Solar technology supplies steam to California EOR project

Guntis Moritis
OGJ Production Editor

HOUSTON, Feb. 24 -- The world’s first commercial thermal enhanced oil recovery project that uses solar steam generators went on line Feb. 24 at Berry Petroleum Co.'s heavy oil 21Z lease in McKittrick, Calif.

The project incorporates GlassPoint Solar’s single transit trough technology, specifically designed for rugged oil field environments. The solar facility uses a glasshouse enclosure to protect and seal the solar mirror from the elements, including dust, dirt, sand, and humidity.

GlassPoint said the protected environment allows for the use of ultralight, low-cost reflective materials.

Other features of its system noted by GlassPoint are:

• Creation of a protected environment, where high-performance, front-surface reflectors are now practical and durable for the first time.

• Automated washing equipment that eliminates manual cleaning and operator intervention, further reducing costs and water use as well as worker health and safety concerns.

• Elimination of multiple light transits through dirty glass, delivering higher real-world optical efficiency than today’s other solar systems.

• Efficient land use, offering the highest steam production per acre of any solar technology—five times more steam per acre than solar tower systems.

• Directly raising steam with standard oil field boiler feedwater, eliminating reboilers and expensive deionizing units required by older solar systems.

• Delivery of steam at a constant price for the entire 30-year life of the system.

GlassPoint built the solar unit in less than 6 weeks and estimates that its facililty on the 21Z lease will supply during the day about an average 1 million btu/hr of solar heat and replace 25-80% of the steam generated by gas-fired boilers on the lease.

In a February presentation, Berry Petroleum noted that it acquired the 21Z lease in 2009 and that it considered the development of the lease as a next generation heavy oil project. It said these projects have higher viscosity crude and will require higher steam-oil ratios and tighter spacing than traditional Midway-Sunset developments.

Berry completed a pilot on the 21Z lease in 2010 and has targeted a 50-well development program for the lease in 2011.

Contact Guntis Moritis at guntism@ogjonline.com.

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