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

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs