Diane Pham

GlassPoint is Using Solar Power to Draw Oil From the Earth

by , 02/25/11
filed under: Renewable Energy

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Solar power and oil seem like two contradictory terms, but GlassPoint has found a way to bring these two elements to create what is without question an unlikely alliance. Just last Thursday, the company unveiled a pilot facility that would use the latest solar technology to draw oil out of an old field located in Kern County, California. While the new method would be far less energy-intensive that conventional methods of pulling oil from the ground, we can’t help but be befuddled by the idea of using clean energy to provide inventory for a dirty one.

Drawing petroleum from the ground is typically driven by a process that involves heated natural gas. GlassPoints’ system however uses the sun to heat water to create 750-degree-Fahrenheit steam, which will seep into the underground rock. Once there, it will reduce the viscosity of the thick crude oil residing in the well and allow for easy extraction.

GlassPoint claims that its pilot plant is the only solar oil removal mechanism around. At the moment, about 40% of the oil drawn by the state relies on the natural gas method, and the company believes that it could cover 80% of that, with the possibility of providing cheaper rates. The company also sees this new technology being used in the oil fields of the Middle East.

Currently, the test facility sits on less than an acre and took just seven weeks to be built. Moreover, the structure was features a glass greenhouse over reflective troughs that have been made with lightweight aluminum foil that can concentrate sunlight to make steam.

+ GlassPoint Solar

via LA Times

Photo: © Nestor Galina

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5 Comments

  1. NexGenConstruction March 2, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    NexGen Construction, a Long Beach solar installer, is dedicated to helping you save money and the environment. We specialize in solar installations for residential and commercial customers. Visit our website for a free estimate and to learn more about solar: http://www.NexGenConstruction.com/

  2. lazyreader February 28, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Irony rulez.

  3. John Craig February 28, 2011 at 1:28 am

    I had to laugh. I was the solar energy software engineer in the 80′s there in Kern County (near Taft actually) on an enhanced oil recovery project. My software controlled a field of solar energy heliostats to heat steam in a central receiver tower to warm the underground oil. What goes around comes around. More power to them!

  4. WBrooke February 25, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    I guess given the choice between using natural gas to make steam to produce the oil, or using solar energy to make the steam, I would choose the solar. This is one of the crazy things about oil. This liquid form of energy is so valuable that from a financial perspective it makes perfect sense to exhaust one non-renewable resource (natural gas) to produce another non-renewable energy resource (oil). If we are going to continue using oil, I would prefer that it be produced as cleanly as possible.

  5. caeman February 25, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    “…we can’t help but be befuddled by the idea of using clean energy to provide inventory for a dirty one.”

    To lower/remove an electric bill? To run one less cable to each rig? It increases long-term profits?

    Not so hard to understand, really, just think like a business that is trying to stay in business.

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