SOLAR PLANT TO ENHANCE OIL OUTPUT
Chevron building solar-steam plant
Braden Reddall (w/Phil Berlowitz and Bernard Orr), August 21, 2009 (Reuters)
"Chevron Corp is building a solar plant…to create the steam that boosts production at an aging California oilfield, in a pioneering project the company aims to replicate elsewhere if it works.
"Chevron outlined the previously undisclosed plan at a city council meeting in Coalinga, a city halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco that started as a coal outpost, boomed with oil gushers, and is now a potential solar energy hub."
The Chevron "enhanced oil recovery" concept - except that instead of a emissions-spewing fossil fuel power plant, this one will use emissions-free solar power. (click to enlarge)
"The second-largest U.S. oil company said the solar thermal plant, which will collect reflected sunlight from thousands of mirrors at a 323-foot (98-meter) tower where the water boils…Steam [now generated by burning natural gas] is injected into wells to heat up heavier oil and thus lower its viscosity to make it easier to extract…[The Coalinga field has had more than 90 percent of its oil extracted since its discovery in 1890, leaving plenty of work for steam injection]…
"Solar thermal company BrightSource Energy is partnering with Chevron on the project…[Construction will] begin this year [on the 100 acre, 7,000 mirror installation], with production slated to start by the end of 2010…[Although] solar thermal [may] never replace natural gas in steam production, it is an opportunity for Chevron to save energy while championing a technology pegged by some as a winner in the long run…"
A Brightsource Energy solar power tower plant. (click to enlarge)
"Chevron Technology Ventures, which sells solar power and energy efficiency services, studied the [parched flatland site nestled against hills on the western edge of California's agriculture-intensive Central Valley] for a year and a half before deciding it would cause a limited environmental impact and take advantage of the area's high solar radiation…
"While the Chevron project will not produce electricity, it is another vote of support for solar in an area that is near the grids of two big utilities, PG&E Corp's Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison…Both utilities have recently struck deals with Chevron partner BrightSource for large amounts of solar thermal power…[and] PG&E contracted with a unit of Portuguese conglomerate Martifer for 106.8 megawatts of power from both a solar thermal plant and natural gas produced by agricultural waste at plants near Coalinga -- also known for its cattle…"