Sep. 19, 2021
ISOLATED, LOW-FLOW NATURAL GAS WELL EXPLOITATION
Is it practical to isolate an Inactive or Orphaned, natural gas well from it's pipeline network and operate it at a low to moderate flow for local consumption?
It will cost at the very least $250,000 per year to operate and maintain the well and basic gas infrastructure, and thrice that amount to install the very basics of that infrastructure, depending on the gas quality and quantity. If the well is only Inactive then some gas usage fee will have to be paid to the well operator.
If the installation is amortized over ten years, then operating and loan payment costs would be a minimum $350,000.00 per year. Using a current natural gas price of $3.75 per 1000 Ft3, the well would have to produce, and use, at lest 93,000,000 Ft3/year of natural gas to break even ($960.00 per day); approximately 255,700 Ft3/day & 10,650 Ft3/Hr.
Yet will the well deliver consistent flow and quality for ten years? Or even three?
There are other considerations around the physical condition of the well which could negatively impact capital and operating costs. For instance it is important to know the physical condition of the well casing. Has it collapsed or plugged off? Does the well need fracturing? Is there a lot of water produced with the gas?
Ideally there will be some existing, usable gas infrastructure at the chosen Inactive or Orphaned well site, plus the well is in reasonable shape. This will reduce capital costs and allow a faster return on investment.
However, the investments which must be made for the installation and operation of electrical generators and green houses have not been considered thus far, but they may also be substantial.
How much practical work can 10,650 Ft3/Hr of natural gas do? At best that gas flow contains 10,000,000 Btu/Hr of chemical energy yet there are many possibilities for its application.
That energy could be used to fire a natural gas powered, electrical generator, and/or high fuel demand applications like industrial laundry, greenhouses, bakery, crematory, etc. Yet it cannot do it all, and it may not be able to do it for long.
Which means any application must offer a high return on the investment plus it must be easily installed and then removed at the end of its practical use.
A gas engine or turbine driven electrical generator is available in a compact package and will deliver 35% to 45% efficiency (based on the fuel lower heating value), and supply between 1 and 1.3 MW of electrical power (3,500,000 to 4,500,000 Btu/Hr).
Alberta electrical utility rate is anywhere from 8 to 12 cents per KWh. (This does not include transmission costs and taxes). Assume the power generated can be sold into the grid for $0.06/KWh and that equates to between $60.00 and $78.00 per hour; $1,440.00 per day at the lower rate and slightly above the $960.00 per day calculated operating cost of the well.
That surplus (about $175,000/Yr) can then be used to pay for the rental/maintenance of the gas engine/turbine generator and any fees demanded by the registered owner/operator of the well.
Overall it really is not a money-making venture, even if most of the risks have been avoided.
True, as the rate of natural gas drawn from the well increases, the amount of electrical energy for sale also increases, yet finding a sweet well in good condition that can support a sustained, relatively dry flow rate greater than 0.26MM SCFD will be difficult.
Not impossible, but wells are not usually rendered Inactive or Orphaned if they are producing reliably, which means we will be dealing with the dregs when applying this method of exploitation.