Oil production overview
Three phases are involved during oil production: primary stage, secondary and tertiary. The tertiary phase is the one referred to as Enhanced Oil Recovery. The primary and secondary phases of oil production are inefficient and can leave approximately 75% of the oil inside the well.
The EOR method is applied to increase and boost oil recovery further. There are three major types of Enhanced Oil Recovery which include; gas injection, chemical flooding and thermal recovery. We shall focus on Solar Thermal Technology to see how it can be used to transform Enhanced Oil Recovery.
Solar Thermal Technology Enhanced Oil Recovery
Solar thermal energy is an excellent way to generate cheaper steam for Enhanced Oil Recovery. Solar thermal makes use of solar energy for heating a liquid medium which is then passed through an exchange thermal to produce steam.
The steam is then injected into a reservoir to minimize the oil viscosity hence allowing it to flow slowly on the surface. Solar EOR is a possible alternative to gas-based methods since the quality of steam it produces is equal to that of natural gas and has other benefits.
Solar thermal enhanced oil recovery is environmentally friendly compared to all the other gas-based methods. Various studies have proved that it can minimize EOR carbon emissions from 23.8 g which is the case for a gas set up to 0.1 g for a solar set up.
Although the initial investment could be demanding, the marginal cost of production for the solar setups is much less compared to the gas-based structures. They are also not affected by market fluctuation resulting from prices for the natural gas. They are therefore more economically viable for both short and long-term usage.
Solar thermal enhanced oil recovery implementation
Currently, two major solar EOR designs have already been implemented. One is for the BrightSource energy, and the other one is the GlassPoint solar. Looking at the two established solar designs, we can confidently affirm that solar thermal technology can be a solution to transform enhanced oil recovery.
Projecting the future
Economic viability is the fundamental determinant during the production of petroleum. Though projects utilizing solar for EOR has excellent environmental advantages, they will be fully adopted only after the oil producers find them equally or more economical than the gas based methods.
Although there is still a lot that has to be done to make sure this technology is widely used, the success of the GlassPoints facility is an excellent motivation to other oil producing companies. With continued research and great determination that is being portrayed through the investments done on pilot projects, there is hope for transforming the Enhanced Oil Recovery through Solar Thermal Technologies.