Austin-based Geothermix received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to establish new geothermal energy and heat production from abandoned oil and gas wells.

The company is among four projects selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to receive a total of $8.4 million.

The Department of Energy’s focus is to partner with existing well owners and operators to use their idle or unproductive wells to access geothermal energy. It’s part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of a carbon-free grid by 2035.

It’s also supporting the creation of clean energy jobs and helping to transition some of the oil and gas workforce to the production of renewable energy.

“With this initiative approach, we can transform existing fossil fuel wells into productive sources of sustainable, clean geothermal energy,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman said in a news release. “These efforts will demonstrate how to leverage our existing oil and gas workforce and infrastructure, bringing more geothermal energy online and transitioning our energy workforce into the growing clean energy economy.”

Geothermix is founded by Kirk Nuzum, a geologist in the oil and gas industry, and Mukul Sharma, a professor and chair in the department of petroleum and geosystems engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

Geothermix plans to conduct a field demonstration of a novel method to generate electricity from fluids produced at existing oil and gas facilities. Its goal is for thermoelectric generators using low-quality heat, that is currently wasted, to produce electricity with a near-zero carbon footprint.

“The successful development and implementation of this technology could have a transformational impact on the energy recovery rate in oil and gas installations,” according to the project proposal.

The Department of Energy also gave grants to ICE Thermal Harvesting of Houston, Transitional Energy of Aurora, Colorado and the University of Oklahoma at Norman.

The program is part of the Wells of Opportunity initiative, funded by the Geothermal Technologies Office, that launched in 2020 and focuses on bringing geothermal online using existing infrastructure to lower costs and reduce development timelines. It funded three projects in 2021.