Enhanced Oil Recovery Using Solar Energy

Crude oil and solar power are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to environmentally friendly energy sources, but solar energy is making inroads in reducing the impact of extraction of the fossil fuel and extending the economic life of aging oil fields
  
Late last week, U.S. company GlassPoint Solar unveiled the world’s first commercial solar power enhanced oil recovery project in Kern County, California.
  
Kern County’s oil wells have been producing crude oil for well over a century, but most of the easily accessible reserves have already been tapped and now require other methods to extract what remains. Steam is sometimes used to help squeeze out the last drops, but this is an energy and emissions intensive process usually requiring the burning of natural gas to generate the steam.
  
GlassPoint says its technology can deliver steam at a fraction of the cost of gas-fired steam using solar energy, delivering up to 80 percent of total annual enhanced oil recovery project needs. 
  
GlassPoint’s solution encloses the solar technology in a glasshouse structure, to protect against contaminants such as dust, dirt, sand and humidity.
  
The company says its Single Transit Trough (STT) solution allows for high-performance, front-surface reflectors made from ultralight, low-cost reflective materials to be used for the first time. The solar steam generator uses standard oilfield boiler feedwater and unlike older solar system designs, does not require “reboilers” or deionizing units. The system boasts the highest steam production per hectare of any solar technology – five times more than solar tower systems
  
Constructed in under 6 weeks, the Kern County 21Z Solar Project will produce approximately 1 million BTU’s per hour of solar-derived heat. GlassPoint expects the economic benefits of its solution will spur on the adoption of solar enhanced oil recovery within the USA and internationally.