US: Solar-enhanced oil recovery

04. October 2011 | Top News, Industry & Suppliers | By:  Shamsiah Ali-Oettinger

Solar energy's viability to more efficiently produce oil is being tested by Chevron Technology Ventures. BrightSource Energy is the technology provider and the company in charge of engineering, procurement and construction.

Chevron wants to use solar power to enhance oil extraction. Image: Chevron Corporation

The project utilises 3,822 mirror systems, or heliostats, each consisting of two 10 by 7 foot (approximately 3 by 2 meter) mirrors mounted to a 6 foot (approximately 1.8 meters) steel pole. There are 7,644 mirrors in total focused on a 327-foot-tall solar tower (approximately 99 meters). The mirrors track the sun, reflect the rays onto the solar tower receiver and the solar tower system produces steam that is distributed throughout the oil field and then injected underground.

Chevron sees this as an opportunity to enhance the oil production at the site by injecting steam to heat the crude, thereby reducing its viscosity and making it easier to produce. This steam is currently generated by burning natural gas. The solar option generates about the same amount of steam as one gas-fired steam generator.

The project is the largest of its kind in the world. One of the oldest oil fields in the US, the Coalinga Field is the test site. "Through this demonstration, we want to determine the feasibility of using solar power for enhanced oil recovery,"  says Desmond King, president of Chevron Technology Ventures. "This technology has the potential to augment gas-powered steam generation and may provide an additional resource in areas of the world where natural gas is expensive or not readily available".


To leave a comment you must first sign in or register your details

No comments

No comments have been submitted yet. Why not login or register and be the first?

Daily newsletter

Keep your finger firmly on the photovoltaic pulse: sign up for our daily newsletter

Magazine subscription

Choose between a digital and print subscription from pv magazine's online shop. A non-subscriber? Check out our sample articles.

Press releases

Want to publish your press releases for free? Simply log in or register, enter the information you want to appear and we'll publish it for you!