Oil and Gas

Using Oil and Gas Wells for Geothermal Energy

Oil and gas wells produce water along with the hydrocarbons, that is typically disposed of by re-injecting it back into the ground. As a well ages, the ratio of water to hydrocarbons increases. In places where the water is hot, and the water flow rate is sufficient, geothermal energy can extend the well life cycle and leverage the existing investment. Initial demonstration projects have taught us much about the complexities of transitioning an oil or gas well to geothermal energy production. Despite the challenges, there continues to be collaboration between the oil and gas industry and the geothermal community and confidence that geothermal energy production will one day be the norm for an aging oil and gas field. The synergies between the two industries with regard to subsurface research on geological/geophysical processes, the above ground infrastructure and long-term business management make for a compelling case.

The ability to extract heat from the produced fluids and then generate electricity for either the field equipment or sold to the power grid as renewable geothermal energy has become more robust. Ten years ago technologies were just being designed for small-scale (less than 5 megawatt) geothermal and waste heat operations, but today there are many choices. A list of technologies is available to compare sizes and requirements.

Research on both development of sedimentary basins and the electrical technology continues. The SMU Geothermal Lab hosts a conference focused on bringing together individuals from all aspects of the project development team. Past presentations are available to download, along with suggested publications, and tutorial presentations highlighting the steps towards project development.

There are many steps to work through from site selection to electricity agreements. We assist in project development through our resource research and government/company network. Join our monthly newsletter to stay updated on activities. To discuss your ideas or project contact Cathy Chickering 214-768-1510, email: catherine@smu.edu or Maria Richards 214-768-1975, email: mrichard@smu.edu.