June 13, 2008

Oil, gas and geothermal energy:
June 17-18 conference at SMU explores new energy dynamics

DALLAS (SMU) — Southern Methodist University's nationally recognized geothermal energy team will provide an alternative energy "how-to" forum June 17-18, demonstrating how oil and gas producers can breathe new life into low-producing wells and generate low-cost electricity by tapping the "nuisance" hot water generated by many drilling operations.

Related Links:
 • SMU Geothermal Lab
 • Geothermal Map of U.S.
 • DOE: Future of Geothermal Energy
 • Texas Geothermal Fact Sheet

The Geothermal Energy Utilization Associated with Oil and Gas Development Conference is scheduled for two full days of speakers, technology demonstrations and round-table discussions at SMU's James M. Collins Executive Center.

While many associate geothermal energy with large, high-temperature hydrothermal power plants in places like Iceland and California, the technology exists to draw clean, affordable power from lower-temperature water. The process of pumping oil and gas to the surface frequently brings with it waste fluids that carry substantial heat to the surface from areas of unusually hot rock. The installation of a binary pump at the well head can produce enough energy to run the well (mitigating production costs for low-volume wells) and an oil field full of geothermal pumps could be linked to distribute (at a profit) surplus electricity to outside users.

SMU researchers have documented the large amounts of hot water that the state's oil and gas producers must reinject into the ground at considerable expense. In West Texas, for example, for every barrel of oil produced, nearly 100 barrels of hot water are co-produced.

This is the third year for SMU's geothermal/oil and gas conference. While geothermal scientists, inventors and developers have dominated previous sessions, the 2008 conference is drawing larger numbers of participants from the oil and gas industry.

"This is an opportunity for the energy industry to think outside the box," said Maria Richards, SMU Geothermal Lab Coordinator and conference organizer.

This combination of old and new technology is growing in importance in the face of record-setting oil prices and the growing debate over peak oil. The conference is a natural fit for the Dallas campus: Half the nation's active oil and gas land rigs are located in Texas and SMU's geothermal scientists are the acknowledged experts in this emerging field.

David Blackwell, SMU's W.B. Hamilton Professor of Geophysics, and Richards were part of an 18-member panel assembled by MIT in September 2005 to evaluate the potential of geothermal energy becoming a major energy source for the United States by 2050. Blackwell and Richards also developed the Geothermal Map of North America, released by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in 2004.

The SMU Geothermal Lab is partially funded by a grant from the Texas State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) for geothermal outreach and networking. The goal of this program is to increase geothermal awareness among Texas residents and development of additional geothermal projects in the state.

Binary Geothermal Power Plant
Conference Sponsor Explains How It Works

From Ormat Technologies: A geothermal fluid driving a binary plant can be hot water (also called brine), or steam, or a mixture, extracted from an underground reservoir. It flows from the wellhead through pipelines to heat exchangers in the ORMATĀ® ENERGY CONVERTER (OEC) (vaporizer and preheater). In these heat exchangers the geothermal fluid heats (preheater) and vaporizes (vaporizer) a secondary working fluid, which is typically an organic fluid with a low boiling point. The organic vapors drive the turbine and then are condensed in a condenser, which may be cooled by air or by water from a cooling tower. The turbine powers the generator. The condensed fluid is then recycled back into the heat exchangers by a pump, completing the cycle within the closed system. The cooled geothermal fluid is re-injected into the reservoir. Ormat Technologies is a sponsor of the geothermal conference at SMU.

Media Contact:
Kim Cobb
Tele. 214-768-7654

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