“We all care about the earth,” said Maria Richards, SMU geothermal lab coordinator, in welcoming the attendees. “We are applying knowledge that is applying hope.”

geothermal map, SMU, Maria Richards, conference, Dallas

Biz Beat Blog reporter Jeffrey Weiss at The Dallas Morning News covered the 2016 SMU Geothermal Conference, “Power Plays: Geothermal Energy in Oil and Gas Fields.”

The conference was April 25-26 on the SMU campus in Dallas. The eighth international conference focused on using the oilfield as a base for alternative energy production through the capture of waste heat and fluids.

The geothermal 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.

The SMU Geothermal Lab team members are leaders of academic data sources for exploration and assessment of existing and potential geothermal resources.

SMU scientists developed the Geothermal Map of North America and built one of the primary nodes of the National Geothermal Data System (NGDS) for temperature and oil/gas data. Their research efforts include over 50 years of continuous thermal data collection and is viewed by the community as an important first-stage resource used in determining the potential for geothermal energy production in the United States.

The SMU Geothermal Lab has been the recipient of approximately $10 million in research grants from a variety of sources, including the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the Texas State Energy Conservation Office, Google.org and private industry.

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By Jeffrey Weiss
Dallas Morning News

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.

At least, that’s the message at a conference held today at Southern Methodist University, hosted by the school’s geothermal laboratory. The event pulled together an unusual mix: Academics, oil company bosses, people hawking heat-transfer equipment, geothermal experts and a few environmentalists.

This was the eighth such conference held at SMU since 2006. Those who have been to several agreed that the biggest difference over time is that the presentations have shifted from blue-sky theory to some data from working projects.

Perhaps the loudest applause for the day was when Will Gosnold of the University of North Dakota ended his talk about a demonstration project with a slide of an email saying it had started generating electricity today.

Another presenter suggested that geothermal power could be an economically sensible replacement for existing coal-fired power plants, particularly if the existing power plants and their transmission lines are near coal mines. That’s the case in Texas.

Susan Petty, president of Seattle-based AltaRock Energy, told the group that many older coal plants will be unable to meet clean-air requirements and will need replacing in the next few years. Waste water used in coal mines could be injected into wells where natural heat would make the water hot enough to drive geothermal power generators, she said.

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

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