Wells of Opportunity: An Assessment of Idle Geothermal Wells in Nevada

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Geothermal energy is poised to play an increasing role in the energy transition over the coming decades. At the same time, idled and inactive geothermal wells represent both an opportunity for increased geothermal energy production but also an environmental risk. However, it is unclear how many geothermal wells are idled or inactive, making it difficult to identify pathways to redeploy these wells or prioritize them for additional monitoring, maintenance, or abandonment. Through a comparison of state well databases, this study develops an inventory of all existing large-bore wells at geothermal fields in Nevada to identify idled wells and their characteristics. The results show that at least 91 production or injection wells may be idled (inactive for 7 or more years), representing 21% of inventoried wells across all fields. This idled rate is significantly below the national rate for oil and gas wells (69%), though there are an additional 92 geothermal wells with an unknown status. The average age and length of inactivity for potentially idled geothermal wells is 26 and 23 years respectively, and active generation fields comprise most of the inventory (83%). Idled well incidence varies significantly across active fields, with 6 of the 17 fields having idled rates of 20%-50% and/or more than 5 idled wells, while 3 fields have no idled wells and the remaining fields have rates below 20%. Younger or more recently idled wells at these active fields likely present the best opportunities for future use or enhanced geothermal systems technology testing. However, a significant proportion of the older and long-term idled wells will likely require additional monitoring or eventual abandonment.

Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2021
Event2021 Geothermal Rising Conference: Using the Earth to Save the Earth, GRC 2021 - San Diego, United States
Duration: 3 Oct 20216 Oct 2021


Conference2021 Geothermal Rising Conference: Using the Earth to Save the Earth, GRC 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Geothermal Rising.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-6A20-81052


  • Geothermal wells
  • Idled wells
  • Renewable energy
  • Well monitoring


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