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DOE to leverage fossil energy expertise to develop and explore geothermal energy resources

The US Department of Energy (DOE) plans to leverage oil and gas expertise to test the reliability and efficiency of geothermal power generation at oil and gas fields. The overall focus is to reduce the upfront costs of geothermal development as well as improve its effectiveness.

DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will combine efforts to have experts test and validate low temperature geothermal power generation technologies at the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center (RMOTC) near Casper, Wyoming.

The goal of this project is to leverage the resources of both program offices to support state-of-the-art research and development into geothermal power generation technology using co-produced fluids from older oil and gas operations. This hybridization combines traditional fossil energy operations with emerging renewable technologies to evaluate low temperature geothermal power production from oil fields.

Leveraging existing oil and gas infrastructure reduces the upfront costs of geothermal development. The potential to produce renewable energy from existing sites extends beyond the work with RMOTC to oil and gas fields worldwide.

DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Program (GTP) is currently funding 17 projects demonstrating low temperature, co-produced and geopressured resources in different geological conditions to help enable online capacity of 3 gigawatts, approximately the capacity to power 2.4 million homes a year from these resources by 2020. RMOTC received funding from GTP in 2009 to develop infrastructure for future geothermal testing at the Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 3 (NPR-3).

NPR-3, located near Midwest, Wyoming, produces oil and 45,000 barrels of 190 °F (88 °C) water per day from the Tensleep formation and 28,000 barrels of 210 °F (99 °C) water per day from the Madison formation. The Tensleep hot water was previously treated as a waste stream. Then a test conducted with Ormat Technologies, Inc. of Reno, Nev., extracted heat from the water to operate a 250 kW generator.

To date, the total produced power from the unit is 1,918 megawatt hours from 10.9 million barrels of co-produced hot water. This on-going test was the first in the world to use the co-produced hot water to generate electricity in an operating oil field and will continue through 2011.

There are a large number of oil and gas wells in the United States that produce hot water as well as hydrocarbon products, generally at temperatures below 220 °F (104 °C), which are capable of generating renewable geothermal power.

RMOTC is located within NPR-3, 35 miles north of Casper, Wyoming. NPR-3, known historically as Teapot Dome, is operated by the Department of Energy as a producing oil field and a test site for new energy technologies. The 10,000-acre facility hosts traditional oil and gas testing as well as field research into renewable technologies, including wind, solar, and low-temperature geothermal. It is managed through DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy.



Low temp geothermal may be an excellent way for oilcos to transition to renewable resource production. Seems like a very good idea and we wish them lots of luck with this play.


Problem is geothermal energy production, aside from the wells, is quite different from oil & gas exploration and production. An oil & gas company would need to invest a lot of money to get a geothermal project running. Most well sites in West Texas, Rockies, & Northern Great Plains are drilled & operated by smaller independent oil & gas companies ....not the big off-shore boys...and don't have a lot of money lying around for these kinds of unproven commercial scale low temp geothermal ventures. There are also new leasing / mineral rights issues that would need to be worked out with landowners. There would need to be the potential for big $$$$$ to be made to incentize low temp geothermal R & D by the smaller independent (wildcat) oil & gas companies. It sounds promising though.

Henry Gibson

Reheat the water and use it again by pumping it into a different hot well. Light weight petroleum products can also be recirculated to pickup heat and additional heavy petroleum especially in combination with supercritical CO2. The additional recovered bitumens and lighter hydrocarbons pay for the interest expense.

Benzene, C6H6 can be made from any liquid hydrocarbon, crude oil or bitumen without the addition of hydrogen, and in fact hydrogen may be produced in sufficient volumes to make Toluene which is easier to work with. Many oilfields ought to have small chemical plants to make benzene or toluene for re-injection. Again hydrocarbon recovery pays for the costs of making and recirculating the solvents. ..HG..

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