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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs