Oil companies use solar, too. In fact, you will find that solar energy is widely used in oilfields these days where thousands of natural gas and oil wells are outfitted with small solar panels. These small solar panels power oilfield instrumentation, including automated natural gas meters, tank gauging sensors, remotely operated valves, H2S sensors, and telemetry equipment that sends data to company field offices.
The oil and gas industry also uses solar panels to power small injection pumps that pump anti-corrosion and deicing solutions into lines at remote well sites. In this manner, millions of dollars are saved each year. In these uses, solar really shines because they provide reliable electricity at remote locations where there are no expensive transmission lines which can cost thousands and thousands of dollars per mile to install.
Solar powered telemetry equipment saves the oil company money in other ways. Real-time monitoring of oil and gas wells using solar power technology exposes problems on the worksite immediately and allows companies to fine-tune production and quickly address any issues that may be causing the well to produce less oil or gas.
However, the most exciting use of solar in the oil fields is when it is used for steam-flooding an old field to boost production. Oil companies are using solar to remove oil from the ground in remote desert locations where many old oilfields lay idle in a process known as Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). In this manner, Chevron, along with other oil companies, extract heavy oil from the ground by generating steam using solar energy that flushes heavy crude out of declining wells. Thousands of flat mirrors reflect sunlight and create high-heat, high-pressure steam to extract the remaining oil from a field. The companies report that using solar powered steam injection for oil recovery is competitive with natural gas. Thousands and thousands of barrels of crude oil have been recovered in this way.
The way EOR works is that computer aligned mirrors track the sun and focus sunlight onto a thermal collector located on a tall tower which produces high-pressure, high-temperature steam. The steam flows through lines out to the oilfield where it is injected deep into the reservoir which releases the heavy oil due to the pressure and heat of the steam. A mixture of water, crude oil and natural gas bubbles to the surface where the crude oil and natural gas are purified and the water is recycled. This method of oil and gas production eliminates intrusive transmission lines or transportation of refined natural gas to sensitive and remote locations. In addition, solar pumpjacks are also coming on line that pump oil and gas from 7500 feet deep.
Furthermore, Solar Thermal Magazine gives credit to Chevron Energy Solutions as the United States’ “largest installer of institutional solar energy systems” because it has developed renewable power and energy-efficient projects for hundreds of institutions and businesses in the U.S. Keep it up Chevron!
See You Next Time! Dr. Stripling