That’s why Texas is a “sleeping giant” for geothermal energy

Underground, Texas is hot and teeming with people with oil and gas drilling experience, according to a new study by researchers at five Texas universities, making it ripe for a geothermal boom.

Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, Southern Methodist University, Rice University, Texas A&M University and the University of Houston, as well as the University Lands Office and the International Energy Agency just completed a landmark study entitled “The Future of Geothermal in Texas: The Coming Century of Growth and Prosperity in the Lone Star State.”

The study assesses the scale-up potential of geothermal energy — heat from the earth’s interior that can be harnessed as renewable energy — in Texas and its potential to expand globally in the coming decades.

Source: Future Geothermal Texas executive summary

There are currently at least 12 geothermal startups headquartered in Texas, and many more maintain a presence, employees, or are planning projects in the state. Almost 90% of these startups were founded and launched in the last 24 months, and they are invested by big oil and gas companies.

And what makes Texas unique is that geothermal energy can be produced from existing oil and gas wells, either as electricity or direct heat.

All startups have oil and gas industry veterans in their ranks because of course they have transferrable drilling for energy skills.

The study’s authors report that oil and gas technology and knowledge transfer is expected to deliver 20-43% cost savings for geothermal energy by leveraging existing oil and gas industry technologies. Additionally, 70% of oil and gas companies surveyed in the study said there are no geothermal engineering challenges that the oil and gas industry cannot solve.

Researchers calculated a range of geothermal growth scenarios, both global and in Texas, that were placed in the context of the scale of the oil and gas industry. They concluded that drilling 1.4 million wells worldwide between 2030 and 2050 could meet 77% of projected global electricity needs and Texas would be able to decarbonize 100% of its power grid.

Jamie Beard, principal investigator and editor of the study, said:

The findings of this study are big – but so is the oil and gas industry – and the industry’s role is the missing link in previous assessments of geothermal energy and its scaling potential.

To achieve the reported results, we would need a global mobilization of Apollo-style efforts, but that is what climate change demands of us. We’ve done Apollo before – let’s do it again.

The Texas study will serve as a model for a program supported by the non-profit InnerSpace geothermal expansion project to develop similar state-specific geothermal roadmaps in the United States, where there is current exposure to the oil and gas industry.

Projects in Idaho, Oklahoma, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah will start in the first half of this year.

Continue reading: So deep geothermal drilling could be the future of clean energy

Photo: “Picture A Day September 26, 2010 – Santa Rita No. 1, Completed May 27, 1923” by mlhradio is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

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