Convert Gas Flaring Heat to Power Using Thermoelectric Material

Gas flaring is burning off the natural gas during oil and gas drilling and production to release pressure, a common practice followed in petroleum refineries, chemical plants, and natural gas processing plants. Around 3.5% of the world’s natural-gas supply is burnt, this is a complete waste but sometimes gas flaring becomes mandatory to keep the safety and health of the equipments. Off late North Dakota’s Bakken Shale has become a major oil and gas producing region in the United States. This region looks like New York City from the sky at night time with bright light dots are seen and it is nothing but gas flaring by oil and gas companies.

Alphabet Energy a company based in California has developed a technology that uses the heat generated from gas flaring to generate electricity – a flare combustor – Power Generating Combustor as it is named. Alphabet Energy says this product is very useful to oil and gas producers and transmitters as they have hundreds of combustors per state installed to handle all of the excess gas generating out of their extensive operations. This device has a regular flare combustor made by combustion tech firm Coyote North, under the cap of Alphabet Energy on it. This Power Generating Combustor has attracted many investors including oil service companies like Schlumberger, global private investor TPG, and GM Ventures, who are interested in using the technology.

Thermoelectric materials generate electricity while in a temperature gradient. Scientists from all over the world have been working on developing thermoelectric materials for a very long time, most of them have used rare and expensive materials and hence are too expensive to be used widely in commercial applications. Alphabet Energy’s secret lies in a thermoelectric material developed by them. PowerBlocks™ is a material that can convert heat into electricity. “PowerBlocks™ are the first low-cost, highly efficient thermoelectric materials: silicon or tetrahedrite, and are the first thermoelectrics to use light elements which are abundant and low cost. PowerBlocks™ have been tested by third parties and verified to be the most efficient thermoelectric materials ever made for waste heat recovery”, claims Alphabet Energy.

Alphabet Energy has developed and mastered Modular Thermoelectric Technology. PowerBlocks™ are assembled into PowerModules™ which generate electricity from an exhaust source. PowerModules™ design has patented hot and cold-side heat exchangers, advanced interfaces and highly specialized geometries. They are strong, reliable, and the first and only upgradable thermoelectric modules. The company today has over 60 patents issued and filed. It has modular, scalable approach to waste heat recovery, delivering both PowerModules™ and turnkey thermoelectric generators such as the E1™ .

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