United Power Brighton signed a letter of intent with the geothermal development company Transitional Energy to bring a clean energy pilot program for oil and gas operations to its service territory, according to a press release by United Power.
“Utilizing clean economical geothermal energy to provide local power to be dispatched when needed is a critical component of our growing energy portfolio,” United Power’s Chief Energy Resources Officer Dean Hubbuck said in a written statement. “Geothermal energy represents a huge untapped renewable resource that can reduce our reliance on power from other traditional sources.”
Transitional Energy was founded in Colorado by Salina Derichsweiler and Benjamin Burke.
“We have oil and gas workers who have been spent their whole career in the industry, and entire communities are built around oil and gas towns and the schools,” Derichsweiler said. “If we need to shut off oil and gas industries, there are consequences with that decision. We have to think about it from an energy transition (point of view), having that environmental justice and the economic justice, so that the communities that are built around this will have a way to pragmatically transition to a renewable economy with us.
“We need their knowledge- we need their experience to do this- we don’t want to leave people behind. We want them to come with us. It’s one of the other reasons why we’re doing this company,” she said.
The geothermal energy program can be used on both operational and abandoned wells to convert geothermal waste to electricity, according to officials.
Power plants currently use the Organic Rankine cycle method, the scientific name for using steam heat to turn a turbine to generate electricity. That converts water into steam then the steam expands through a turbine.
Transitional Energy ElectraTherma technology does not use steam.
“We won’t be using steam, instead we will be transferring the heat from the produced fluids from an oil and gas well to a working fluid with a lower boiling point than water,” said Johanna Ostrum, chief operating officer and partner for Transitional Energy.
The working fluid is a refrigerant that will turn into a vapor and spin a turbine to generate electricity. It will be cooled down by a chiller or liquid loop radiator, Ostrum said.
“Think of it as an air conditioner run in reverse,” she said.
Oil and gas drilling rigs and other pad equipment normally used traditional electric service as power. With the Transitional Energy partnership, the oil and gas drilling rigs can be fully powered entirely with geothermal energy, increasing efficiency, reducing energy fuel costs, and decreasing their carbon footprint.
The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade partially funded the company with a grant.