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Oil – Gas – Geothermal – An Energy Triad Part I: A New Energy and Economic Future in Texas

Richard J. Erdlac, Jr.
The University of Texas of the Permian Basin Center for Energy & Economic Diversification Midland, Texas

As domestic companies step up efforts to maximize production of dwindling oil and gas reserves, another energy giant quietly sleeps within deep sedimentary basins in Texas, and throughout the world – GEOTHERMAL.

Geothermal covers electricity, heat pumps, and direct use applications. However, electrical production can develop through the existing oil and gas infrastructure. Potential electrical production from geothermal heat exists in at least five major regions: the Delaware/Val Verde Basins, the Trans-Pecos region, the Anadarko Basin in the Panhandle, East Texas hot dry rock and geopressured strata, and the geopressured Gulf Coast.

In the late 1970’s, the DOE began the geopressured geothermal project in the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast. In Texas, the Pleasant Bayou #2 was drilled in 1979 as the first design well in the geopressured program. Well flow testing began in 1980, and construction and operation of a demonstration hybrid power plant occurred between 1989 and 1990. With a minimum rating of 1 MW, the well generated 3,445 MWh of power that was sold to the local utility. No major technical obstacles to electricity generation existed at the site. Additionally, no construction or operating economic obstacles existed when compared to commercial facilities at other geothermal resources. These results bode well for a future hybrid power system using modern generating equipment. General economic value calculations of Texas geothermal energy suggest a multi-billion dollar industry waiting to be born. Many thousand of new jobs, as well as existing geoscience professionals, are necessary for full development of this resource.