Colombia Oil Producer Harnesses Geothermal Energy

Colombia Oil Producer Harnesses Geothermal Energy
A geothermal energy pilot plant is providing electricity for a remote wellsite. PHOTO SOURCE: Parex Resources

Parex Resources Inc. (TSE: PXT) produces oil and gas from conventional onshore wells in Colombia’s Llanos and Magdalena basins. On the Las Maracas oil field, it is also producing geothermal energy via modular units to generate approximately 100 kilowatts of electricity for powering pumps and other equipment – a lower-cost and emissions-free alternative to bringing in fuel to the remote wellsite.

“Parex is extremely proud of the Las Maracas Geothermal Pilot Project – Colombia’s first geothermal pilot project,” Mike Kruchten, senior vice president for capital markets and corporate planning with Parex, told Rigzone. “The multi-disciplinary team continues to investigate new project opportunities and regions where it can be expanded to a larger scale to broaden the environmental, social, and economic benefits for all of Parex’s stakeholders and the communities where we live and work.”

Read on for Kruchten’s perspective on the Colombia geothermal pilot project that Parex recently deployed with assistance from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia-Medellin and the national Ministry of Mines and Energy, along with additional insights about geothermal co-production.

Rigzone: How can geothermal make oil and gas production “greener”?

Mike Kruchten: Co-produced geothermal power generation can lower the emissions intensity of production activities by replacing power generation from fuel-burning sources. It’s worth noting that in many jurisdictions grid power is also derived from fuel-burning sources. Continued innovation will allow us to make even better use of this geothermal energy.

Rigzone: When is geothermal a good complement to oil and gas production?

Kruchten: If the geothermal resource meets the threshold for rate and temperature, and if it’s already brought to surface in the normal course of oilfield operations, power can be generated with little variable cost. It is low-impact, emissions-free energy and available. The needs of many oilfield activities are a great fit for the stable, baseload generation profile of geothermal power. Unlike other renewables like wind and solar, which may require back-up when not at peak production, a reliable geothermal co-generation installation can directly replace fuel-burning generation equipment in the field. In addition to the strong environmental case behind co-produced geothermal power, we believe these projects have potential to compete on cost against alternative sources of power where we operate.

Parex-geothermalParex Resources' geothermal pilot plant. PHOTO SOURCE: Parex Resources

Rigzone: What was the impetus for Parex’s geothermal pilot in Colombia?

Kruchten: Parex’s commitment to advancing our ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) initiatives and continuous operations improvement was the impetus. The pilot focused on an area which had clear environmental benefits coupled with an opportunity to improve the self-sufficiency and reliability of our remote operations. We view these types of opportunities within our portfolio as a win-win outcome for the environment and sustainability of Parex.

Rigzone: What do you see as some of the key takeaways from the Colombia project? Moreover, what do you wish you’d known about geothermal before embarking on the project?

Kruchten: We had a good grasp of the concept early on in the project life, and we were confident we could make it a reality. One key takeaway from this pilot is the perspective it gave us to explore for potential “efficiency gains” in other parts of our operations, and we look forward to this work in the months and years to come. As the first geothermal pilot project in Colombia, we learned that a multidisciplinary team was essential to executing this project given the technical, social, and environmental considerations required to implement the project. As an early adopter and innovator it can be challenging to implement new technology, but Parex is motivated by the opportunity to meaningfully reduce our company’s impact on the environment.

Rigzone: Are there any unique infrastructure challenges with geothermal that need to be overcome to support broader adoption, particularly in North America?

Kruchten: We recognize co-produced geothermal power as an intermediate step towards broader awareness of geothermal energy in our energy matrix. Conventional high-enthalpy (high heat content) geothermal power production occurs in few, highly focused areas in North America and is out of view for most people. Some unique aspects of geothermal power, such as subsurface risk and higher upfront costs, make it difficult for interested parties to compare geothermal against other alternatives such as wind and solar. With regard to geothermal power, as more, low-enthalpy geothermal power projects come online the barriers to entry will lower with improvement in costs and the understanding of key risks. Where geothermal resources do not meet the thresholds for power generation, we must remember that geothermal heat in direct-use applications may offer a path to other efficiencies in oilfield operations and further reductions in environmental impact.

To contact the author, email mveazey@rigzone.com. Find out more about geothermal energy in recent Rigzone articles discussing orphaned oil and gas wells, market opportunities and collaboration, ultra-deep drilling technology, and a waterless system.



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