Geothermal Deep Direct Use for Turbine Inlet Cooling in East Texas

Craig Turchi, Joshua Dominic McTigue, Sertac Akar, Koenraad Beckers, Maria Richards, Cathy Chickering, Joseph Batir, Harrison Schumann, Tom Tillman, David Slivensky

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Southern Methodist University Geothermal Laboratory (SMU), Eastman Chemical (Longview, TX), and TAS (Houston, TX) evaluated the feasibility of using geothermal heat to improve the performance of a natural-gas power plant in East Texas. The area of interest is the Eastman Chemical plant in Longview, Texas, which is on the northwestern margin of a geologic region known as the Sabine Uplift. The feasibility study focused on determining the potential for accessing a subsurface hot-water geothermal resource within a 10-km radius of the site to provide thermal energy for absorption chillers. Wells within a 20-km radius are included for broader geological comparison to determine the heat flow, temperature-at-depth, field porosity and permeability. The lithologies of most interest are the Lower Cretaceous Trinity Group and Upper Jurassic Cotton Valley Group. The deeper Cotton Valley formations are hotter (averaging 117 to 130 degrees C), yet permeability and porosity are low. The shallower Trinity Group contains more variability in permeability and porosity and lower temperatures averaging about 98 to 117 degrees C. The shallower formations are considered despite the lower temperature because of increased ability to produce larger volumes of water and extract enough heat before reinjection. The complete SMU analysis is available in the National Geothermal Data System (NGDS). Tapping such deep geothermal sources for direct heating (as opposed to power generation) is known as geothermal deep direct use (DDU). Geothermal DDU has potential across a wide swath of the United States but is underutilized due to challenging project economics associated with developing a deep geothermal resource for what are typically small-scale, variable-demand projects. This project examines the feasibility of geothermal energy integration in a natural-gas combined cycle power station in East Texas. The DDU resource is tapped to drive absorption chillers (24/7) for production of chilled water at 5-10 degrees C (41-50 degrees F). This chilled water is stored until needed, which allows for continuous operation with a relatively small-capacity geothermal/absorption chiller system. When conditions are favorable, the chilled water is dispatched to cool the air entering the compressor stage of a gas combustion turbine. This process, known as turbine inlet cooling (TIC), boosts power production during periods of high temperature and high-power demand. Such systems can enhance grid reliability and reduce the cost for peak-demand power. A simulation model of the power plant was developed in IPSEpro software and validated against operational data from the plant. This model allowed the team to estimate the additional power that could be produced by applying TIC under different operating and ambient conditions. Absorption chiller performance was estimated from vendor sources to determine the production rate of chilled water from the geothermal resource. Geothermal drilling and development costs were estimated using NREL's GEOPHIRES 2.0. The expected lower drilling costs in this region led to an estimated cost of geothermal heat of about $4/MMBtu (1.4 cents/kWht). The estimated cost for the absorption chillers and TIC hardware were obtained from literature sources and project partners. Hourly data were obtained for weather, natural gas and electricity prices, and plant operating state for 2017, which served as a representative year. NREL estimated the capital cost, operating cost, and additional electricity production and revenue for different combinations of geothermal capacity, chiller capacity, and water storage-tank size. The analysis drove toward smaller geothermal and chiller systems to reduce equipment cost. A relatively low-cost water storage tank accumulated the near-continuous chilled water output for later use when TIC was most valued.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages62
StatePublished - 2020

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5500-74990


  • absorption chiller
  • deep direct use
  • geothermal
  • turbine inlet cooling


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