Tuesday, April 26, 2016

USA, Texas: Power Plays: Geothermal Energy in Oil and Gas Fields Conference

Hot stuff: Could Texas’ dirty coal power plants be replaced by geothermal? (The Dallas Morning News)

A conference held today at Southern Methodist University (SMU), hosted by the school’s geothermal laboratory pulled together an unusual mix: Academics, oil company bosses, people hawking heat-transfer equipment, geothermal experts and a few environmentalists.

This was the eighth such conference held at SMU since 2006. Those who have been to several agreed that the biggest difference over time is that the presentations have shifted from blue-sky theory to some data from working projects.

Another presenter suggested that geothermal power could be an economically sensible replacement for existing coal-fired power plants, particularly if the existing power plants and their transmission lines are near coal mines. That’s the case in Texas.

GRC member Susan Petty, president of Seattle-based AltaRock Energy, told the group that many older coal plants will be unable to meet clean-air requirements and will need replacing in the next few years. Waste water used in coal mines could be injected into wells where natural heat would make the water hot enough to drive geothermal power generators, she said.

She did an analysis of five existing coal plants scattered across the country to see if the ground temperatures were hot enough to make the system work. She did not include a Texas site. But she said preliminary data looked promising.