Petrol, Dravske elektrarne Maribor, and Nafta Lendava are planning an innovative pilot project for utilising geothermal energy from abandoned gas/oil wells

Dravske elektrarne Maribor, together with partners Petrol d.d., Ljubljana and Nafta Lendava, d.o.o., plan to set up a pilot geothermal power plant in the Municipality of Lendava, which they confirmed last week by signing a letter of intent. The project will mark the first application of the Slovenian patent, and could represent an important milestone in utilising geothermal energy from abandoned gas/oil wells in Slovenia and across the globe.

Due to its reliability and permanence, geothermal energy has enormous potential among renewable energy sources, as, in contrast to wind and solar energy, it is available constantly, every day of the year. It has many advantages over traditional fossil fuel-based energy sources, the most significant being that it is clean and safe for the environment, as it does not produce harmful emissions. Utilisation of geothermal energy can reduce the use of fossil fuels, which in turn also reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Another advantage is the geothermal energy reserve, which is available and practically inexhaustible. Geothermal power plants take up little space, as they are built directly on the energy source. Its reliability is also an advantage, as production does not depend on weather conditions; electricity can be produced in a geothermal power plant 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Geothermal energy can be used for heating and cooling, or used to generate electricity. The latter requires appropriate temperature sources, including tectonic active regions, where abandoned gas/oil wells are often located. There are over ten million of them worldwide, and at least fifteen in Slovenia, which represent the potential for generating electricity from geothermal sources.

Pilot project for electricity generation with geothermal gravity heat pipe in Pg-8 well

With the above in mind, the project partners are preparing a pilot project for electricity generation, with a geothermal gravity heat pipe in the Pg-8 well in Prekmurje. The purpose of this applied research pilot project is the practical implementation and use of a completely new method of electricity generation, with a geothermal gravitational heat pipe, which is the result of Slovenian knowledge (patent SI 23618 A).

The pilot project is planned in the settlement of Čentiba in the Municipality of Lendava. It will be implemented on an already existing but unproductive Pg-8 well. A geothermal gravitational heat pipe produces sufficient heat flux for electricity generation at depths greater than two kilometres. The construction of the gravity heat pipe is carried out in such a way that by exploiting the geothermal heat of the earth in the well, the refrigerant evaporates, and the resulting vapours are led to the surface, where they condense and return to the well. The geothermal heat produced in this way can be used for heating and renewable electricity generation.

The project plans the construction of a small pilot power plant with a geothermal gravity heat pipe in the well, about three kilometres deep. If the results of the pilot project are favourable, the designed concept can be used on other abandoned wells within Slovenia and around the globe. The project, therefore, represents an important milestone for the development of geothermal energy, and a contribution to the reduction of pollution from abandoned wells around the world.

The General Manager of HSE, Viktor Vračar, PhD, welcomes the cooperation: “The HSE Group is the largest producer of electricity, and with an 87% share, also the largest producer of electricity from renewable sources. These are our future. We are entering the investment cycle of building solar power plants; this year, we are setting up two large solar power plants at the Prapretno and Zlatoličje locations, and the procedures for obtaining permits for the construction of the first three hydroelectric power plants in the middle part of the Sava river have begun. We believe that the project of utilising geothermal energy for electricity generation will also grow into a successful new investment.”

The director of Dravske elektrarne Maribor, Andrej Tumpej, emphasises: “The mentioned pilot project pertains to a niche market on a global scale. The concept of using geothermal energy in this manner is patented, and the exclusive use of the patent is given to Dravske elektrarne Maribor. The pilot project will be the first application of this patent, which is entirely the result of Slovenian expertise. The implementation, which represents a new step on the path of development and transition to a low-carbon society for all partners, adds value both for the local community and the whole of Slovenia. We are especially pleased that we have combined the expertise, experience, and interests of Slovenian companies with the support and planned participation of the Municipality of Lendava.”

Jože Bajuk, MSc, Member of the Management Board of Petrol: “Innovative approaches to solving energy challenges are not unknown to Slovenia, as we have a lot of expertise and practical experience. Projects like this have great potential to meet the goals on the path to a low-carbon energy society, which is also one of Petrol’s main strategic priorities. We want as many such integrated partnerships as possible in the energy transition from traditional to cleaner, renewable energy sources. I believe that, together with our partners, we will successfully implement the project, which will demonstrate this completely new way of using geothermal energy to the region and beyond.“

Verena Zidar, Director of Nafta Lendava: “We at Nafta Lendava are pleased that we have revived this project for which the idea sprouted several years ago. An innovative pilot project for the use of geothermal energy in abandoned gas/oil wells in the Municipality of Lendava is a project that will take advantage of the local conditions for the use of green energy, and influence the development of Nafta Lendava and the Municipality of Lendava.”

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