A Resource Assessment Of Geothermal Energy Resources For Converting Deep Gas Wells In Carbonate Strata Into Geothermal Extraction Wells: A Permian Basin Evaluation

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Previously conducted preliminary investigations within the deep Delaware and Val Verde sub-basins of the Permian Basin complex documented bottom hole temperatures from oil and gas wells that reach the 120-180C temperature range, and occasionally beyond. With large abundances of subsurface brine water, and known porosity and permeability, the deep carbonate strata of the region possess a good potential for future geothermal power development. This work was designed as a 3-year project to investigate a new, undeveloped geographic region for establishing geothermal energy production focused on electric power generation. Identifying optimum geologic and geographic sites for converting depleted deep gas wells ... continued below

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Erdlac, Richard J., Jr. October 12, 2006.

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Previously conducted preliminary investigations within the deep Delaware and Val Verde sub-basins of the Permian Basin complex documented bottom hole temperatures from oil and gas wells that reach the 120-180C temperature range, and occasionally beyond. With large abundances of subsurface brine water, and known porosity and permeability, the deep carbonate strata of the region possess a good potential for future geothermal power development. This work was designed as a 3-year project to investigate a new, undeveloped geographic region for establishing geothermal energy production focused on electric power generation. Identifying optimum geologic and geographic sites for converting depleted deep gas wells and fields within a carbonate environment into geothermal energy extraction wells was part of the project goals. The importance of this work was to affect the three factors limiting the expansion of geothermal development: distribution, field size and accompanying resource availability, and cost. Historically, power production from geothermal energy has been relegated to shallow heat plumes near active volcanic or geyser activity, or in areas where volcanic rocks still retain heat from their formation. Thus geothermal development is spatially variable and site specific. Additionally, existing geothermal fields are only a few 10’s of square km in size, controlled by the extent of the heat plume and the availability of water for heat movement. This plume radiates heat both vertically as well as laterally into the enclosing country rock. Heat withdrawal at too rapid a rate eventually results in a decrease in electrical power generation as the thermal energy is “mined”. The depletion rate of subsurface heat directly controls the lifetime of geothermal energy production. Finally, the cost of developing deep (greater than 4 km) reservoirs of geothermal energy is perceived as being too costly to justify corporate investment. Thus further development opportunities for geothermal resources have been hindered. To increase the effective regional implementation of geothermal resources as an energy source for power production requires meeting several objectives. These include: 1) Expand (oil and gas as well as geothermal) industry awareness of an untapped source of geothermal energy within deep permeable strata of sedimentary basins; 2) Identify and target specific geographic areas within sedimentary basins where deeper heat sources can be developed; 3) Increase future geothermal field size from 10 km2 to many 100’s km2 or greater; and 4) Increase the productive depth range for economic geothermal energy extraction below the current 4 km limit by converting deep depleted and abandoned gas wells and fields into geothermal energy extraction wells. The first year of the proposed 3-year resource assessment covered an eight county region within the Delaware and Val Verde Basins of West Texas. This project has developed databases in Excel spreadsheet form that list over 8,000 temperature-depth recordings. These recordings come from header information listed on electric well logs recordings from various shallow to deep wells that were drilled for oil and gas exploration and production. The temperature-depth data is uncorrected and thus provides the lower temperature that is be expected to be encountered within the formation associated with the temperature-depth recording. Numerous graphs were developed from the data, all of which suggest that a log-normal solution for the thermal gradient is more descriptive of the data than a linear solution. A discussion of these plots and equations are presented within the narrative. Data was acquired that enable the determination of brine salinity versus brine density with the Permian Basin. A discussion on possible limestone and dolostone thermal conductivity parameters is presented with the purpose of assisting in determining heat flow and reservoir heat content for energy extraction. Subsurface maps of temperature either at a constant depth or within a target geothermal reservoir are discussed, but have yet to be completed.

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  • Report No.: DOE/GO/85023
  • Grant Number: FG36-05GO85023
  • DOI: 10.2172/893183 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 893183
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc881895

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Creation Date

  • October 12, 2006

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 21, 2016, 2:29 a.m.

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  • Oct. 31, 2016, 6:41 p.m.

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Erdlac, Richard J., Jr. A Resource Assessment Of Geothermal Energy Resources For Converting Deep Gas Wells In Carbonate Strata Into Geothermal Extraction Wells: A Permian Basin Evaluation, report, October 12, 2006; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc881895/: accessed September 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.