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SMU conference aims to spur development of geothermal production in oil and gas fields

DALLAS (SMU) SMU's renowned Geothermal Lab will host its sixth Geothermal Energy Utilization Conference March 12-14 on the SMU campus in Dallas. Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, will be the keynote speaker and Doug Hollett, program manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Program, will speak at an evening reception.

The conference will advance the understanding of technology that allows the production of emission-free energy while extending the life of an oil or gas field developing a sedimentary basin into a total energy solution. The conference (and pre-conference workshop on March 12) bring together leaders from business, engineering, finance, law, and research to explore specific topics relevant to capturing energy that is often overlooked or discarded during oil and gas production.

The same technology that can power oil and gas surface equipment from waste heat (WHP) also is capable of converting waste fluids from oil and gas wells into electrical power. Both technologies have proven applications in oil and gas fields in Mississippi and Wyoming, and WHP installations are widespread in manufacturing. Generating electricity on-site in an oil and/or gas field reduces overall project expenses, eliminates CO2 emissions, decreases dependency on the local electrical grid and may qualify for state Renewable Energy Credits (RECs).

David Blackwell, SMU's Hamilton Professor of Physics and an internationally recognized expert in geothermal energy, said, "Collaborative research between UT Austin's Bureau of Economic Geology and SMU's Geothermal Laboratory has dramatically advanced the understanding of unconventional reservoir thermal capacity within Texas oil and gas fields. The quantities of heat that can be extracted from these reservoirs are more measurable than previously stated, and the estimated pricing of this renewable electricity using geothermal technology drops to below 10 cents per kilowatt-hour with the use of existing oil and gas well sites.

"The next steps are to prove the reservoir fluid flow rates and longevity," Blackwell said. "The current Texas Legislature session includes geothermal energy related bills, as the legislators now understand that geothermal energy development will be realized in the state."

Register for the conference and pre-conference workshop at

Separate registration is available at the same site for Wellinghoff's keynote luncheon for those unable to attend the entire conference. All conference attendees will hear a single track of presentations, with 30-minute breaks designed for networking and team building.

SMU's Geothermal Laboratory is a national resource for the development of clean, green energy from the Earth's heat.

Historically, geothermal development was restricted to areas with substantial tectonic activity or volcanism, such as The Geysers field in California. But sophisticated mapping of geothermal resources in recent years directed by Blackwell and Maria Richards, coordinator of SMU's Geothermal Laboratory, makes it clear that vast geothermal resources reachable through current technology could replace the levels of energy now produced in the United States, mostly by coal-fired power plants.

Recent technological developments are feeding increased geothermal development in areas with little or no tectonic activity or volcanism:

  • Low Temperature Hydrothermal Energy is produced from subsurface areas with naturally occurring high fluid volumes at temperatures ranging from less than boiling to 300F (150C).

  • Geopressure and Coproduced Fluids Geothermal Oil and/or natural gas are produced together with electricity generated from hot geothermal fluids drawn from the same well.

  • Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) Subsurface areas with low fluid content but high temperatures are "enhanced" with injection of fluid and other reservoir engineering techniques. EGS resources are typically deeper than hydrothermal resources and represent the largest share of total geothermal resources capable of supporting larger capacity power plants.


Contact: Kim Cobb
Southern Methodist University

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