News / Science & Technology

Industrial Waste Heat Converted to Electricity

Oil is pumped from a well near Van, Texas, in this file photo. Gulf Coast Green Energy hopes to capture some of the heat from the thousands of oil and gas wells in Texas and turn it into electricity.
Oil is pumped from a well near Van, Texas, in this file photo. Gulf Coast Green Energy hopes to capture some of the heat from the thousands of oil and gas wells in Texas and turn it into electricity.
Bill Zeeble
DALLAS, Texas — Sixty percent of all energy generated in the world today is lost as wasted heat, according to Loy Sneary. The CEO of Gulf Coast Green Energy wants to capture some of that heat from the thousands of oil and gas wells in Texas – as well as other places – and turn it into electricity.
   
“We’ve got more electricity than could be generated by all the coal-fired power plants, natural gas-fired power plants and nuclear power plants in the world," he says. "That’s what the potential is.”

Deep underground, Sneary explains, the earth is already hot. Drive a diamond drill down into hard rock or shale, and the bit gets even hotter. Liquid cools it. That’s where Sneary’s Green Machine comes in.

Housed in a square box smaller than a compact car, the device channels the abundant hot well water through a pipe which runs next to another filled with refrigerant. The refrigerant boils and vaporizes at low temperatures and the resulting steam is used to generate electricity.

Engineers check the Green Machine, which converts waste heat into electricity, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. (Courtesy SMU)Engineers check the Green Machine, which converts waste heat into electricity, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. (Courtesy SMU)
x
Engineers check the Green Machine, which converts waste heat into electricity, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. (Courtesy SMU)
Engineers check the Green Machine, which converts waste heat into electricity, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. (Courtesy SMU)
“So we can take these lower temperatures, hot water sources, and transfer the heat," Sneary says, "and then once that refrigerant is expanded and pressurized, from there on it’s just like a steam turbine.”

It’s not just oil and gas wells that provide waste heat for the Green Energy Machines to convert into electricity, the heat recycling technology can also work with solar energy arrays, coal-fired power plants, internal combustion engines and virtually any other industrial process that produces waste heat.

Last year, Sneary connected his device to the boilers at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and converted that system’s waste heat into electricity, helping to cut the university’s utility bills.
 
Sneary says the Green Energy machine can generate enough electricity to power up to 70 homes at a fraction of the cost of power generated by a coal-fired plant.

SMU’s Geothermal Lab Coordinator, Maria Richards, says her lab’s custom temperature maps help Sneary find hot spots associated with petroleum drilling operations where he can deploy his machines. The school and Gulf Coast Green Energy have partnered for several years.

"There was really so much heat in the Gulf Coast," Richards says. "That made us realize that, by working with the oil and  gas wells, it was an ability to tap into those resources.”

Sneary is negotiating with drillers in Texas, has a project in West Virginia, and is looking at other states too. He says his company’s heat-capture technology is efficient and green because it’s emission-free. And given the growing number of oil-and-gas-well hot spots pinpointed on SMU’s geothermal map, Sneary expects his Gulf-Coast Green Energy machines will be in great demand for years to come.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid