GlassPoint PDO 16

Integrating renewables into the oil and gas industry has become more common especially as the industry turns to production from heavy crude. Outside of the United States, natural gas is not cheap and abundant and so the oil industry’s reliance on power generated from natural gas places limitation on growth. GlassPoint, a company with solar steam generation technology specific to the oil and gas industry, has commissioned the building and operation of the Middle East’s largest solar Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) plant in Oman that uses solar generated steam for production. This demonstration plant’s success, production of 50 tons of solar steam per day, was documented in two papers recently published outlining the specifications of the project.

The demonstration plant in Oman is a partnership between GlassPoint and Petroleum Development Oman (PDO). For Oman, where 22% of the country’s natural gas is used for EOR thus limiting the fuel’s availability for industrial growth, successfully deploying solar technology would allow the government to redirect natural gas and grow industry to bring jobs to the region. PDO is now looking to further deploy this technology.

GlassPoint’s technology uses an Enclosed Trough system to protect the solar concentrating technology. Because of its unique application, GlassPoint “has to put the plant wherever the company wants to produce oil…and so the sites are often very windy and very dusty,” according to their VP of Engineering, Ben Bierman. The greenhouse-like structure provides protection from harsh conditions. By enclosing solar concentrators in an agricultural-like greenhouse, GlassPoint creates a protected, zero-wind environment enabling the use of low-cost materials and allowing the system to operate in extreme weather successfully.

Bierman told Breaking Energy that this solar steam generation technology allows true flexibility in location for oil and gas companies. With this almost self-sufficient solar steam generation (the system replaces up to 80% of the natural gas used), production relies less on the availability of natural gas in the chosen location, and allows companies in many places to produce steam for as little as half of the cost of natural gas-derived steam.

Typically solar concentrating technologies are used for power generation, but applying this to to the oil and gas industry provides an interesting option for the future of EOR as well as a promising new direction for the concentrated solar power industry. Of course it does not address petroleum dependence but it does change the dynamics of production.