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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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