SMU to host ‘how-to’ geothermal energy conference June 14-15

SMU will host a 'How To' conference on harnessing and using geothermal energy.

Geothermal Installation

Dallas (SMU) – SMU’s Geothermal Laboratory is lifting the lid on one of Texas’ best kept secrets: There is significant potential for geothermal energy production in Texas, and the oil and gas industry already is positioned to develop this clean, emission-free energy source.

The SMU Geothermal Laboratory will host its fifth international conference dedicated to Geothermal Energy Utilization Associated with Oil & Gas Development June 14-15 on the SMU campus in Dallas.

Leaders in technology, resource development and finance from geothermal and oil and gas industries attend this conference for the networking opportunities necessary for successful project development. Charles Levey, vice president of Pratt & Whitney Power Systems, will deliver the keynote address at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 14, at SMU’s Collins Executive Education Center.

This year the SMU Geothermal Laboratory also is offering a pre-conference “Geothermal 101” short-course from 1-5 p.m. on Monday, June 13, to provide a foundation for newer conference participants.


SMU’s Geothermal Lab is a renowned resource for geothermal energy research and the conference is designed for leaders in technology, resource development and finance from geothermal and oil and gas industries. (More about geothermal resource research at SMU.)

Find more information about the geothermal energy conference at or by contacting Cathy Chickering at 214-768-1510 or

Participants who are unable to join the full conference but would like to hear the keynote speaker at 4:30 p.m. on June 14 and attend the evening networking reception that follows may register at a reduced rate at

Enter the code SMU2011Keynote into the space marked “description of payment” and $90 into the space marked “enter amount in dollars.”


geothermal power plant
Geothermal Power Plant
More about how it works.

Much of the conference will be devoted to discussions of expanded opportunities for energy production from unconventional geothermal resources using new technologiesThese technologies are entering the market and improving geothermal efficiency; they also are being used to capture the waste heat produced by surface equipment.

While most current geothermal facilities are located on tectonically active sites, such as The Geysers field in California, innovative technologies can work in regions without those traditional very hot, “wet” resources. Many of the same technologies that oil and gas companies pioneered for retrieving natural gas from shale can be used to create steam from the hot “dry” rocks found underneath that shale. 

“Oil and gas related companies have an inherent advantage in developing geothermal technology,” said Bruce Bullock, the director of SMU’s Maguire Energy Institute, whose remarks are scheduled to open the conference Tuesday morning. “The heat already is being generated in the form of produced waters associated with oil and gas production.  Tapping that heat for electricity production (that can be sold at a profit) can improve the economic life of projects.  Oil and gas companies possess the skill sets, engineering know how, and existing sources of thermal energy to develop significant amounts of geothermal energy.”


2004 Geothermal Map of North America
SMU's 2004 geothermal resource map of North America
is being updated with a grant from Google.
An SMU assessment for the Texas State Energy Conservation Office has confirmed the existence of a vast, geothermal zone with enough heat to supply Texas with clean, renewable, affordable electricity for hundreds of years. In addition, SECO agrees that the brine-filled waters found beneath the surface along the Texas Gulf Coast – the same wastewater that oil and gas producers consider a nuisance – is an ideal resource for some of the newer geothermal technologies.

These geothermal resources are located within reasonable distance of Texas’ population centers, meaning this clean, base-load electricity would not require expensive lengthy transmission facilities to reach the largest cities. And unlike energy production from the wind or sun, geothermal energy is not dependent on the weather.

“Because geothermal wells use many of the products and expertise developed by and for the oil and gas industry, this investment in a clean-energy future could create a new revenue stream for fossil fuel-based companies,” said David Blackwell, SMU’s Hamilton professor of Geothermal Studies and one of the country’s foremost authorities on geothermal energy.  “By leveraging both expertise and the infrastructure already in place, oil and gas industry players can be part of Texas' clean energy solution.”


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.