California-based solar thermal technology company, GlassPoint Solar, announced in December that it completed a new round of funding from a group of investors including Royal Dutch Shell. The company is currently building the first solar-enhanced oil recovery (EOR) plant in Oman in the Middle East. The company’s solar steam technology will use solar power to generate steam to boost production of oil from aging oil fields.
GlassPoint designs glass-house structures that enclose parabolic troughs or pipes. Solar collectors made from ultra-light, low-cost reflective materials focus sunlight onto the steel pipes that contain water. The equipment is designed to protect the solar collectors from dirt, dust, sand and humidity. High-pressure steam is injected underground to heat up the oil and make it less sticky. Traditionally, natural gas is used to heat the steam, but GlassPoint’s new approach to EOR will cut down on the amount of natural gas used, critical in areas where it is a scarce commodity.
In a news release, GlassPoint said that other investors included RockPort Capital, Nth Power and Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital. The additional Series B funding, totaling $26 million, will allow the company to expand its operations in Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. All three countries have significant heavy crude oil deposits.
On GlassPoint’s website, the benefits of solar EOR include a reduction in fuel costs, maximization of natural gas value, the recovery of more oil, and the stimulation of local economy. The company has plans to build manufacturing equipment in countries where it can obtain contracts to reduce oil production costs.
In an article at Bloomberg.com, GlassPoint CEO, Rod McGregor, was quoted, saying, “Shipping costs make a big part of our total costs and by moving production to the Gulf area, we will serve more and support local economies.” According to McGregor, Oman uses 22 percent of its total natural gas output to generate steam and pump more oil from the ground.
Last year, GlassPoint launched the world’s first commercial solar EOR project at a 100-year-old oil field operated by Berry Petroleum in McKittrick, California.