Oil well waste water could generate clean geothermal energy

Photo by NPCA Photos
Bakken oil fields. Photo by NPCA Photos

Oil and gas wells use large amounts of water, and it’s often boiling hot when it comes back up the pipes. So the oil patch is experimenting with sending that hot water through geothermal heat pumps to create electricity, to be used onsite or sold into the grid. Yes, this is mostly about using about dirty, nasty fracking water but, hey, might as well create clean energy with that water too. With the dropping price of oil, oil companies are looking for ways to make extra income per well.

The team took off-the-shelf geothermal generators and hooked them to pipes carrying boiling waste water. They’re set to flip the switch any day. When they do, large pumps will drive the steaming water through the generators housed in 40-foot (12- meter) containers, producing electricity that could either be used on site or hooked up to power lines and sold to the electricity grid.

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