Overview of SMU Geothermal Lab Founding, Projects and Conferences

Maria Richards and Christine Ferguson of the SMU Geothermal Laboratory discuss the Lab’s founding, projects including the Geothermal Map of North America and National Geothermal Data System, and the Labs international energy conferences.

See Maria and Christine at the 2016 SMU Power Plays conference.

Jeff Dye and Dexter Jacobs of LoCap Energy discuss the 2015 SMU Power Plays Conference

Jeff Dye and Dexter Jacobs, founders of the startup company LoCap Energy, attended the 2015 SMU Power Plays conference.  In this video they highlight their activities since attending the conference.

Jeff and Dexter will be presenting an update LoCap Energy’s energy storage and efficiency solutions at the 2016 SMU Power Plays conference.

Miguel Benitez Torreblanca of Grupo iiDEA discusses the 2015 SMU Power Plays Conference

Miguel Benitez Torreblanca was part of a group of students from Grupo iiDEA at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) that attended the 2015 SMU Power Plays conference.  Miguel discusses the group’s experiences in this video.

See Miguel present an update on Grupo iiDEA research at the 2016 SMU Power Plays conference.

The Differences between Geothermal and Petroleum – A Comparison

Chad Augustine, Geothermal Energy Engineer/Analyst with National Renewable Energy Laboratory, (NREL) has broken the code that explains the core differences between O&G and geothermal drilling.  The graphic below identifies the major misconceptions that cloud and confuse both sides from collaborating more than they currently do.

The Differences Between Geothermal and Petroleum, Chad Augustine
The Differences between Geothermal and Petroleum, Chad Augustine, NREL

Although the goals of the petroleum and geothermal industry are the same – to extract energy from the subsurface – there are major differences that can make it difficult for them to communicate and collaborate. Often it seems like the industries are speaking two different languages. This is most true when the industries attempt to talk about temperatures and flow rates. What is “hot” in the petroleum industry is low temperature for geothermal, and a “high flow rate” from a petroleum well could be an order of magnitude less than what is needed for commercial geothermal energy production. A key to collaboration and to developing geothermal projects in petroleum settings is getting both sides to “speak the same language” when evaluating prospects and discussing the requirements for commercial electricity generation. After this, many of the same technologies and expertise used by the petroleum industry to produce oil and gas could be used to produce water for geothermal electricity generation.

Chad will be presenting this concept and more at the SMU Power Plays Conference on April 25-26th in Dallas, Texas. Don’t miss the opportunity to see this in person.  Register today!

North Dakota Oil, DOE and Universities work together in the name of Geothermal!

It’s more apparent than ever, the DOE is incentivizing oil companies to work with universities, engineers, scientists and project developers to test and prove organic Rankine cycle (ORC) systems that will most cost effectively generate power from low temperature geothermal fluids found in 10,000 oil and gas wells.

DOE is working with companies like Continental Resources and Encore Acquisition in Western North Dakota to prove these technologies over a two-year period.  It seems promising, as the cool climate (mean annual temperature of 50°F) and abundant availability of geothermal fluid at 150-300°F in oil producing formations, are both ideal criteria for successful operations of ORC technologies throughout the Williston Basin.  Records indicate there are 102 unitized oil fields in the North Dakota portion of the Basin, which brings significant co-production opportunities for these communities using ORC systems.

Access Energy machines at North Dakota project
Access Energy machines at North Dakota project

The DOE is working on two specific projects over two-year periods. Their objectives are to demonstrate the technologic and economic feasibility of generating electricity from low temperature geothermal fluids.

Find out much more by attending the SMU Power Plays Conference and Workshop this April.  Click here to find out how!

Natural (Flare) Gas Captured to Generate Electricity

In North Dakota, the hunt for more oil has produced surplus gas.  Natural gas is burned off, or ‘flared’ where there are no – or overloaded – pipelines.  As of 2014, there were nearly 11,000 producing wells in North Dakota, with an alarming amount of flaring going on.  Hess Corporation among many developers in the Bakken, faced strict regulations to reduce emissions by limiting the flaring of excess gas from their project sites.

Hess along with Gulf Coast Green Energy, Houston Advanced Research Center and Environmentally Friendly Drilling have worked together on a solution to capture the excess flared gas and generate electricity with it.  To do so, a Power+ generator was installed – and studies have shown that emissions are lowered when the Power+ generator is online.

For more information – you can watch this video

and attend SMU’s Power Plays Conference, April 25 -26, 2016 for a full update of the project success.

Click here to register!

Source and project leads:

The History of Geothermal and O&G Working Together

There is a quite the story being written today about the ways geothermal energy can help transition an existing oil and gas field into an electricity-generating system. SMU has been leading the research, development and promotion of such a concept for over two decades.

The following is a summarized timeline, featuring historical developments that have helped advance geothermal proof of concepts within O&G fields throughout the US.

1975: Texas Geothermal Resources Act written

1989: First Geopressure power plant in the US, Brazoria County, TX

1992: SMU completes first Geothermal Map of North America

Early collection of temperature-depth data by the SMU Geothermal Lab
Early collection of temperature-depth data by the SMU Geothermal Laboratory
Collection of temperature-depth data by the SMU Geothermal Lab
Collection of temperature-depth data by the SMU Geothermal Laboratory

2004: SMU publishes first full-coverage Geothermal Map of North America

2004 SMU Geothermal Map of North America
2004 SMU Geothermal Map of North America

2005: UTC builds prototype of PureCycle® (now under PWPS)

2005: Steve Bergman with SMU “discover” RMOTC’s high fluid flow

2006: Chena Hot Springs Resort, Alaska develops geothermal power (500 kw)

2006: 1st SMU Geothermal Conference on Utilizing Oil & Gas Fields

2008: ORMAT Technologies, Inc. installs binary unit at Rocky Mtn Oilfield Testing Center (RMOTC), WY

2008: ElectraTherm, Inc. demonstrates Green Machine on SMU Campus

Demonstration of the Green Machine at SMU
Demonstration of the Green Machine at SMU

2009: Texas H.B. 4433 Hydrocarbon Tax Exemption from Severance Oil/Gas Tax for Geothermal Wells

2009: awards project to Gulf Coast Green Energy and Denbury Resources Inc. in central MS

Green Machine at the Denbury Project in Mississippi
Green Machine at the Denbury Project in Mississippi

2009: DOE Geothermal Technologies Program funds projects in ND, TX, LA

2010: Oregon Institute of Technology powers-up with PWPS PureCycle®

2010: DOE Geothermal Low-Temperature “Road Mapping” plan established

2011: North Dakota research compares the current binary technologies for oil field settings and presents at SMU Geothermal Conference

2012: China producing 400 kW electricity from Huabei Oilfield

2013: National Geothermal Database System includes all of Texas RRC O/G data for geothermal projects

2016: Continental Resources, Inc. produce 250 kW of power from waterflood injection using Access Energy Thermapower ORC near Marmarth, ND.

Access Energy / University of North Dakota project with Continental Resources, Inc. in North Dakota
Access Energy / University of North Dakota project with Continental Resources, Inc. in North Dakota

Welcome to the SMU Geothermal Laboratory Blog

First, an introduction to who we are and what we do.

The SMU Geothermal Laboratory is part of the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.  The Lab was established in 970 by Dr. David Blackwell, Professor Emeritus and former Hamilton Professor.

The Geothermal Lab is a self-funded research facility, with a variety of ongoing geothermal resource projects.  Our faculty, staff, and students strive to broaden the understanding and use of geothermal energy, from the simplest form – geothermal heat pumps for buildings, to the large-scale deployment of geothermal power plants providing energy for our cities.

Our research also explores opportunities to integrate renewable geothermal projects in an oil & gas setting.  To further this goal, we are hosting our 8th international energy conference and workshop, Power Plays: Geothermal Energy in Oil and Gas Fields, April 25-26, 2016 on the SMU Campus in Dallas, Texas.

Our expertise includes:

Academic research by faculty, staff, and students

SMU 2011 US Heat Flow Map
SMU 2011 US Heat Flow Map
  • Research projects, such as the National Geothermal Data System, Enhanced Geothermal Potential of the Cascades, Geothermal Synthesis of Dixie Valley, Nevada, the use temperature logs for climate change; and the stability of methane hydrates along continental shelves
  • Well logging with high precision Temperature-Depth measurements
SMU Thermal Conductivity Measurement Apparatus
SMU Thermal Conductivity Measurement Apparatus

The Lab assists the public through:

  • Hosting of a Geothermal Energy Utilization conference
  • Teacher and student educational classroom materials
  • A monthly newsletter on the geothermal, oil/gas, and energy industries, along with general information for the public on events, funding, and research opportunities
  • News articles and press releases
  • Suggested publications and papers for those interested in learning more

We are always interested in learning about new geothermal projects, and connecting the others interested in geothermal energy.  Our contact information is:

Maria Richards
Geothermal Lab Coordinator

Cathy Chickering Pace
Project Specialist

SMU Geothermal Laboratory
Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences
P.O. Box 750395
Dallas, TX 75275-0395
Phone: 214-768-2749
Fax: 214-768-2701
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