Paris Smalls and Ammar Alali, co-founders of Eden GeoPower, met in an earth structure course as Geophysics graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The two MIT students shared a common interest in combining Geothermal, which Paris has experience working in the Geothermal vent fields of Yellowstone National Park, with the oil and gas industry, where Ammar has worked as a data scientist for Saudi Aramco for 5+ years. The two then decided to pursue a novel concept for generating cheap geothermal electricity utilizing abandoned oil and gas wells, leading to a placement as finalist in the 2017 MIT Clean Energy Prize and the incorporation of Eden GeoPower.

The focus of Eden GeoPower is on geothermal heat, a renewable resource that has the potential to provide energy at a price below 3 cents per kWh. Geothermal power generation harnesses the naturally occurring heat beneath the earth’s crust to run a power cycle, eliminating the need to rely on expensive and pollutant methods like burning fossil fuels for power generation. “After in-depth research, we developed a technology that allows us to leverage the fluid and steam from a reservoir to operate a renewable power cycle without heat depletion of the reservoir,” says Smalls.

The Stratagem

The firm patented new technologies to use the latent heat in non-producing oil wells to operate a supercritical power cycle running within the wellbore. In this design, hot brine is pulled from deep within the reservoir. The hot brine then interacts with a second working fluid with a much lower boiling point in a downhole heat exchanger (DHE). As the working fluid changes phase, it passes through a turbine-generator assembly placed in the well, generating electricity. The increase of hydrostatic pressure with depth in the wellbore allows the system to run in a supercritical power cycle with a much higher efficiency than what can be achieved in a traditional, hot brine-to-surface binary cycle design.

The Problem with Legacy Systems

Current Geothermal power generation methods require a two-well system, which adds complexity to the power plant design and increases capital costs.

We developed a new utilization of abandoned oil and gas resources to provide MW’s of clean renewable electricity across the globe

Understanding these shortcomings, the team at Eden GeoPower developed a system that involves a single well acting as both a producer and injector, eliminating the need for a two well system (injector and producer) found in conventional geothermal systems. The systems also operate to offset the power demand during peak consumption times, resulting in enhanced grid flexibility when compared with intermittent renewable energy technologies like wind and solar. “The patented technology used in this system will avoid thermal depletion and provide a full retrievable system that can run up to 30 years,” adds Smalls.

Currently, the company is working with a partner company in California to use abandoned geothermal wells for power production, and aims to leverage their technology to produce up to 1.5 MW of power per well. The company is also working towards partnering with governments across the globe on retrofitting wells to provide sources of low cost and reliable electricity, as well as on projects to desalinate water, in abandoned oil wells, and frack wells using a newly developed electric impulse method.

Founded by graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Eden GeoPower is developing technology to transform low-grade heat from depleted oil and gas reservoirs into geothermal power while utilizing existing infrastructure, cutting costs for a geothermal project by close to 60 percent. “Eden GeoPower’s creative thinking is the key to the promising future of the industry,” concludes Smalls.