Texas Could Tap Oil and Gas Industry Know-How to Fuel Geothermal Growth: Study

A new study explores the potential for geothermal energy in Texas and discusses how it could be rapidly developed using existing oil and gas industry technology.

The study, The Future of Geothermal in Texas: The Coming Century of Growth & Prosperity in the Lone Star State, was conducted by the University Lands Office, and the International Energy Agency and researchers at Texas universities, the University of Texas at Austin, Southern Methodist University, Rice University, Texas A&M University, and the University of Houston.

If the Texas oil and gas industry were to drill 15,000 geothermal wells each year for four years, it would provide the energy equivalent of all oil and gas used for electricity and heat production in Texas today, the study found.

At a depth of 10 kilometers or less, just about every point on earth has sufficient heat for power generation, the report noted.

The transfer of existing know-how and technology from the oil and gas industry could reduce the cost of geothermal development between 20 to 43 percent in the coming years, the report found.

Almost 80 percent of oil and gas entities interviewed for the report said they already have a geothermal strategy in place or in development, and almost 70 percent noted that there is no geothermal related technical challenge that the oil and gas industry cannot solve.

The report’s authors also noted that there may be non-technical challenges that may be unsolvable by industry, including regulatory and permitting issues, legal uncertainty, social license issues, and a lack of funding for pilot projects and essential research.

The report called for the convening of geothermal-specific legislative hearings regarding geothermal technologies and applications. The report’s authors also called for greater clarity regarding heat ownership to provide certainty for developers and the establishment of a risk mitigation program for geothermal developers.

At the wholesale power level, the report advocated that a Levelized Avoided Cost of Electricity be incorporated into the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ valuations.

The report also called for a direct-use geothermal heating and cooling grant program for agriculture and manufacturing and workforce training programs to help transition oil and gas workers into the geothermal industry.