Sunday, September 9, 2012 | Latest audio lessons → VOA Learning English
Turning Industrial Waste-Heat Into Electricity
Scientists say enough energy is wasted in the oil and gas fields of Texas every year to provide electricity to 100,000 homes. Businessman Loy Sneary says he is using that wasted energy to create a profitable business called Gulf Coast Green Energy.
Loy Sneary says 60 percent of all energy produced in the world today is being lost as wasted heat. He wants to capture some of that heat from the thousands of oil and gas wells in Texas, and turn it into electricity.
He says the potential electricity that could be created is greater than all the coal-fired plants, natural gas plants and nuclear power plants in the world. Deep underground, the earth is hot. If you drive a drill down into hard rock or shale, the drill bit gets hot.
Loy Sneary uses his "Green Machine" technology to capture some of the energy that is produced when hot meets cold. The machine moves hot well-water through one pipe next to one filled with a cooling fluid called refrigerant. The refrigerant boils, and steam is produced. This steam is used to make electricity. In fact, Loy Sneary says much of the technology works just like a steam turbine.
It is not just oil and gas wells that can provide waste heat for the Green Energy machines to use for electricity. The heat-recycling technology can work with solar energy collectors, coal-burning power plants and internal combustion engines. Loy Sneary says almost any industrial process that produces waste heat can produce power.
Last year, Loy Sneary connected his device to the boilers at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He used that system's waste heat to create electricity, helping to reduce the university's energy costs. Maria Richards is SMU's Geothermal Laboratory Coordinator. She says the lab's temperature maps help Loy Sneary find hot areas near oil drilling operations. Those areas are where he can deploy his machines.
The school and Gulf Coast Green Energy have worked together for several years. Maria Richards says there is a lot of heat in the Gulf Coast area. She says that made her group realize it could use that resource by working with the oil and gas wells. Loy Sneary is now negotiating with drillers in Texas and is working on a project in West Virginia. He also is looking at other states.
Find transcripts, MP3s and PDFs of our reports for e-readers at voaspecialenglish.com. For VOA Special English, I'm Mario Ritter. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 13Aug2012)