What if oil and gas weren’t the only energy sources that could be produced from deep oil and natural gas wells? Water could become another revenue source if you ask Bruce Cutright of the University of Texas’ Bureau of Economic Geology. The water is hot, and that heat can be captured. While speaking Sept. 13 to the Gulf Coast Environmental Affairs Group, Cutright shared knowledge about how certain technology used in shale plays can be used to produce geothermal resources, extending the life cycle of wells already in use. Geothermal energy is basically heat, which comes from within the Earth, recovered as either steam or hot water to generate electricity. “You don’t need to abandon a well,” Cutright said, later pointing out that some operators may walk away from a well after five to seven years if natural gas prices are too low. He asked why abandon a $10 million investment if it can be used for geothermal recovery. Using the Haynesville/Bossier shale as an example, Cutright said the play has the ability to produce 17,750 megawatts (MW) over 20 years due to its heat. By capturing such heat, another energy source is created that has no carbon dioxide emissions and is less costly than creating solar or wind energy. He called the process a largely untapped resource after displaying a map of the United States that illustrated a massive number of locations where such processes could be used. In Texas, potential geothermal energy production regions are located along the Gulf Coast, the Trans Pecos Region, Delaware and Val Verde basins, and East Texas among other areas. However, geothermal energy has its disadvantages. For starters, installation costs can be high. It requires power plants and towers to transmit the power from the plant to consumer. It also will require staff equipped with knowledge in this area of energy, which is not as common as coal and natural gas. But if companies have the knowledge and the funds to consider tapping this type of energy, it may be worth the while. It does have several advantages. At the top of the list, for me, is that it’s cleaner than most other types of energy, generating power while producing very little greenhouse gases. Chevron is among the companies that have introduced geothermal energy into its energy mix. According to Chevron’s website, the company is the world’s largest producer of geothermal energy and started such operations in the 1960s by developing The Geysers, north of San Francisco. Since then, Chevron commenced operations in the Philippines and Indonesia, which have the capacity to produce 1,273 MW of renewable geothermal energy. And more projects could be forthcoming in those countries. If that is the case, companies should consider diversifying energy offerings by exploring other clean energy opportunities. Chevron sells its geothermal power to power grids. Geothermal energy might not work everywhere though. For instance, there may not be a source of underground heat great enough to produce such energy. If that’s the case, consider adding solar energy or wind energy if possible. Two separate studies released recently found the Earth has enough wind to power the entire world, according to an Associated Press article. Wind turbine technology could produce “hundreds of trillions of watts or power,” or more than 10 times what is consumed worldwide now. But the problem here lies in the amount of money and number of wind turbines needed to make the concept a reality. “To power civilization with wind turbines, I think you're talking about a couple wind turbines every square mile,” Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist who co-authored of one of the studies, said in the article. “It's not a small undertaking.” So that means, the US, which is about 3.8 million square miles, would have about 7.6 million wind turbines. With that many wind turbines, who knows how many birds could end up dead after flying into those spinning blades. Powering the world with wind turbines is unrealistic. But tapping into alternative energy sources, even on a small scale, is worth exploring to diversify energy sources. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at email@example.com.
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