Oil industry waste water to transform to geothermal energy

Oil industry waste water to transform to geothermal energy Oil wells in North Dakota (source: flickr/ Tim Evanson, creative commons)
Francisco Rojas 11 Jun 2015

A pilot project in North Dakota, U.S. will help transform oil industry waste water into geothermal energy.

Utilizing waste heat and energy into power has been discussed for many many years. A fact little known is that oil production produces a lot of waste water and most of that is actually of high temperatures, often even at boiling point.

So far this has been seen as a waste, but constitutes a huge opportunity for power generation.

For Canada’s oil industry this could mean additional revenue streams, but also helping producing power from an energy source so far neglected.

A pilot project in North Dakota is now looking into making this a reality, producing power using waste water from oil wells.

“Will Gosnold, a researcher at the University of North Dakota who is leading the pilot project, said that during the shale boom in recent years no one was interested in fiddling with extra equipment, but with oil prices low, companies are looking at any way to save money.

“Now things have slowed down due to the price decrease and they’re looking at ways to cut costs, and this is one way they could cut their electrical power cost by generating their own electricity.”

The pilot project in North Dakota, which is being developed with energy company Continental Resources Inc., cost about US$3.5 million and includes several years of research and development. Gosnold said if the pilot project is successful, new geothermal units could be constructed at a cost of US$250,000 each.

The two generators on site have a combined 250 kilowatt hour capacity, which Gosnold estimates could mean about US$150,000 in annual energy cost savings in total. At 250 kwh, the generators would produce enough power to meet the annual needs of about 300 homes.

Gosnold hopes that once the pilot plant starts operating, other companies will see the economic and environmental benefits.”

The Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA) considers this a great opportunity for Canada. With the recent political change in Alberta there is a big hope similar projects could pick up in the province.

Alison Thompson, Chairman of CanGEA says that with the right incentives, this could pick up rather quickly and help put geothermal energy onto the agenda in Canada.

Source: Medicine Hat News