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Alberta could repurpose dormant oil and gas sites for alternative energy uses – Energy Futures Lab and CWF

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According to a recent report delivered by Energy Futures Lab and the Canada West Foundation (CWF), thousands of dormant oil and gas sites in Alberta could represent a significant economic opportunity in the province. Accordingly, these sites could be repurposed for alternative energy uses, such as geothermal, hydrogen, and lithium recovery projects.

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Energy Futures Lab and CWF on forecasting oil and gas sites for alternative energy uses

Energy Futures Lab and the Canada West Foundation released a report that finds thousands of dormant oil and gas sites in Alberta could be repurposed for alternative energy uses. Thus, this transformation could represent a significant economic opportunity in the province.

For instance, the study finds that several of the province’s oil and gas sites could be transformed into geothermal, hydrogen, and lithium recovery projects. However, the report says that the provincial government needs to address the regulatory gaps holding things up for such efforts to take off.

Therefore, Energy Futures Lab and the Canada West Foundation call on policymakers through the report to take legislative action. Furthermore, both organizations urge better coordination between regulators.

Indeed, participants from the oilpatch, new energy ventures, landowners, law firms, and others contributed to the report.  

“There are entrepreneurs that are trying to reuse old oil and gas infrastructure for a new purpose. So, what they’re finding is that there are several roadblocks,” said Julie Rohl of the Energy Futures Lab. For instance, “one of them is just the quagmire of the regulatory environment and how several different regulatory bodies manage and regulate these sites.

In fact, Alberta had more than 2,600 orphan oil and gas sites as of April 1facilities. Furthermore, they haven’t been remediated by their often-bankrupt owners. Thus, there are near to 3,400 orphan pipelines needing to be decommissioned. Moreover, there are more than 95,000 inactive wells in Alberta.

The opportunities for Alberta

Besides contributing to public financial and environmental liability, the dormant infrastructure also represents a variety of opportunities.

“Many — although not all — of these sites are good candidates for repurposing for other energy uses. For instance, including geothermal, micro-solar, hydrogen, recovery of lithium or other minerals, or carbon capture and storage,” the report states.

Moreover, finding new uses for old energy infrastructure will create jobs and help diversify the economy. Additionally, it could create new economic opportunities for landowners and ease the taxpayer burden around site liability.

For instance, an old well site could be used for a solar project because it may already have road access, lease, a graveled surface, and nearby power lines that it could tie into.

“There’s really an opportunity to try to move a problem forward before it grows any larger and at the same time stimulate other things that we want;” said Marla Orenstein of the Canada West Foundation, a public policy think tank. Thus, “the legislative changes that we’re proposing set out an opportunity.”

Among the issues for implementing this transformation, the report cites poor coordination across the regulators; particularly the Alberta Energy Regulator, Alberta Environment and Parks, and the Alberta Utilities Commission.

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