve their carbon reduction goals in support of the energy transition.

The business has committed to achieving its own Net Zero emissions by 2050 and, since 2020, has been on a clear path to adopt and adapt its technology portfolio in line with new energy demands. This has expanded its work beyond oil and gas, utilising its transferable skills and services, to the emerging new energy segments of geothermal, hydrogen and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS).

Diversified opportunities

With Germany’s commitment to renewables and geothermal growing impressively, Expro has recently been awarded a contract for the long-term well flow management services for an operator in the Upper Rhine Valley.

The Netherlands, Denmark and France also have notable projects under way in Europe.

Further afield, growth is projected in Asia, and the US is investing in geothermal, including the repurposing of old oil and gas wells. This avenue pushes back the decommissioning of wells, allowing operators to extract more value from their existing assets, further monetising what were previously liabilities on their balance sheets.

The UK has only seen a small number of projects to date. However, one of interest is being developed in Cornwall, where a company is extracting lithium from geothermal waters. In the North Sea, CeraPhi Energy is working on a project that will seek to capture energy from old wells on Enquest’s Magnus platform.

Downhole challenge

While working in geothermal requires many skills familiar to an oil and gas audience, it does not come without risk.

Drilling wells always present significant risks and these should be mitigated in the same way.

Geothermal plants also require a constant flow of water at high rate, and mineral content in the produced fluids can result in corrosion and scaling.

The business model is also more in keeping with a power utility’s experience. Capital expenditure upfront tends to be fairly high, while operating expenditure is low. Returns are a constant, dictated by long-term power purchase agreements.

Given the need to ensure performance to a high level, and to maximise the amount of energy generation, well services play a critical role.

Energy Voice and Expro will host a Tracking Transition Series event on Geothermal on June 29, featuring Expro’s Senior Portfolio Manager Ingrid Huldal and an esteemed panel of experts from across the Geothermal industry.

Register free at www.trackinggeothermal.com

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