Thursday, August 27, 2009

Extracting oil with solar power

We know that oil and water do not mix. Never have, never will. Many of us thought the same holds true for fossil fuels and renewable energy -- inherently incompatible. Well, apparently that's not the case based on a recent (and surprising) announcement that a company called BrightSource plans to construct a massive solar thermal project at a California oil field that will provide heat to aid in the extraction of oil.

There is, of course the Beatrice project -- the Scottish offshore wind demonstration that has two offshore wind turbines providing electricity to an adjoining oil platform. But that's just a demonstration -- the full-scale project would provide electricity to ratepayers via the grid.

These examples are worth keeping in mind as we hopefully continue to advance towards a clean energy economy. The fossil and nuclear energy industries will not bow out quietly. In fact, it's obvious that they are willing to co-opt renewables to help with their bottom lines and public images. (GW)

Chevron and BrightSource team up to extract oil with solar power

Unlikely partnership will see 29MW solar thermal plant installed at Californian oil field

25 Aug 2009

They might make for pretty unlikely bed fellows in the eyes of many environmentalists, but that has not stopped solar energy firm BrightSource Energy and oil giant Chevron teaming up to work on an innovative new project to extract oil using solar power.

Under the new proposals, solar thermal specialist BrightSource is to install more than 7,000 mirrors and a 323ft tower at Chevron's oil field in central California as part of a 29MW solar thermal plant.

However, unlike conventional solar thermal plants where the mirrors focus the sun's rays on a central tower in order to create steam that then drives a turbine, the resulting steam from the Chevron plant will be injected into wells to heat up the oil and make it easier to extract.

According to Reuters' reports, Chevron unveiled the plans late last week at a city council meeting in Coalinga, California.

Sergio Hoyos, a business developer at Chevron Technology Ventures, which is also an investor in BrightSource, said that construction work on the 100 acre site would begin before the end of the year with a goal of completing the plant by the end of 2010.

The company said that the pilot project would replace some of the steam currently generated using natural gas, and if successful it could provide a model for similar projects at other oil fields.

The project will also add another string to the bow of BrightSource, which has emerged as one of the leading players in the fast-expanding US solar thermal market after signing 2.6GW worth of deals to sell power from planned solar plants to Californian utilities.


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