Could Texas’ dirty coal power plants be replaced by geothermal systems?

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: April 26, 2016

For Texas electricity customers, geothermal energy is pretty much an afterthought. But some scientists — and even some people in the oil and gas business — say that heat from deep underground may become a significant source of power.

SMU ‘Power Plays’ conference April 25-26

SMU NEWS

Originally Posted: April 22, 2016

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU’s renowned Geothermal Lab will host its eighth international energy conference April 25-26 on the Dallas campus, focused on using the oilfield as a base for alternative energy production through the capture of waste heat and fluids.

In addition to oil and gas field geothermal projects, experts will discuss coal plant conversion for geothermal production, the intersection of geothermal energy and desalination, and large-scale direct use of the energy source produced by the internal heat of the earth.

“Power Plays: Geothermal Energy in Oil and Gas Fields” begins with an opening reception and poster session from 5:30 – 8 pm Monday, April 25, followed by a daylong program of speakers and presentations Tuesday, April 26. Conference details are available here. Walk-up registration is available at the conference site, the Collins Center at 3150 Binkley Avenue, Dallas, 75205.

The technology that is the primary focus of the conference takes advantage of an existing resource frequently considered a nuisance – wastewater produced by oil and gas wells during extraction. As a well ages it will typically produce more water and less oil or gas over time, which raises the cost of production. Where the produced wastewater is hot enough, and the water flow rate is sufficient, specially designed turbines can draw geothermal energy from the wastewater.

That “bonus” geothermal energy can be used to either generate electricity to operate the oil field equipment and lower the cost of production, sell the electricity directly to the power grid or – more likely – to nearby industry users seeking a highly secure electrical source. READ MORE

Heather DeShon, Earth Sciences, seven million Americans at risk of man-made earthquakes, USGS says

Washington Post

Originally Posted: March 28, 2016

Earthquakes are a natural hazard — except when they’re man-made. The oil and gas industry has aggressively adopted the technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to shatter subsurface shale rock and liberate the oil and gas lurking there. But the process results in tremendous amounts of chemical-laden wastewater. Horizontal drilling for oil can also produce massive amount of natural, unwanted salt water. The industry disposes of this wastewater by pumping it into deep wells. READ MORE

Matthew Siegler, Earth Sciences, ancient lunar ice indicates the moon’s axis slowly shifted by 125 miles, or 6 degrees, over 1 billion years.

SMU Research

Originally Posted: March 23, 2016

NASA data leads to rare discovery: Earth’s moon wandered off axis billions of years ago

A new study published today in Nature reports discovery of a rare event — that Earth’s moon slowly moved from its original axis roughly 3 billion years ago.

Planetary scientist Matthew Siegler at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, and colleagues made the discovery while examining NASA data known to indicate lunar polar hydrogen. The hydrogen, detected by orbital instruments, is presumed to be in the form of ice hidden from the sun in craters surrounding the moon’s north and south poles. Exposure to direct sunlight causes ice to boil off into space, so this ice — perhaps billions of years old — is a very sensitive marker of the moon’s past orientation.

An odd offset of the ice from the moon’s current north and south poles was a tell-tale indicator to Siegler and prompted him to assemble a team of experts to take a closer look at the data from NASA’s Lunar Prospector and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter missions. Statistical analysis and modeling revealed the ice is offset at each pole by the same distance, but in exactly opposite directions. READ MORE

Grad student discovers river in Peru so hot it boils animals alive

Tech Insider

Originally Posted: February 22, 2016

Deep in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon, an anomalous and perplexing natural wonder lies: A raging river that boils.

Once just the stuff of folklore, geophysicist Andrés Ruzo, a PhD student at Southern Methodist University, set out to find the legendary waterway himself.

He not only found it, but he confirmed that it does, in fact, surge at a scalding 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

“It feels like I’m in a sauna inside a toaster oven,” Ruzo said sitting on the bank of the river in his new book, The Boiling River: Adventure and Discovery in the Amazon. (Ruzo also discussed his quest to understand its puzzling features in a recent TED talk.) READ MORE

SMU-led seismology team cited in Dallas Morning News story on oil fracking

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: February 18, 2016

Oklahoma is dealing with earthquakes, so why isn’t Texas?

Texas regulators seem to have a tough time finding a link between injection wells used to dispose of hydraulic fracturing wastewater and seismic tremors. A SMU-led study team found a probable association but the Texas Railroad Commission continues to challenge those findings.

Now let’s drive north to Oklahoma. Oil and gas regulators there this week asked the operators of about 250 injection wells to reduce the amount of wastewater they inject into the ground by 40 percent. They also want operators in western Oklahoma to reduce injections by more than 500,000 barrels a day. The earthquake activity demands a regional response, which they noted in their press statement:

“…there is agreement among researchers, including our partners at the Oklahoma Geological Survey, that the data clearly underscored the need for a larger, regional response. That is why, even as we took actions in various parts of the region in response to specific earthquake events, we were already working on a larger plan.”

Oil and Gas Conservation Division Tim Baker says while the plan is a response to the continued seismicity in the area, the action will also include areas that are not yet experiencing major earthquakes. READ MORE

Egypt unveils rare whale fossil museum to boost tourism

Daily Mail

Originally Posted: January 14, 2016

SMU professor Louis Jacobs led a study that discovered dozens of rare “walking whale” fossils in the Sahara desert. “The whales were stranded upriver at a time when east Africa was at sea level and was covered with forest and jungle,” said Jacobs. Now, a $2.17 billion museum has opened onsite to help preserve the rare fossils. READ MORE

Matthew Hornbach, Earth Science, XTO presents map of North Texas fault lines

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted:

The fault lines on the map are clear and strikingly large. They slant north to south across Dallas, Tarrant and neighboring counties.

Some have nicknames. One is the Big D Fault, a thick, red gash at least 14 miles long that cuts below Oak Cliff, Love Field and the Medical District. To the west is the Airport Fault, which runs beneath Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Developed by a unit of the energy giant ExxonMobil Corp., the map provides new information about the existence of underground features that could be contributing to the earthquakes that have been jolting North Texas for the last several years. READ MORE

Brian Stump, Earth Sciences, says North Korea likely detonated a nuclear explosion

Science Magazine

Originally Posted: January 6, 2016

Does North Korea really have an H-bomb?

By Richard Stone

North Korea claims to have detonated its first hydrogen bomb yesterday. But experts are skeptical that the pariah state detonated—not an ordinary atomic device—but a much more powerful “H-bomb of justice,” as state media is now calling it. So what kind of device did the reclusive regime test? And how can nuclear jockeys make such a determination from afar?

There’s no doubt that North Korea detonated something near where it conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, and 2013. Seismic stations yesterday recorded a magnitude-5.1 earthquake with a waveform nearly identical to those registered after North Korea’s earlier tests, supporting its claim. The waveform confirms that an explosion triggered yesterday’s earthquake, says Brian Stump, a seismologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. “It could be a chemical or nuclear explosion, but because of the magnitude it is likely a nuclear explosion,” he says. Researchers are now “chewing through the waveforms” registered by seismometers in the region “to see what’s different from 2013,” says Andy Frassetto, a seismologist with the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology consortium in Washington, D.C. READ MORE

Louis Jacobs, Earth Sciences, featured in The 10 Strangest Animal Discoveries of 2015 article

Yahoo News

Originally Posted: December 28, 2015

Every year, scientists wade into jungles, deserts and museum collections to examine animals and, if they’re lucky, discover a new species.

For instance, in 2015 researchers identified a ruby-red sea dragon off the coast of Australia, a new species of giant tortoise in the Galápagos Islands and an ancient spikey worm with 30 legs in China. As these newfound creatures are uncovered, it’s important to protect them from pollution, habitat loss and the havoc caused by invasive species, especially as Earth enters its sixth mass extinction, experts say.

In the meantime, scientists are busy learning about these new animals, and whether these critters can inspire new materials, robots and medicines. Here’s a look at 10 newly identified ? and exceptionally strange ? animals, both living and extinct. READ MORE