The Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center in Casper, Wyoming is testing small geothermal binary units for the production of electricity from oil & gas wells, utilizing co-produced water from oil & gas operations.
The U.S. Department of Energy runs a technology test center in proximity to an old petroleum reserve in Wyoming. The Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center (RMOTC) is the site of a demonstration project that is testing the utilization of co-produced fluids (water as a by-product from oil and gas wells) for the generation of geothermal power.
The oil and gas industry has forever seen water as an unwanted by-product of its production and has mostly seen it as a waste by-product. With increasing energy cost, this – in most of the cases – hot water, could be utilized for power generation in binary systems. So with stimulus funding the RMOTC is now testing a variety of different binary units for the generation of power from wells co-producing oil and water.
With proving this technology thousands of abandoned oil & gas wells, or wells still in production could be used as a new source of clean energy. For this one has to know that areas like Texas and many other regions in the U.S and globally essentially have a large number of oil and gas wells that could easily serve as a source of energy. Oil and gas companies always have collected a large number of data sets for each well they drilled that they actually have probably a better understanding of the geothermal potential than most of the geological surveys in those regions or countries. While there are states and countries that make it a requirement that those drilling data sets are be shared, in many geographical regions this has not been the case. So the vast amount of data held by the oil companies, could show a tremendous value, for the oil and gas companies, but also for the general drive to cleaner sources of power.
In the U.S. it is estimated that there about 800,000 oil and gas fields with probably a marg-fold number of wells drilled, which could be in the millions.
Traditionally the water found in oil & gas production is hot, but not hot enough to utilize steam for electricity generation. Therefore binary systems are used. Those utilize a fluid that boils at lower temperatures, which in turn turn a turbine and attached generator for electricity generation. As those binary systems are a closed-loop system, they have no emissions.
The demonstration unit at RMOTC today produces about 250 kW of power. RMOTC works with industry, academics and others to field test a variety of products and processes near Casper, Wyoming.
The interesting element for utilizing this technology for geothermal, would be that one would be able to save the drilling cost for those power projects, as wells have already been drilled. So while the current unit is small and generates little electricity, a production-scale unit could handle more water and producer more electricity.
For oil & gas production this could mean that parts of its energy need could be fueled by hot water from oil & gas wells, making it a bit of a greener source of energy.
Source: Billings Gazette