SENATOR MURKOWSKI ANNOUNCES MAJOR GRANT TO TEST ALTERNATIVE ELECTRICITY GENERATION FROM OIL PRODUCTION
ANCHORAGE, AK – Senator Lisa Murkowski today announced that the U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a major grant to Chena Power, a subsidiary of Chena Hot Springs Resort located outside of Fairbanks, to prove the feasibility of generating alternative electricity from the hot water separated from fossil fuels during production at oil and gas wells.
The grant could have major implications for geothermal energy development nationwide since there are thousands of working oil and gas wells in America in a dozen states that generate enough geothermal water to possibly produce 5,000 megawatts of clean, renewable energy to add to the nation’s electricity portfolio.
“This is an important project for Alaska since Alaska’s oil fields on the North Slope and Cook Inlet produce more than 1.2 million barrels of water each day. This is water that is often below the boiling point, but often hot enough utilizing the new technology being pioneered at Chena Hot Springs to produce geothermal electricity. Using the water that today is just a waste product of oil and gas production can save energy in fossil fuel production and could add clean electricity to our nation’s power grid. It is an important project for the nation and the state,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski who has been seeking a variety of grant aid from the federal government to advance geothermal development.
The grant builds on the success of Chena Hot Springs and its owner Bernie Karl who in 2005 won federal aid to tap the resort’s lower-temperature geothermal resources to produce power. Using a new binary organic rankine cycle power plant (turbine) created by United Technologies Corp., the Chena resort has been producing all of its electricity needs from roughly 160-degree water (F) for the past year.
The $724,000 federal grant, being matched by equal funds from Chena Power, United Technology and by assistance from BP Alaska, will fund a $1.45 million effort to modify the low-temperature geothermal turbine system developed at Chena to work on the water separated from oil from wells at the Prudhoe Bay oil field. The power generated from the demonstration project will be utilized to power the oil field, replacing a small portion of the 162 megawatts of electricity now generated by the field’s natural gas-fired turbines.
Senator Murkowski is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is a co-sponsor of legislation to fund a new national geothermal energy initiative. She added, “This is an exciting project since there are thousands of oil wells in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Wyoming, Montana, even Arkansas, areas that don’t possess other traditional geothermal heat sources, but that do have water that flows from oil wells at high enough temperatures to produce electricity. In many cases up to 95% of the fluid that flows from an oil well is water, not oil, and all of it is available to produce geothermal power using this new technology. DOE should be commended for funding this important research.”
The grant award was confirmed by Alexander Karsner, the Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. The Prudhoe Bay project is just one of a number of good candidates for geothermal energy development. Other projects range from the Mt. Spurr area near Anchorage to Naknek to power the Bristol Bay region, to proposed projects at Akutan and Unalaska in the Aleutians and Pilgrim Hot Springs in Northwest Alaska to ones at Tenakee and Bell Island in Southeast.