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 On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid