Green Machine cuts operating costs, reduces environmental impact


Green machine insideElectrical power generation technology that has been in use in other industries is now making its debut in the oil and gas arena.

Judy Murray, Editor

May 26, 2009

The Green Machine will show that it is possible to generate emission-free electricity from the hot water produced by gas wells that is typically a waste byproduct of natural gas production.  Technology newly introduced to the oil and gas industry has the potential to not only reduce emissions, but to generate electricity.

Gulf Coast Green Energy (GCGE), which offers what it calls “earth-friendly solutions for affordable clean energy” uses ElectraTherm waste heat generators to capture engine emissions and convert them to electricity.

The technology GCGE is applying to the oil and gas industry was developed by ElectraTherm, which manufactures the equipment and holds the development rights for the equipment. “ElectraTherm purchased the development rights from City University in London,” explained Loy Sneary, GCGE president and CEO.

Loy’s company was the first to sign up with ElectraTherm and has been actively working to get the technology into the mainstream. “We are far beyond the R&D phase,” Loy said. “Our equipment has been vetted by TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality). We’re out of the proof-of-concept stage and are into the commercialization stage.”

One of GCGE’s most recent steps along the road to commercialization has been to secure funding from the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) on two projects that aim to help reduce the environmental impact of oil and gas drilling.

According to Loy, the equipment GCGE distributes, installs, and services, works in many arenas of industrial waste heat, which he refers to as “recoverable heat” because, he explained, “Once we recover it, we are generating valuable emission-free electricity with it.”

GCGE has been working with several natural gas pipeline compressor companies that are attracted to being able to add to their bottom line by generating electricity with the added advantage of cooling the engine thus reducing the need for engine cooling equipment. Loy said.

Now, the company is hoping to move into the oil and gas industry, an area where GCGE had little exposure before being selected for funding by RPSEA.

GCGE has been working for some time with the geothermal lab at Southern Methodist University (SMU), which is world renowned for geothermal energy research. “SMU vetted our technology and has been very helpful,” Loy said, noting that his company became aware of RPSEA through Maria Richards, SMU geothermal lab coordinator.
“I had no prior exposure to oil and gas companies,” Loy said. Through RPSEA, Loy gained not only exposure to the industry, but a new perspective on operating companies. “It was refreshing to discover we’ve got leaders in the oil and gas industry that are committed to conducting environmentally responsible activities with their technologies.”

The first of the two projects GCGE will be involved in is titled “Electrical Power Generation from Produced Water: Field Demonstration of Ways to Reduce Operating Costs of Small Producers.” The company will conduct a three-year demonstration project that generates electricity by capturing heat from water used in oil drilling to reduce the amount of energy needed without burning additional fossil fuels. In the process, GCGE will show how small oil drilling operations can cut costs and carbon dioxide emissions while increasing access to previously hard-to-produce oil resources,

“This technology will not only reduce emissions by producing ‘green’ electricity onsite that can be used in drilling operations, but will also reduce costs to small oil producers, making them more competitive in the marketplace,” Sneary said. “It will successfully demonstrate how to generate emission-free electricity from the hot water produced by gas wells that is typically a waste byproduct of natural gas production.”

RPSEA, along with GCGE and Denbury Resources, will fund the project as part of the 2008 Small Producer Program, which focuses on the challenges faced by small oil and gas producers.

The second project GCGE is involved in, the Environmentally Friendly Drilling Systems (EFDS) program, is one of nine projects selected out of 69 for funding by RPSEA’s 2008 Unconventional Resources Program, which supports projects that help meet US energy demands, create jobs, and lower costs to the consumers.

“The EFDS is part of an effort to identify, develop, and demonstrate cost-effective technologies that reduce environmental threats and could allow operations in environmentally sensitive areas that are currently off limits,” Sneary explained.

The plan is for GCGE to connect its “Green Machine” to the huge internal combustion engines on a drilling platform to capture exhaust heat and from the water jacket to generate electricity. “That capability is really attractive because we can generate up to 4 MW of additional power for offshore rigs and 400 kW for onshore rigs.” Sneary said.

Sneary is pleased, he said, with the attention GCGE’s technology is getting today from the oil and gas industry, attributing some of the recent interest to the current economic situation, which has created idle time for E&P companies that are not carrying out as much exploration activity as they did when the oil price was above US $100/bbl. “The economic climate is forcing companies to look at long-term opportunities through strategic growth, and they are recognizing that they can diversify without going very far outside the familiar,” he explained. “With 30-year equipment like this that pays out in three years or less, it is easy to see how much positive impact this can have on the bottom line.”

Both of the projects GCGE is involved in aim to demonstrate that electricity can be generated efficiently with waste heat generators. In the ‘small producer’ project, GCGE will use hot geo-fluids to generate electricity for the first time in the field even though the company has applied this equipment in other commercial capacities. “I think that is what was attractive to the RPSEA board,” Sneary said.

If the technology GCGE is introducing lives up to expectations, it has the potential to make a significant impact in the industry, and its success will encourage future collaboration.

“We’re excited about being a part of both of these projects where universities, environmental groups, and industry are working together to develop environmentally friendly solutions,” Sneary said.

Original article by E&P Magazine at