Tech company turning natural gas flares into electricity in Eagle Ford
Clean energy technology being deployed and tested in the Eagle Ford Shale may soon change how oil companies think about natural gas flares.
Silicon Valley-based Alphabet Energy Inc. has installed two thermoelectric generators that convert waste heat from flares into electricity at a pair of oil wells in Dimmit County south of San Antonio.
Alphabet Energy Vice President of Marketing Mothusi Pahl told the Business Journal that the company’s power generating combustors provide on-site electric generation in remote locations and dramatically reduce natural gas emissions.
With oil companies paying a premium to get on-site power, Pahl said his company’s technology is cost-competitive with diesel generators and other power sources.
“It’s not uncommon for on-site power generation out in the oil patch where guys are paying the equivalent of over 20 cents per kilowatt hour compared to industrial sites where guys are paying 4 cents per kilowatt hour,” Pahl said.
Known as PGCs, the company’s mushroom-shaped generators are capped with dozens of circuit-sized thermoelectric modules that produce electricity by using temperature differences on hot and cold surfaces of two dissimilar materials to create a current.
Using the heat from natural gas burning between 600 to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, the generators can be scaled to produce between 2.5 to 12 kilowatts of electricity. That is enough to power field equipment such as lights, batteries, pumps, instrument air compressors and communications devices.
San Antonio-based exploration and production company BlackBrush Oil & Gas LP became Alphabet’s first customer in the Eagle Ford after agreeing to buy three units last year. Two of the generators are already in operation at two BlackBrush wells in Dimmit County. The third will be installed in the next few weeks.
So far, the equipment is holding up in the rugged South Texas brush where Pahl said the generators are allowing more natural gas to go to market while providing Alphabet with valuable field data to improve the next generation of combustors.