Resource Characterization to Estimate Potential for Electricity Co-Production at Blackburn Oil Field, Nevada

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that an annual average of 25 billion barrels of hot water are produced from oil and gas wells within the United States. The thermal energy available in the co-produced water stream is usually discarded, as the produced waters are considered an inconvenience by the operators and are disposed of using injection wells. However, utilizing organic Rankine cycle (ORC) generators, a vast amount of thermal energy can be captured and converted into electricity (albeit at relatively low efficiency due to the low temperatures). The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in collaboration with Transitional Energy and Grant Canyon Oil & Gas, evaluated the feasibility of geothermal co-production of electricity by utilizing existing oil wells in Blackburn oil field in Nevada. The once prolific Blackburn oil field is located in Pine Valley, approximately 45 miles east-southeast of Elko, Nevada. Currently, the wells targeting the highly fractured Devonian Nevada dolomite reservoir are operating at a water cut ratio of more than 99%, with individual fluid (oil and water) production rates reaching 7.4 L/s (4,021 BBL/day). Analysis of publicly available data showed that the combination of the suitable wells' maximum historical production rates reached 22.90 L/s. The production from these wells occurs naturally and the wells are choked (and even shut down) by the operator to mitigate excessive water production, indicating a strong reservoir recharge and future opportunity to increase the water production for geothermal electricity generation. The main goal of this study was to evaluate the productivity of the existing wells, the performance of the reservoir, the surface network, and the operational constraints in order to achieve 1 MWe of electricity production from the field's water production. Utilizing the GEOPHIRES tool, we have determined that a twofold to threefold increase in the total fluid production, compared to the historical production under artificial restraint (choke), is required to reach a 1-MWe net target output for a low-temperature ORC system with air-cooled condensers. Lower flow rates would be required when utilizing water-based condensers instead of air-cooled condensers. However, that would require a constant supply of cold water, which may be challenging given the arid environment of the project site.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages17
StatePublished - 2023
Event2023 Geothermal Rising Conference - Reno, Nevada
Duration: 1 Oct 20234 Oct 2023


Conference2023 Geothermal Rising Conference
CityReno, Nevada

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5700-87263


  • Blackburn
  • co-production
  • Nevada
  • organic Rankine cycle
  • resource characterization
  • wells of opportunity


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