Researchers Successfully Turn Abandoned Oil Well into Giant Geothermal Battery

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The Biden Administration is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to close abandoned oil and gas wells across the country, but what if they could solve the problem of renewable energy storage instead?

3,000 feet below the Midwestern state in a geological structure of porous sandstone, researchers from the University of Illinois deposited excess energy as heated water which could be used to generate electricity in the same way that geothermal power plants function.

The Illinois Basin is ideal for oil extraction, but has no subsurface source of heat to produce geothermal power. The same reasons however that make it ideal for extracting oil make it perfect for a potential new method of solving the problems with renewable energy storage.

The Illinois Basin boasts the correct thermal conductivity for the deposition of water heated through excess renewable energy production from solar or wind. Minerals with high conductivity are sandwiched between insulative layers, creating the conditions for the water to retain its heat enough to generate electricity.

“Many of the same properties that make a subsurface rock formation ideal for oil and gas extraction also make it ideal for geothermal storage,” said lead researcher Tugce Baser, an environmental engineering professor at the University of Illinois, in a statement. “And because our test site is a former gas well, it already has most of the needed infrastructure in place.”

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