Chevron building solar-steam plant  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

Reuters reports that Chevron is building a solar thermal plant to provide heat for advanced oil recovery - Chevron building solar-steam plant

Chevron Corp is building a solar plant here 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 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, will replace some steam production now powered by natural gas.

Steam is injected into wells to heat up heavier oil and thus lower its viscosity to make it easier to extract.

Solar thermal company BrightSource Energy is partnering with Chevron on the project, which will employ BrightSource's technology. A spokesman for Oakland, California-based BrightSource would not comment on the terms of that deal.

Sergio Hoyos, a business developer at Chevron Technology Ventures, said construction of the Coalinga plant would begin this year, with production slated to start by the end of 2010.

"The only problem we have is when it's cloudy," he said to a few laughs at the city council meeting on Thursday night.

Although he said solar thermal could 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.

Just this week, German solar thermal company Solar Millennium AG and plant builder MAN Ferrostaal AG announced that they have joined forces to capture a chunk of the growing U.S. solar thermal power market.

The Coalinga plant will cover 100 acres of Chevron-owned land with more than 7,000 mirrors. Hoyos said Chevron would consider deploying the solar thermal system, which will be the first of its kind to produce steam for oil production, at larger fields if it is successful.

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