SMU to host geothermal energy conference May 18-20, 2015

Maria Richards

SMU to host geothermal energy conference May 18-20, 2015

Power Plays 2015 geothermal conference logo

The SMU Geothermal Laboratory will host its seventh international energy conference and workshop on the main campus May 19-20, 2015. The conference is designed to promote transition of oil and gas fields to electricity-producing geothermal systems by harnessing waste heat and fluids from both active and abandoned fields.

More than 200 professionals – ranging from members of the oil and gas service industry, to reservoir engineers, to geothermal energy entrepreneurs, to lawyers – are expected to attend “Power Plays: Geothermal Energy in Oil and Gas Fields.

Topics of discussion will include:

  • Power generation from flare gas
  • Power generation from waste-heat and geothermal fluids
  • Research updates on induced seismicity, as well as onshore and offshore thermal maturation
  • Play Fairway Analysis – a subsurface mapping technique used to identify prospective geothermal resources
  • Technology updates

SMU Geothermal Lab logoResearchers from the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences will present results from their Fall 2014 Eastern North American Margin Community Seismic Experiment (ENAM CSE) research. In addition, equipment such as one-well systems, desalination and other new technologies will be explored.

SMU has been at the forefront of geothermal energy research for more than 45 years, and the Geothermal Laboratory’s mapping of North American geothermal resources is considered the baseline for U.S. geothermal energy exploration. Geothermal Laboratory Coordinator Maria Richards and Emeritus Professor David Blackwell have seen interest in geothermal energy wax and wane with the price of oil and natural gas.

But Richards believes current low oil prices will drive more interest in geothermal development, encouraging oil and gas producers to use geothermal production from existing oil and gas fields as they try to keep them cost-effective for petroleum production at 2015 prices.

The technology that will be examined at the conference is relatively straightforward: Sedimentary basins drilled for oil and gas production leave behind reservoir pathways that can later be used for heat extraction. Fluids moving through those hot reservoir pathways capture heat, which at the surface can be turned into electricity, or used downhole to replace pumping needs. In addition, the existing surface equipment used in active oil and gas fields generates heat, which also can be tapped to produce electricity and mitigate the cost of production.

“Oil and gas drilling rig counts are down,” Richards said. “The industry has tightened its work force and honed its expertise. The opportunity to produce a new revenue stream during an economically challenging period, through the addition of relatively simple technology at the wellhead, may be the best chance we’ve had in years to gain operators’ attention.”

Featured speakers include Jim Wicklund, managing director for equity research at Credit Suisse, who will speak on “Volatile Economics in the Oil Field,” and Holly Thomas and Tim Reinhardt from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office.

STW Water Process & Technology, a water reclamation and oilfield services company, will have desalination equipment on-site for attendees to understand size and scaling capacity of water purification for oil field operators.

Registration is still open; walk-ups will be accepted. For more information, visit smu.edu/geothermal.

Written by Kimberly Cobb

May 14, 2015|Calendar Highlights, For the Record, News|

SMU geothermal scientist Maria Richards named 2016 president-elect of the Geothermal Resources Council

Maria Richards, SMU Geothermal LaboratoryMaria Richards, coordinator of the SMU Geothermal Laboratory in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, has been named president-elect of the Geothermal Resources Council. She will become the 26th president of the global energy organization beginning in 2017, and the first woman president in its history.

Richards has been at the forefront of SMU’s geothermal energy research for more than a decade, and the University’s mapping of North American geothermal resources is considered the baseline for U.S. geothermal energy exploration. SMU’s Conference on Geothermal Energy in Oil and Gas fields, which Richards directs, is pioneering the transition of oil and gas fields to electricity-producing systems by harnessing waste heat and fluids.

“The Geothermal Resources Council is a tremendous forum for expanding ideas about geothermal exploration and technology related to this commonly overlooked source of energy provided by the Earth,” Richards said. “It’s a great opportunity for educating people about an energy source that covers the whole gamut – from producing electricity for industries, to reducing our electricity consumption with direct-use applications, to even cooling our homes.”

“This also is a unique occasion for me to encourage and mentor young women to participate in the sciences throughout their careers and get involved in leadership roles,” she added.

SMU’s seventh international geothermal energy conference and workshop is scheduled for May 18-20, 2015, on the Dallas campus. Designed to reach a broad audience, from the service industry to reservoir engineers, “Power Plays: Geothermal Energy in Oil and Gas Fields,” is an opportunity for oil and gas industry professionals to connect with the geothermal and waste-heat industries to build momentum. The conference is a platform for networking with attendees from all aspects of project development. Presentations will highlight reservoir topics from flare gas usage to induced seismicity and will address new exploration opportunities, including offshore sites in the eastern United States.

Find information and registration for SMU’s 2015 Geothermal Energy Conference: smu.edu/geothermal

Richards’ projects at SMU’s Geothermal Laboratory vary from computer-generated temperature-depth maps for Google.org to on-site geothermal exploration of the volcanic islands in the Northern Mariana Islands. Along with Cathy Chickering Pace, Richards coordinates the SMU Node of the National Geothermal Data System funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Richards has previously served on the Geothermal Resources Council Board of Directors and was chair of the Outreach Committee in 2011-12. She is also a Named Director of the 2015 Board for the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association (TREIA).

Richards holds an M.S. degree in physical geography from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a B.S. in environmental geography from Michigan State University.

Written by Kimberly Cobb

> Read the full story from the SMU Research blog

April 2, 2015|For the Record, News, Research|

Research Spotlight: Mapping confirms vast geothermal resources

Coast-to-coast U.S. geothermal map from the SMU Geothermal LaboratoryNew research from the SMU Geothermal Laboratory, funded by a grant from Google.org, documents significant geothermal resources across the United States capable of producing more than three million megawatts of green power – 10 times the installed capacity of coal power plants today.

Sophisticated mapping produced from the research, viewable via Google Earth, demonstrates that vast reserves of this source of power are realistically accessible using current technology.

The results of the new research, from SMU Hamilton Professor of Geophysics David Blackwell and Geothermal Lab Coordinator Maria Richards, confirm and refine locations for resources capable of supporting large-scale commercial geothermal energy production under a wide range of geologic conditions, including significant areas in the eastern two-thirds of the United States.

The estimated amounts and locations of heat stored in the Earth’s crust included in this study are based on nearly 35,000 data sites – approximately twice the number used for Blackwell and Richards’ 2004 Geothermal Map of North America, leading to improved detail and contouring at a regional level.

Based on the additional data, primarily drawn from oil and gas drilling, larger local variations can be seen in temperatures at depth, highlighting more detail for potential power sites than was previously evident in the eastern portion of the U.S. For example, eastern West Virginia has been identified as part of a larger Appalachian trend of higher heat flow and temperature.

Conventional U.S. geothermal production has been restricted largely to the western third of the country in geographically unique and tectonically active locations.

However, newer technologies and drilling methods can now be used to develop resources in a wider range of geologic conditions, allowing reliable production of clean energy at temperatures as low as 100˚C (212˚F) – and in regions not previously considered suitable for geothermal energy production. Preliminary data released from the SMU study in October 2010 revealed the existence of a geothermal resource under the state of West Virginia equivalent to the state’s existing (primarily coal-based) power supply.

“Once again, SMU continues its pioneering work in demonstrating the tremendous potential of geothermal resources,” said Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association. “Both Google and the SMU researchers are fundamentally changing the way we look at how we can use the heat of the Earth to meet our energy needs, and by doing so are making significant contributions to enhancing our national security and environmental quality.”

“This assessment of geothermal potential will only improve with time,” said Blackwell. “Our study assumes that we tap only a small fraction of the available stored heat in the Earth’s crust, and our capabilities to capture that heat are expected to grow substantially as we improve upon the energy conversion and exploitation factors through technological advances and improved techniques.”

Blackwell is scheduled to release a paper with details of the results of the research to the Geothermal Resources Council in October 2011.

Written by Kimberly Cobb

> Get the full story from the SMU Research blog
> Watch a Google.org video on Enhanced Geothermal Systems video

November 17, 2011|Research|

For the Record: May 19, 2011

Ron WetheringtonRon Wetherington (top right), Anthropology, Dedman College, has been appointed to the State Textbook Review Panel for Supplemental Science. Wetherington, who also serves as director of the University’s Center for Teaching Excellence, will serve on the review panel for Supplemental Science Biology, which will meet in Austin during the week of June 13-17, 2011.

The review panel will help determine instructional materials to be used by school districts and open-enrollment charter schools for the next several years. Panel members’ responsibilities include reviewing and evaluating instructional materials submitted for the adoption by the State Board of Education; determining the extent to which instructional materials cover the required Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS); and identifying factual errors in the materials.

Anthony Cortese, Sociology, Dedman College, participated in the Pacific Sociological Association meetings in Seattle, Washington. He critiqued Behind the Backlash: Muslims After 9/11 by Lori Peek in an “Author Meets the Critics” session and organized and moderated two sessions on immigration: “Immigrants and Immigration Policy” and “Latino Immigrants: Human Rights and Economic Issues.” He also presented a paper, “The Blurring of Goffman’s Concepts of Private and Public Pictures on Social Networks,” at the Southern Sociological Society meetings in Jacksonville, Florida.

Jodi Cooley, Physics, Dedman College, has received a 2011 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award, sponsored by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). The award provides $10,000 to support her research. Cooley is one of 30 awardees selected nationally this year.

Chef Elias Acosta, SMU Dining Services, by Michael Danser, The Daily CampusElias Acosta (middle right), SMU Dining Services, earned a Gold Medal in the Southwest Regional ARAMARK Culinary Excellence (ACE) Challenge 2011. He won the award for his menu of Pan-Seared Pistachio Crusted Sea Bass with glazed baby carrots and risotto, and a dessert of Handmade Crêpes with Grand Marnier Goat Cheese garnished with figs and fresh mandarin segments. Acosta will be one of three chefs to represent the Southwest Region in the ACE National Competition in July. (Photo by Michael Danser, The Daily Campus.)

Amy Buono, Art History, Meadows School of the Arts, has received post-doctoral fellowships from both the Getty Research Institute and the American Association of University Women. She will be in residence during 2011-12 at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, California, completing work on her book manuscript Feather Techné: Tupinambá Interculture in Early Modern Brazil and Europe.

Buono also is completing work on an edited translation of the 1766 illustrated Jesuit medicinal Collecção de varias receitas de segredos particulares des principaes boticas da nossa companhia de Portugal, da India, de Macao e do Brasil, with E. J. Brill Publishers. In Summer 2010 Buono received a residential New World Comparative Studies Summer Fellowship at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.

Emily George Grubbs, Central University Libraries, will present a gallery talk, “Adventures in the Archives: Discovering the Gigaku Masks,” at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) May 25, 2011. Grubbs, curatorial assistant for the Hamon Arts Library’s Bywaters Special Collections, will discuss her discovery of two rare Japanese masks dating from the 8th to 10th centuries among the artifacts in the Library’s McCord/Renshaw Collection. Her co-presenter is Anne Bromberg, the DMA’s Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and Asian Art.

Ramsey Kweik and Maria Richards, SMU Geothermal LaboratoryRoberto Tejada, Art History, Meadows School of the Arts, will serve as a juror for the National Book Award in 2011-12.

Ramsey Kweik, a geological sciences major and 2011 graduating senior in Dedman College, was named SMU’s 2011 Student Employee of the Year in April. Kweik worked as an assistant in the SMU Geothermal Laboratory for nearly four years. His responsibilities include assisting with research projects from federal and state agencies and private companies, giving presentations as part of the geothermal outreach program, and assisting with coordination of the international Geothermal Energy Utilization Associated with Oil and Gas Development conference hosted by SMU.

In her nomination letter, Geothermal Laboratory Program Coordinator Maria Richards wrote, “I have seen Ramsey demonstrate reliability, quality of work, initiative, a positive attitude and professionalism in all that he contributes to the SMU Geothermal Laboratory. Although he is a student employee, he has become a friend and colleague over the past four years.” (Bottom right, Ramsey Kweik and Maria Richards.)

May 19, 2011|For the Record|

Research Spotlight: West Virginia a hotbed of geothermal energy

wv-image-03-press-release.jpgNew research produced by SMU’s Geothermal Laboratory, funded by a grant from Google.org, suggests that the temperature of the Earth beneath the state of West Virginia is significantly higher than previously estimated and capable of supporting commercial baseload geothermal energy production.

Geothermal energy is the use of the Earth’s heat to produce heat and electricity. “Geothermal is an extremely reliable form of energy, and it generates power 24/7, which makes it a baseload source like coal or nuclear,” said David Blackwell, Hamilton Professor of Geophysics in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences and Director of the SMU Geothermal Laboratory.

The SMU Geothermal Laboratory has increased its estimate of West Virginia’s geothermal generation potential to 18,890 megawatts, assuming a conservative 2 percent thermal recovery rate. The new estimate represents a 75 percent increase over estimates in MIT’s 2006 “The Future of Geothermal Energy” report and exceeds the state’s total current generating capacity, primarily coal based, of 16,350 megawatts.

The West Virginia discovery is the result of new detailed mapping and interpretation of temperature data derived from oil, gas, and thermal gradient wells – part of an ongoing project to update the Geothermal Map of North America that Blackwell produced with colleague Maria Richards in 2004. Temperatures below the earth almost always increase with depth, but the rate of increase (the thermal gradient) varies due to factors such as the thermal properties of the rock formations.

“By adding 1,455 new thermal data points from oil, gas, and water wells to our geologic model of West Virginia, we’ve discovered significantly more heat than previously thought,” Blackwell said. “The existing oil and gas fields in West Virginia provide a geological guide that could help reduce uncertainties associated with geothermal exploration and also present an opportunity for co-producing geothermal electricity from hot waste fluids generated by existing oil and gas wells.”

The team’s work may also shed light on other similar geothermal resources. “We now know that two zones of Appalachian age structures are hot – West Virginia and a large zone covering the intersection of Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana known as the Ouachita Mountain region,” said Blackwell. “Right now we don’t have the data to fill in the area in between,” Blackwell continued, “but it’s possible we could see similar results over an even larger area.”

Blackwell thinks the finding opens exciting possibilities for the region. “The proximity of West Virginia’s large geothermal resource to east coast population centers has the potential to enhance U.S. energy security, reduce CO2 emissions, and develop high paying clean energy jobs in West Virginia,” he said.

SMU’s Geothermal Laboratory conducted this research through funding provided by Google.org’s RE<C initiative, which is dedicated to using the power of information and innovation to advance breakthrough technologies in clean energy.

Written by Kimberly Cobb

> Read more from the SMU Research blog

October 27, 2010|Research|
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