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Chevron tries solar enhanced-oil-recovery

Posted: 3 October 2011

Chevron Technology Ventures launched a unique demonstration project to test the viability of using solar energy to produce oil.

The project uses over 7,600 mirrors to focus the sun's energy onto a solar boiler. The steam produced is injected into oil reservoirs to increase oil production. The project is the largest of its kind in the world.

"Through this demonstration, we want to determine the feasibility of using solar power for enhanced oil recovery," said Desmond King, president of Chevron Technology Ventures.

"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."

One of America's oldest oil fields, the Coalinga Field began operations in the 1890s. Because the heavy crude oil produced at the field does not flow readily, it is more difficult to extract than lighter grades of crude.

Chevron enhances oil production from the Coalinga Field by injecting steam to heat the crude, thereby reducing its viscosity and making it easier to produce. This steam is currently generated by burning natural gas.

The solar-to-steam project will supplement the gas-fired steam generators and help determine the commercial viability of using heat from the sun instead of natural gas to generate steam.

"Our region has a long history of pioneering innovative technologies," said Bruce Johnson, vice president of Chevron's San Joaquin Valley business unit.

"The work we are doing at Coalinga continues that tradition, enabling us to examine a new technology that could have significant implications for heavy-oil production."

Chevron contracted BrightSource Energy, Inc., as the technology provider and for engineering, procurement and construction. The project will be operated by Chevron Technology Ventures.

Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV), a division of Chevron U.S.A Inc., champions innovation, commercialization and integration of emerging technologies and related new business models within Chevron. CTV is pursuing this goal through business units involving biofuels, emerging energy and venture capital.




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