Oil Wells’ Next Act

There are a staggering number of defunct oil and gas wells across the US. Renewell Energy sees them as an untapped climate solution.

The fan club for abandoned oil and gas wells is an exceedingly small one, but Kemp Gregory might just be the president. Where others see an eyesore or a source of rogue methane emissions, Gregory sees opportunity.

Standing next to a 4,000-foot-deep well on the outskirts of Bakersfield, California, he demonstrates why. A 3,000-pound weight is suspended on a cable deep below the surface. With the push of a button, Gregory starts a small motor turning, drawing the weight up from the well’s maw until it reaches a predetermined height. Now it’s more than a heavy weight; it’s a source of potential energy. Gregory pushes another button and the weight begins its descent, releasing that energy in the form of electricity that can be fed onto the grid.

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