Turning old oil fields into geothermal power sites

August 17, 2012

The Rocky Mountain Oil Test Center (RMOTC) is seeking to recapture the hot water that is a natural byproduct of oil and gas drilling, and repurpose it as geothermal power.   While it is unclear if such sites can generate enough electricity to contribute to the wider grid, they can probably produce enough to provide the local power needed to keep the well sites running.

Most geothermal production comes from power plants tapping areas where very hot water is located underground and using the steam to generate power. The water extracted by oil and gas wells is typically not as hot and is mixed with the oil and gas.  Research by various geothermal companies has resulted in so-called coproduction units that separate the hot water from the oil and gas and extract the heat from the water to create power.  In addition to producing two sources of power, another advantage coproduction units have over traditional geothermal power plants is that the wells that bring the hot water to the surface are already drilled.

The RMOTC is located on the grounds of the old Naval Petroleum Reserve, better known as Teapot Dome, the center of a serious early 20th century political scandal.

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