Public Release: 

SMU conference to promote technology, economics of geothermal production in oil and gas fields

'Power Plays: Geothermal Energy in Oil and Gas Fields' conference in Dallas May 19-20. Registration still available.

Southern Methodist University

DALLAS (SMU) - Southern Methodist University's renowned Geothermal Laboratory will host its seventh international energy conference and workshop on the SMU campus May 19-20. The conference is designed to promote transition of oil and gas fields to electricity-producing geothermal systems by harnessing waste heat and fluids from both active and abandoned fields.

More than 200 professionals - ranging from members of the oil and gas service industry, reservoir engineers, to geothermal energy entrepreneurs, to lawyers - are expected to attend "Power Plays: Geothermal Energy in Oil and Gas Fields" Topics of discussion will include:

  • Power generation from flare gas

  • Power generation from waste-heat and geothermal fluids

  • Research updates on induced seismicity, as well as onshore and offshore thermal maturation

  • Play Fairway Analysis - a subsurface mapping technique used to identify prospective geothermal resources

  • Technology updates.

Researchers from SMU's Huffington Department of Earth Sciences will present results from their Fall 2014 Eastern North American Margin Community Seismic Experiment (ENAM CSE) research. In addition, equipment such as one-well systems, desalination and other new technologies will be explored. Registration remains open and walk-up attendees will be accommodated.

SMU has been at the forefront of geothermal energy research for more than 45 years, and the Geothermal Laboratory's mapping of North American geothermal resources is considered the baseline for U.S. geothermal energy exploration. Geothermal Laboratory Coordinator Maria Richards and Emeritus Professor David Blackwell have seen interest in geothermal energy wax and wane with the price of oil and natural gas.

But Richards believes current low oil prices will drive more interest in geothermal development, encouraging oil and gas producers to use geothermal production from existing oil and gas fields as they try to keep them cost-effective for petroleum production at 2015 prices.

The technology that will be examined at the conference is relatively straight-forward: Sedimentary basins drilled for oil and gas production leave behind reservoir pathways that can later be used for heat extraction. Fluids moving through those hot reservoir pathways capture heat, which at the surface can be turned into electricity, or used downhole to replace pumping needs. In addition, the existing surface equipment used in active oil and gas fields generates heat, which also can be tapped to produce electricity and mitigate the cost of production.

"Oil and gas drilling rig counts are down," Richards said. "The industry has tightened its work force and honed its expertise. The opportunity to produce a new revenue stream during an economically challenging period, through the addition of relatively simple technology at the wellhead, may be the best chance we've had in years to gain operators' attention."

Featured speakers include Jim Wicklund, managing director for equity research at Credit Suisse, who will speak on "Volatile Economics in the Oil Field," and Holly Thomas and Tim Reinhardt from the U.S. Department of Energy's Geothermal Technologies Office. STW Water Process & Technology, a water reclamation and oilfield services company, will have desalination equipment on-site for attendees to understand size and scaling capacity of water purification for oil field operators.

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Information and registration is available at http://www.smu.edu/geothermal.

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls approximately 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.

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