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