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Published on October 4th, 2009 | by Susan Kraemer

14

DOE Introduces Big Oil to New Energy Source: Waste Heat Geothermal

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October 4th, 2009 by  


Every barrel of oil extracted in the US also produces ten barrels of hot fluids in addition to the oil. Why not use that potential energy in the waste heat?

Rather than discard that “geothermal” resource created by the process of oil extraction, the DOE is going to show the traditional energy industry how to tap into those waste fluids to power equipment at the site.

The renewable energy division (EERE) of Steven Chu’s energetic new Department of Energy is buying the waste heat geothermal unit from Ormat Technologies to do the demo. Ormat makes both geothermal and combined heat and power units.

The DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Program at the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) will collaborate with Office of Fossil Energy to make low temperature geothermal power from waste drilling fluids using a waste heat geothermal unit.

The electricity produced would be used to power field production equipment, which would offset purchased electricity. Because this would reduce the fossil energy needed to extract each barrel of oil, this would reduce the pollution costs the traditional oil industry would be liable for under new legislation pending.

If the Clean Energy Jobs & American Power Act passes, there will be an incentive to reduce carbon pollution.

They will use co-produced fluids from oilfield operations at the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center. The testing center has a producing oilfield, and long-standing expertize with fossil energy, so it provides an opportunity for the Fossil Energy Dept at the DOE to make a contribution to emerging energy fields.

The system will turn an unavoidable byproduct into a new energy resource for the oil industry; one that is relatively “renewable.” It is not a natural source because it would stop once oil extraction stopped. It is created by the process of oil extraction itself. Yet it creates no new carbon emissions, so it effectively lowers the carbon cost of each barrel of extracted oil.

Now that we are down to literally scraping the bottom of the barrel, the CO2 emissions from squeezing oil out of rocks are almost twice as high as for even regular oil extraction. Waste heat reuse for electricity is one way to get CO2 emissions down in the traditional fossil energy industry.

The results of this carbon mitigation effort will be made available to any interested parties on the DOE website.

Related stories:

Ormat Supplies Recovered Energy Generation to DOE Oilfield Geothermal Test

Oil-Funded Group That Targeted Green Jobs Czar Goes After Steven Chu

Oil Company Begins Test of Off-Shore Wind

Image: Apollo Alliance

Source: DOE

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate, and GreenProphet. She has also been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.



  • Will

    @ spacester

    I just read both your rebuttals and there is one thing I must say as one with a Master’s degree. I understand the need for not getting too technical, given that the average American has a high school degree at best and probably reads one book yearly. If the writer were to even use freshmen-level lexicon or terminology, that would isolate the other 80% of the readers. They would lose interest and move on to something else, thus the need for more of a high school level (10-12th grade) approach.

    This is something I found out the hard way.

    When more details/specifics are released then maybe Susan can write about them. So for now, if this level of writing really gets to you, it might be better for you to stick to scientifically published journals and not blogs.

  • Will

    @ spacester

    I just read both your rebuttals and there is one thing I must say as one with a Master’s degree. I understand the need for not getting too technical, given that the average American has a high school degree at best and probably reads one book yearly. If the writer were to even use freshmen-level lexicon or terminology, that would isolate the other 80% of the readers. They would lose interest and move on to something else, thus the need for more of a high school level (10-12th grade) approach.

    This is something I found out the hard way.

    When more details/specifics are released then maybe Susan can write about them. So for now, if this level of writing really gets to you, it might be better for you to stick to scientifically published journals and not blogs.

  • Susan Kraemer

    Miggs, looks like companies like yours are going to be busy:-

    http://cleantechnica.com/2009/10/06/obamas-executive-order-enforces-smart-energy/

  • spacester

    Hi Susan, first I would like to compliment cleantechnica and yourself for both posting my rant and for responding. I half expected the post to vanish into the ether of cyberspace, and I was rather surprised that you responded.

    When I read other people’s rants, I always suspect there is more going on than I can see. Indeed that was the case here with me. Your story was the straw breaking the camel’s back.

    I’m just glad that I’m not alone when it comes to raging against the media. I refuse to own a television and am otherwise a harsh media critic. I blame the media for many of society’s ills. The level of responsibility demonstrated comes up way short of the obligation placed by the awesome power of freedom of speech.

    Just before reading your column, I read this:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/oct/02/dan-gillmor-22-rules-news

    I find his ideas welcome, but lacking in many ways.

    So I am a one-man tough crowd. That seems to be my part in the melodrama.

    I am not prepared to apologize for my rant, nor am I willing to say “aw shucks, Susan, you did the best you could”.

    The media is in the end a collection of individuals, so if I want to try to help turn the head of the beast, I must end up attacking individual reporters.

    While I think you can clearly do better, it occurs to me that you may be a victim of editorial policy. I am aware that cleantechnica’s stated mission includes the statement that readers need not “have an engineering degree” to follow articles. And my sarcasm regarding the lack of editorial control notwithstanding, it seems likely that cleantechnica in fact has no editors and thus you are on your own.

    I don’t want to get back to criticism of the article, but it and your response are both much more along the lines of stenography than reporting.

    Regurgitating press releases is not reporting. Is there no room in this website’s approach for writers to make some phone calls and to do some research?

    And if a website such as this cannot, then who will? Is there no one prepared to provide added value when passing along press releases?

    Shoot, I’m in rant mode again, aren’t I? Sigh . . .

    The “no engineering degree” stance makes sense to a point. But what I believe you owe your readers is Freshman level stuff.

    Have you ever heard of “The Two Cultures” by C.P. Snow? Jacob Bronowski’s “The Identity of Man”?

    How much credibility would you personally assign to a book reviewer who betrays an ignorance of the work or even existence of Hemingway or Faulkner or Bronte or Shakespeare or Homer? That’s Freshman level stuff, and that’s the level of omission I found here.

    With you having to read two of my rants now, I feel obliged to make you an offer. I would be happy to assist you with future articles, so that you can confidently include enough technical details to satisfy the Freshman-level criteria I think should apply here.

  • spacester

    Hi Susan, first I would like to compliment cleantechnica and yourself for both posting my rant and for responding. I half expected the post to vanish into the ether of cyberspace, and I was rather surprised that you responded.

    When I read other people’s rants, I always suspect there is more going on than I can see. Indeed that was the case here with me. Your story was the straw breaking the camel’s back.

    I’m just glad that I’m not alone when it comes to raging against the media. I refuse to own a television and am otherwise a harsh media critic. I blame the media for many of society’s ills. The level of responsibility demonstrated comes up way short of the obligation placed by the awesome power of freedom of speech.

    Just before reading your column, I read this:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/oct/02/dan-gillmor-22-rules-news

    I find his ideas welcome, but lacking in many ways.

    So I am a one-man tough crowd. That seems to be my part in the melodrama.

    I am not prepared to apologize for my rant, nor am I willing to say “aw shucks, Susan, you did the best you could”.

    The media is in the end a collection of individuals, so if I want to try to help turn the head of the beast, I must end up attacking individual reporters.

    While I think you can clearly do better, it occurs to me that you may be a victim of editorial policy. I am aware that cleantechnica’s stated mission includes the statement that readers need not “have an engineering degree” to follow articles. And my sarcasm regarding the lack of editorial control notwithstanding, it seems likely that cleantechnica in fact has no editors and thus you are on your own.

    I don’t want to get back to criticism of the article, but it and your response are both much more along the lines of stenography than reporting.

    Regurgitating press releases is not reporting. Is there no room in this website’s approach for writers to make some phone calls and to do some research?

    And if a website such as this cannot, then who will? Is there no one prepared to provide added value when passing along press releases?

    Shoot, I’m in rant mode again, aren’t I? Sigh . . .

    The “no engineering degree” stance makes sense to a point. But what I believe you owe your readers is Freshman level stuff.

    Have you ever heard of “The Two Cultures” by C.P. Snow? Jacob Bronowski’s “The Identity of Man”?

    How much credibility would you personally assign to a book reviewer who betrays an ignorance of the work or even existence of Hemingway or Faulkner or Bronte or Shakespeare or Homer? That’s Freshman level stuff, and that’s the level of omission I found here.

    With you having to read two of my rants now, I feel obliged to make you an offer. I would be happy to assist you with future articles, so that you can confidently include enough technical details to satisfy the Freshman-level criteria I think should apply here.

  • http://recycled-energy.com miggs

    There’s an awful lot of potential in waste heat recovery and other forms of energy recycling. It cuts greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs simultaneously — something our country and world really need right now.

    Disclosure: I’m not fully unbiased, since I’m associated with Recycled Energy Development (recycled-energy.com), which does this kind of work. But the reason I’m involved is precisely the enormous potential.

  • http://recycled-energy.com miggs

    There’s an awful lot of potential in waste heat recovery and other forms of energy recycling. It cuts greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs simultaneously — something our country and world really need right now.

    Disclosure: I’m not fully unbiased, since I’m associated with Recycled Energy Development (recycled-energy.com), which does this kind of work. But the reason I’m involved is precisely the enormous potential.

  • Susan Kraemer

    Miggs, looks like companies like yours are going to be busy:-

    http://cleantechnica.com/2009/10/06/obamas-executive-order-enforces-smart-energy/

  • Susan Kraemer

    Spacester, I freely admit that I don’t know as much about fossil energy as about renewable and appreciate help.

    I make it clear that this is not regular geothermal power by pointing out “It is not a natural source because it would stop once oil extraction stopped. It is created by the process of oil extraction itself.”

    How hot is this hot fluid? We’ll see.

    Lets all stay tuned for the data promised at the DOE website. I’m certainly an interested party, and I will cover those details when they are out, as promised.

    The exact heat or composition (pure water, muddy fluid) doesn’t make a difference as long as it is a liquid hot enough to generate electricity, and presumably Ormat took a look and felt it would work.

    I generally try to make it vivid for a general lay person, so use phrases like ‘squeezing oil from rocks’ or ‘scraping the bottom of the barrel’, but if you’d rather read the original I link my source at the bottom of the story:

    “Washington, D.C. – A unique Department of Energy (DOE) collaboration aims to generate electricity from a geothermal source stemming from oilfield operations.

    DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Geothermal Technologies Program will merge and leverage research capabilities to demonstrate low temperature geothermal electric power generation systems using co-produced water from oilfield operations at FE’s Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center (RMOTC).

    EERE is providing funding for the purchase of a geothermal electricity producing unit from Ormat Technologies, Inc.

    RMOTC will serve as an optimal testing facility for geothermal technologies, while enhancing knowledge sharing between the geothermal and petroleum industries.

    With a producing oilfield and long standing expertise with fossil energy, this project provides a unique opportunity for FE to contribute its experience to emerging renewable energy fields.

    The system will turn otherwise discarded water into an energy resource. With an estimated ten barrels of hot water co-produced along with each barrel of oil in the United States, there is significant resource potential for this technology.

    The electricity produced will be used to power field production equipment.

    Operational and performance data for various climate and system configurations will be collected and made available to industry and the public, highlighting the potential of geothermal renewable energy from co-produced water.”

  • Susan Kraemer

    Spacester, I freely admit that I don’t know as much about fossil energy as about renewable and appreciate help.

    I make it clear that this is not regular geothermal power by pointing out “It is not a natural source because it would stop once oil extraction stopped. It is created by the process of oil extraction itself.”

    How hot is this hot fluid? We’ll see.

    Lets all stay tuned for the data promised at the DOE website. I’m certainly an interested party, and I will cover those details when they are out, as promised.

    The exact heat or composition (pure water, muddy fluid) doesn’t make a difference as long as it is a liquid hot enough to generate electricity, and presumably Ormat took a look and felt it would work.

    I generally try to make it vivid for a general lay person, so use phrases like ‘squeezing oil from rocks’ or ‘scraping the bottom of the barrel’, but if you’d rather read the original I link my source at the bottom of the story:

    “Washington, D.C. – A unique Department of Energy (DOE) collaboration aims to generate electricity from a geothermal source stemming from oilfield operations.

    DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Geothermal Technologies Program will merge and leverage research capabilities to demonstrate low temperature geothermal electric power generation systems using co-produced water from oilfield operations at FE’s Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center (RMOTC).

    EERE is providing funding for the purchase of a geothermal electricity producing unit from Ormat Technologies, Inc.

    RMOTC will serve as an optimal testing facility for geothermal technologies, while enhancing knowledge sharing between the geothermal and petroleum industries.

    With a producing oilfield and long standing expertise with fossil energy, this project provides a unique opportunity for FE to contribute its experience to emerging renewable energy fields.

    The system will turn otherwise discarded water into an energy resource. With an estimated ten barrels of hot water co-produced along with each barrel of oil in the United States, there is significant resource potential for this technology.

    The electricity produced will be used to power field production equipment.

    Operational and performance data for various climate and system configurations will be collected and made available to industry and the public, highlighting the potential of geothermal renewable energy from co-produced water.”

  • spacester

    Thank you, Aleksandar. Assuming you are correct, you just provided way more useful information than Ms. Kraemer did.

    I can only assume that cleantechnica’s competent technical writers were unavailable for this story, and that all the editors are on vacation.

    “Hot Fluids”? What kind of fluids? How hot?

    “Discarded”?? By what means?

    “Geothermal”?? Quoting the term does not add clarity, it merely tells us that the writer does not have the ability to properly describe it.

    “At the site”? What, only the DOE site? What about at actual production level sites?

    “Combined Heat & Power” – Ah, so you’ve heard of it then! How about learning something about it before writing this vacuous piece? For starters, it’s called “recovered energy”, not “geothermal”.

    “Used to power field production equipment” – What is the comparison between the resource and the need? Ah, but then you’d have to learn about kilowatts and kilowatt-hours, and you evidently cannot be bothered.

    “Literally scraping the bottom of the barrel”? Um, do you know what “literally” means? No, clearly you don’t.

    “Squeezing oil out of rocks”? Say WHAT? What kind of oil production does this article refer to, anyway?

    I could go on . . .

    I don’t like to rant, really I don’t. But my goodness, do we have to wallow in ignorance when it comes to energy reporting? This level of incompetence is getting really old and the energy challenges our society faces are not going to get any easier to report.

    At some point, writing like this becomes much more a part of the problem than a part of the solution.

  • spacester

    Thank you, Aleksandar. Assuming you are correct, you just provided way more useful information than Ms. Kraemer did.

    I can only assume that cleantechnica’s competent technical writers were unavailable for this story, and that all the editors are on vacation.

    “Hot Fluids”? What kind of fluids? How hot?

    “Discarded”?? By what means?

    “Geothermal”?? Quoting the term does not add clarity, it merely tells us that the writer does not have the ability to properly describe it.

    “At the site”? What, only the DOE site? What about at actual production level sites?

    “Combined Heat & Power” – Ah, so you’ve heard of it then! How about learning something about it before writing this vacuous piece? For starters, it’s called “recovered energy”, not “geothermal”.

    “Used to power field production equipment” – What is the comparison between the resource and the need? Ah, but then you’d have to learn about kilowatts and kilowatt-hours, and you evidently cannot be bothered.

    “Literally scraping the bottom of the barrel”? Um, do you know what “literally” means? No, clearly you don’t.

    “Squeezing oil out of rocks”? Say WHAT? What kind of oil production does this article refer to, anyway?

    I could go on . . .

    I don’t like to rant, really I don’t. But my goodness, do we have to wallow in ignorance when it comes to energy reporting? This level of incompetence is getting really old and the energy challenges our society faces are not going to get any easier to report.

    At some point, writing like this becomes much more a part of the problem than a part of the solution.

  • http://www.energytype.com Aleksandar

    It’s salt water which has to be processed before technological utilize. Therefore the oil producers avoid any action due to additional costs for water treatment plants. Energy is producing by oilfield methane burning as well as hot water is simply injecting back into the wells and nobody care about long term savings.

    Great initiative, hope that will be accepted.

  • http://www.energytype.com Aleksandar

    It’s salt water which has to be processed before technological utilize. Therefore the oil producers avoid any action due to additional costs for water treatment plants. Energy is producing by oilfield methane burning as well as hot water is simply injecting back into the wells and nobody care about long term savings.

    Great initiative, hope that will be accepted.

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