Oil Companies Testing Geothermal In North Dakota

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

The Bakken geological formation is located in North Dakota, Montana, and Canada. This oil source has been exploited in North Dakota — one that has seen an expansion due to fracking and horizontal drilling, which took off starting in about 2000. By 2010, hundreds of thousands of barrels of oils were being produced per day there. Estimates about how much is in the entire Bakken formation have ranged up to hundreds of billions of barrels. However, most of it can’t be extracted with current technologies.

baakenExtraction can use an enormous amount of water. A recent Bloomberg article stated that US oil drillers utilize about 25 billion gallons of water each year. The Bakken site in North Dakota uses far less, but enough that oil companies there are going to test a system to convert their wastewater to electricity. About 7 barrels of very hot water is generated for each barrel of oil they extract. Rather than doing nothing with it, they want to use geothermal technology to convert the heat to electricity. The MOL Group and Continential Resources — two companies that work in oil extraction — are preparing to test out such systems.

The potential upside would probably not be considered to be huge, but it has been estimated that a 250 kilowatt geothermal generator at a well could generate about $100,000 in electricity each year. On paper, such a generator over a 10-year period could create about $1 million worth of electricity, so an oil production company could save some money while doing business.

Will Gosnold, a researcher at the University of North Dakota, said, “We can have distributed power throughout the oil patch.”

Some might say the project sounds like greenwashing, because the main outcome is still the production of a fossil fuel and the extraction processes waste huge amounts of water. The oil extraction also might be contaminating land and water supplies. All of these concerns are valid.

At this point, the oil companies involved appear to be attempting to take advantage of a waste product to help them save money, and that is a valid approach too. It’s not your typical cleantech story, but it’s an interesting one I thought was worth covering.

Image Credit: Joshua Doubek, Wiki Commons

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

CleanTechnica Holiday Wish Book

Holiday Wish Book Cover

Click to download.

Our Latest EVObsession Video

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

Jake Richardson

Hello, I have been writing online for some time, and enjoy the outdoors. If you like, you can follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JakeRsol

Jake Richardson has 1008 posts and counting. See all posts by Jake Richardson

6 thoughts on “Oil Companies Testing Geothermal In North Dakota

  • The big story that isn’t happening is the lack of large-scale investment in geothermal by oil and gas companies. (Chevron has a mid-size operation in Indonesia.) Unlike wind and solar, which are poor matches to their expertise and business model, geothermal should tick a lot of their boxes: it’s an extracted. location-specific natural resource; the science base is geology; the technology base is drilling; the risks are front-loaded, mostly in exploration and development.

    • Yes I agree, geothermal is a very good match for oil companies.
      I did state that before.
      But the big question is: will they learn/are they willing to learn?
      Second question, in Canada, the government pays for ‘dry’ wells, could some of these be used for geothermal ( and other places around the world)?

  • Ramping up geothermal could be a way to reduce opposition by the oil and gas industry to the energy transition while providing baseload electricity.

  • Before getting all excited about geothermal, North Dakota should focus on collecting natural gas and putting to useful work. Yes, venting and flaring of well gas has come down over the past three years from Bakken wells. Nonetheless, it’s still simply throwing away tons of natural gas into the atmosphere as either unburned methane and light hydrocarbons or as burned hydrocarbon to CO2. Percentage wise the amount flared is down to 18% from a high of 35 percent. However, in total, Bakken wells are still flaring, as of February 2015, 7,329,555,000 cubic feet a month. That’s roughly 726,000 MWh of electricity for the month. Or assuming a month of operation at 85 percent – that’s about 1 to 1.2 GW of capacity. North Dakota also has a lot of wind potential – like the nations greatest.

    Another thing about water, Bakken wells may soon getting flooded. This is an enhanced recovery technique. Water is injected into the wells to force movement to recovery wells. It’s a mess.

    • Yes mankind’s greatest misdeed, “we have lots of it, so it is ok to waste some”, I think that is sad. 🙁

  • Lost in the arguments here is the hidden confession that Oil in the
    Bakkan formation is hard to retrieve and takes considerable energy to do so, making Oil a more expensive fuel for all? Also noted: good water is made impottable(undrinkable) and turned to waste at a high rate. Wouldn’t Solar Wind Wave Hydro Tidal bring cleaner and cheaper energy?

Comments are closed.