One of the petroleum industry’s major sources for industry news has covered the emergence of geothermal energy from existing oil and gas fields as a potential source of power generation.

The June 20 article “Geothermal in the oil field, the next emerging market” provides context for the emerging technology that is making geothermal production possible. The article cites SMU’s annual geothermal conference as a source of more information about geothermal production.

The SMU Geothermal Laboratory hosted its fifth international conference dedicated to “Geothermal Energy Utilization Associated with Oil & Gas Development” in mid-June on the SMU campus.


Oil & Gas Magazine

The petroleum industry is at a crossroads. A perfect storm of declining reserves, aging oilfields, increasing costs for exploration, operating, and decommissioning, volatile oil prices, and the uptick trending of “green” energy — it has never been more important to make the most out of existing reserves, assets and infrastructure.

Geothermal energy is an emerging worldwide energy market. Geothermal often gets overlooked in a world of PV, CSP, wind and hydro; however, geothermal offers more reliability (average 95 per cent capacity factor), lower carbon emissions and lower maintenance costs compared to these more “glamorous” renewable energy sources.

Geothermal has some major barriers to entry to the mainstream energy market. The largest barriers include the high-initial capital costs related to drilling and constructing new geothermal wells, long payback periods, and the risk associated with unknown formation performance when drilling in a new area.

Using proven technology, expertise and reservoir data from the petroleum industry, this unlikely partnership can provide a springboard for the geothermal industry to enter the mainstream renewable energy market, while at the same time benefiting the petroleum industry. If the initial capital costs for drilling geothermal wells could be reduced by utilizing existing oil field infrastructure, while also minimizing risk by using existing oilfield data, the barriers to entry for geothermal suddenly come tumbling down.

Recent advancements in energy conversion technologies and Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) technology have made incorporating geothermal in the oil field a viable and exciting emerging-energy market. In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funded several projects demonstrating electricity generation from geothermal fluids, produced from active, abandoned, or marginal oil and gas wells. Federal tax incentives, the Department of Treasury Cash Grant and the DOE Loan Guarantee program combined with aggressive state renewable portfolio goals are expected to drive growth in the geothermal industry in the near term.

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