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

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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.

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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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