Not a Myth: Solar Power Used for Oil Extraction


Icarus failed to escape with his father from Crete because he flew too close to the sun. Now, some oil companies are now hoping that getting closer to the sun will bring them success.

Typically the extraction of heavy oil requires a tremendous amount of natural gas to create the steam needed to bring the oil to the surface. Seeking a different means to extract the precious commodity, GlassPoint Solar is using the power of the sun.

GlassPoint's solar enhanced oil recovery (EOR) utilizes large mirrors that are put in a glasshouse and reflect the sun on water-containing pipes. The water in the pipes becomes the steam that is used in the oil extraction.

A switch to this technology could potentially lead to significantly reduced operating costs as GlassPoint Chief Executive Rod MacGregor says that 60 percent of the cost of operating a heavy oil field is for the purchase of natural gas.

"Burning the product you're trying to produce is not that efficient, to say the least," MacGregor told AOL Energy.

GlassPoint isn't the only company out there harnessing Helios' chariot of the sun to get oil from the ground.

BrightSource Energy Inc. has been working in California with Chevron – the second largest oil company in the U.S. – to bring solar power into the oil industry. BrightSource's method is not incredibly different from GlassPoints, with mirrors being used to focus the sun's power on solar tower, where steam is created, reports Bloomberg.

Chevron Technology Ventures President Desmond King said there is a great amount of potential in the technology.

"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," he said in a statement.