Tapping currently-producing or retired oil and gas wells for their geothermal potential could also hold promise in India.
Cairn India Ltd, which produces about 25% of India’s oil and gas, has embarked on a pilot project to study the feasibility of repurposing some of the oil and gas wells in its South-Barmer basin in Rajasthan to harness geothermal energy for power production.
The process will extend the economic life of current wells and need no additional drilling or subsurface intervention.
Importantly, repurposing of existing wells avoids the high project costs and risks associated with the exploration and development phases of geothermal energy as well as the long environmental assessment processes. As the project is undertaken in an already operational field, there is also no question of disturbing local communities.
If found viable, the project could be put into operation fairly quickly, in contrast to the roughly eight years on average between identifying a site and starting geothermal power production.
The success of the Barmer project could open up a larger area of around 500 square kilometre for geothermal energy development, according to the company.
If the technology is proven, it could also be extended to the country’s old oil and gas fields, giving them a new lease of life.
It is encouraging that India has also begun pushing the exploration and development of conventional geothermal energy, nearly 50 years after the start of preliminary resource assessments.
State-run upstream giant Oil and Natural Gas Corporation. last month began drilling for geothermal energy in Ladakh’s remote Puga Valley, which lies on the Himalayan geothermal belt and could become home to India’s first geothermal power plant.
But the country needs to quickly scale up. It needs to create the conditions to attract investors, industry players, and technology providers who can identify the oil and gas fields or geothermal sites that can be developed economically.
Having the fiscal and regulatory policy frameworks ready will mean the viable projects can be quickly brought to fruition.