March 22, 2017 9:00 am
Updated: March 22, 2017 9:01 am

Using abandoned oil wells for geothermal on Edmonton MPs federal budget 2017 wish list

WATCH ABOVE: Alberta's oil sector is pitching a plan to use tax dollars to get people back to work while also dealing with a growing problem: thousands of unused oil wells in Alberta. Tom Vernon explains in this January 2016 story.

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Thousands of unemployed energy workers are looking to Wednesday’s federal budget hoping their jobs can be brought back to life, when and if abandoned oil wells are used again.

The change? The wells wouldn’t be used to drill for oil, but for drilling deep into the earth’s core.

Edmonton-Riverbend MP Matt Jeneroux has a private members motion on the order paper. M-122 calls for support for the geothermal industry in Canada.

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“Right now we have 200,000 people out of work, and this an opportunity with a bunch of orphaned wells around that we can convert those to geothermal,” Jeneroux said in a phone interview from Ottawa.

“It’s a potential savings for the provincial government, but it also helps get people back to work.”

READ MORE: Oil and gas group asks for federal money to clean up inactive wells

He said the abandoned wells normally would have concrete pumped into them to cap them. Instead, Jeneroux has been working with the industry to have those orphaned wells converted to geothermal production.

Jeneroux said there is potential not only in Alberta, but in B.C. and Saskatchewan as well.

“There’s 50,000 to 60,000 abandoned wells right now, so if there’s a potential in some of those that really gives people the potential to get back to work, but also the economic benefit as well.”

READ MORE: ‘It’s a serious situation that’s coming’: Alberta landowners’ advocate on ‘mushrooming’ problem of abandoned oil wells

Geothermal is not 100 per cent guaranteed. The right hot spots are needed, and Jeneroux said a popular location is in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

The Blatchford redevelopment was put on hold when it was discovered the proposed geothermal method to supplying energy to the carbon neutral neighbourhood wasn’t as positive as first planned when the vision for the city centre development was first drawn up.

Site map of phase one of the Blatchford site.

Courtesy, City of Edmonton

“I’m not familiar with the scientific evidence behind Blatchford, but based on a lot of the details that I’ve seen, it needs to be in a geothermal hot spot,” Jeneroux said. “Without government support it’s often difficult to go and test if it’s in the right spot or not.”

READ MORE: Edmonton city council hits pause on Blatchford residential development

That’s where Wednesday’s federal budget comes in. Jeneroux said the industry is looking for the same tax treatment as other alternative energy sources.

“Solar energy and wind energy is able to provide a tax incentive to go and pursue that technology, but geothermal isn’t.”

READ MORE: Federal budget 2017: Seven things to expect

“One of the changes proposed by the Canadian Geothermal Association is that they’d like to see geothermal included in that. If that’s some of the regulatory changes that the government can make, then great, but what we’re calling on them is to take a review and take geothermal seriously.”

Jeneroux said he has had some support in discussions with Liberal cabinet ministers and back bench MPs.

INTERACTIVE: The hidden cost of abandoned oil and gas wells in Alberta

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