Chevron Technology Ventures launched a demonstration project at Coalinga field in Kern County, Calif., to test the viability of using solar energy to enhance heavy oil production. The project uses 7,644 mirrors to focus the sun’s energy onto a solar boiler on top of a 327-ft tower. The produced steam then is injected into wells at Coalinga.
The field has been producing oil since the 1890s.
The project includes 3,822 mirror systems, or heliostats, each consisting of two 10 by 7-ft mirrors mounted to a 6-ft steel pole. The mirrors track the sun and reflect its rays to a receiver on the solar tower. Using heat from the concentrated sunlight, the solar tower system produces the steam for injection.
The project covers 100 acres, with mirrors covering 65 acres and 35 acres devoted to support facilities.
“This technology has the potential to augment gas-powered steam generation and may provide an additional resource in areas of the world where natural gas is expensive or not readily available,” said Desmond King, Chevron Technology Ventures president.
The solar demonstration generates about the same amount of steam as one gas-fired steam generator.
Chevron contracted BrightSource Energy Inc. to provide the technology, engineering, procurement, and construction for the project.