Sooners Geothermal Team Wins National Competition

KOKH-25 - May 29, 2022 11:32 am

The Sooners Geothermal Team at the University of Oklahoma won a national Department of Energy competition for their research into refitting inactive oil wells for geothermal use. Geothermal energy is a renewable source that uses heat from the earth’s crust.

According to the team, using old wells is a relatively inexpensive way of getting to the renewable energy source.

Researchers are looking at powering two schools in Tuttle using geothermal energy.

The team is thrilled to have come in first place in the competition. “It feels incredible to be honest. We took second place in this competition last year for a different project, but winning this award, it’s incredible to be recognized,” explained OU graduate student researcher Alex Cedola.

According to Dr. Saeed Salehi, associate professor at OU’s Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering, this research could have a big impact on how Oklahomans power their communities. He explained that retrofitting unused oil wells could benefit “schools… farms, factories, [and] churches. So this can be used for, you know, potential uses for those types of applications.”

The professor also explained that projects like this could make Oklahoma a leader in renewable energy. “Oklahoma has a lot of potential for renewable energy… we can make Oklahoma the capitol of renewable energy of the U.S.”

The group of petroleum engineers is branching into renewable research. According to the team, the environmental impact of such a project as this is negligible.

Cedola shared that, “I think it’s a great thing to allow people to understand that petroleum engineers can actually transition into the geothermal energy industry.”

Another point the team is stressing is the cost savings of refitting unused oil wells.

Jeff McCaskill, research equipment specialist at the Mewbourne School’s Well Construction Technology Center asserted that this approach is “much, much, much, cheaper. One of the main costs in wells is drilling costs.”

The team explained that there are thousands of inactive wells across the country.

According to Dr. Salehi, “You can power the whole U.S. by geothermal.”

The professor highlighted that geothermal power is sourced from underground, so it is always available — no matter how bad the weather gets.


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