Oil Production Waste Stream, a Source of Electrical Power


Lyle A. Johnson and Everett Walker

Key Words:

Coproduced fluids, low temperature, oil and gas

Geo Location:

Teapot Dome, Wyoming


Stanford Geothermal Workshop




Field Studies



File Size:


View File:


In many oil fields, a large volume of water is produced with the oil. In a majority of the fields, water is a waste stream and has a temperature below 220 °F. Because of the large volume, this water may still be hot enough to be capable of generating significant electrical power for facility consumption. To verify this concept, DOE’s Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center (RMOTC) has developed a program to test low temperature power generation from oil field waste streams. The program started with a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between Ormat Nevada, Inc. and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). This CRADA was followed by a collaborative agreement between RMOTC and DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Program (GTP) to extend and expand the testing.

The initial unit was an air cooled factory integrated, skid mounted standard design 250 kW Ormat Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) power plant. This unit was installed at the Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 3 (Teapot Dome Oil Field), north of Casper Wyoming. The ORC power unit was designed to use 40,000 bpd of 170 °F produced water from the field’s Tensleep formation to vaporize the working fluid, isopentane. The projected gross power from the unit was 180 kW (net of 132 kW). Because of the lack of sufficient cooling water for the system, an air-cooled unit was designed. The unit was put into service in September, 2008 and operated until February 2009 when the unit was shut down because of operational problems. During this period the unit produced 586 MWhr of power. The operational problems, caused by operating in excess of the unit capacity, consisted of changes in the control system and repairs to the generator/turbine system. The unit was briefly tested following maintenance and repair but was shut down because of field and well issues. The unit was restarted in September 2009. Since restarting, the unit has produced 322 MWhr of power at a more consistent rate than before the extended shut down.

The present plans are to continue operaion of the initial unit for 2 years more (total of 3 years) and to install and operate a second water cooled unit of a nominal 250 kW size for 3 years. The second unit is planned for installation early in 2010 under the collaboration with GTP.

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