Production at a Middle Eastern oil field is getting a boost from solar-powered enhanced oil recovery (EOR), thanks to technology developed by a U.S.-based company.
With easy oil resources already tapped an global energy demand set to rise thanks to economic and population growth – with Exxon Mobil Corp. forecasting 35 percent growth in global energy demand from 2010 to 2040 – companies such as Royal Dutch Shell plc and Chevron Corp. have turned to EOR techniques, including solar EOR, a form of thermal EOR, to boost recovery of oil resources from maturing fields.
The oil and gas industry recovers an average of around 35 percent of oil from reservoirs, leaving the rest trapped in the rock, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Resources to Reserves 2013. Even a one percent increase in the average recovery factor could add more than 80 billion barrels, or six percent, to global proven oil reserves, a IEA spokesperson told Rigzone, IEA noted.
Glass Point Technology Boosts Oil Recovery, Saves on Gas, Costs
To address the high capital costs associated with solar, Fremont, California-based Glass Point Solar Inc. created the Enclosed Trough solar field, in which curved aluminum mirrors – used in place of solar panels – and an aiming system and other vulnerable components contained inside a commercial glasshouse structure typically used in agriculture.
The Enclosed Trough solar field harnesses solar power production that boosts oil recovery while reducing the amount of natural gas consumed in the process and carbon dioxide emitted by up to 80 percent.
The mirrors track the sun during the day, focusing sunlight on a stationary boiler tube containing water. The sun's heat then boils water in a stationary boiler tube that produces high pressure steam used to boost oil production. The temperature of the steam is set by the requirements of the formation and low-cost distribution; power generation generally uses higher temperature superheated steam.
By using solar steam generators during the day and fuel-fired steam generators at night, the amount of gas burned to generate steam for EOR is reduced. Glass Point also reduced the high capital costs normally associated with solar fields by using a mass-produced glasshouse for low volume, custom designed solar components.
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