Denver, CO

Denver geothermal firm inks proposed deal in energy transition economy

Matt Whittaker
An image from the Nevada operations hosting Transitional Energy's pilot project.(Photo courtesy of Transitional Energy)

By Matt Whittaker / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) A Mile High City-based renewable energy firm took another step to bolster the national energy transition with equipment that makes electricity from the heat produced by oil and natural gas wells.

The company, Transitional Energy, and Georgia-based heat recovery equipment maker ElectraTherm this week said they signed a letter documenting their intent to work together to convert heat waste to electricity in the oil and gas industry.

"We value collaboration at Transitional Energy and working more strategically with ElectraTherm will allow us to bring greater value to our customers,” Transitional Energy chief executive officer Salina Derichsweiler said. “We believe integration of ideas will be the solution to energy insecurity and emission reductions.”

The letter of intent comes on the heels of a test operation where Transitional Energy in May said it generated electricity at a Grant Canyon Oil and Gas company well and used the energy to power part of the company’s operations in rural Nevada, reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Transitional Energy used ElectraTherm’s equipment, which can convert thermal energy from hot oil, gas and water from wellbores into electricity. 

Most operations dissipate the waste heat at the earth’s surface or cool it with industrial chillers before it enters pipelines. Still, ElectraTherm’s technology is able to harness this heat at lower temperatures than traditional geothermal equipment, making it viable for broader use at completed, operational and abandoned oil and gas wells.

“Using co-produced fluids to create continuous, carbon-free, renewable energy is a clear win-win for operators looking to offset their carbon footprint in a way that makes strong business sense," said ElectraTherm managing director Matt Lish.

Transitional Energy raised all of the money itself for the initial pilot project in Nevada, and the company claims that made it the first company to produce geothermal energy at an oil site using private funding.

The Nevada field is part of a larger project for which Transitional Energy in January said it was awarded a $2.5 million U.S. Department of Energy grant to demonstrate it can generate up to 1 megawatt of electricity from oil wells in the aging oilfield.

One megawatt can power hundreds of homes. For this project the electricity generated will offset that used in the oil operations, and additional power may be sent to the local grid. The electricity will replace diesel generation and grid power to operate the field as well as electric vehicle charging stations.

In February, Transitional Energy and Brighton-based electric co-op United Power said they had signed a letter of intent for oil and natural gas wells in the northern Front Range.

United Power, which serves 300,000 members along the Front Range north and east of Denver and two mountain canyons, has oil and gas customers in Colorado's Denver-Julesburg basin that use traditional electric service to power drilling rigs and other well pad equipment.

The goal of Front Range pilot program is to capture geothermal energy at thousands of operational and abandoned wellbores in the basin and convert it into electricity that the oil and gas operators can use to offset their energy purchases and reduce their greenhouse gas footprints.

Colorado has recently enacted legislation to encourage the use of geothermal energy. In June, Gov. Jared Polis signed legislation allowing the state to treat geothermal use like it does solar energy and create a geothermal grant program.

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Matt Whittaker writes about natural resources industries, including oil and gas, mining, renewable energy, agriculture and cannabis. He's been based in the Denver metro area since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter @mattswhittaker.

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