May 17, 2020

Opposites Attract: Solar Powered Oil Wells

energy digital
heavy oil
heavy crude oil
crude oil
4 min
The beauty of solar and oil, working together
Heavy crude oil poses both a challenge and opportunity for the economics of petroleum development. Although there is more than twice as much heavy oil...


Heavy crude oil poses both a challenge and opportunity for the economics of petroleum development. Although there is more than twice as much heavy oil on the planet than conventional light crude oil, it is expensive and difficult to get out of the ground.

The traditional route of extracting heavy oil requires the purchase of expensive, natural gas to generate steam used to force oil to the surface of reservoirs. The operational costs of this process make it difficult for smaller companies to make a dent in the global market, and virtually impossible for other oil-rich parts of the world lacking the resources altogether.

In an oxymoronic pairing, GlassPoint Solar has developed a revolutionary oil recovery process that uses solar energy over natural gas to extract crude from the ground more efficiently. Called solar enhanced oil recovery (EOR), the system is relatively simple and easy to operate. Lightweight, 20-foot mirrors reflect light from the inside of a glasshouse onto water pipes that generate and inject steam into the wells.

GlassPoint Solar Technology:

In a speech at GlassPoint's premier 21Z Project Commissioning, US Congressman Kevin McCarthy acknowledged the odd and extraordinary benefits of solar and oil, working together. "As we bridge this gap to the next phase of energy, you cannot punish one energy for the benefit of another. The only way we're going to be able to get there is all of the above,” he said. “You can have a next generation enhancing a current generation."

According to GlassPoint Chief Executive Rod MacGregor, roughly 60 percent of the cost of operating a heavy oil field is from purchasing natural gas, while using solar to extract oil produces heat at half the price of burning natural gas. Additionally, making it cheaper to extract the oil means more of it can economically be pumped out and sold.


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"We are the first and only [company] that can produce heat at a lower cost than heat produced by burning natural gas," MacGregor told AOL in an interview earlier this year. "The amount of gas used worldwide for EOR is immense, [while] most heavy oil producing regions are also blessed with great sunshine. Steam for oil recovery is our whole business and we do it at a lower price than current methods."

With a plentiful supply of heavy crude oil and sunlight, some of America's oldest oil fields will be revitalized by utilizing GlassPoint's technology. Many of California's heavy oil wells are no longer under production, yet more than half of the oil that was originally there still remains, with more under the ground in the whole US than in the entire oil reserve in Saudi Arabia. With continued unrest in the Middle East, that kind of predictability of domestic production is vital, adds Rock Zierman, CEO of the California Independent Petroleum Association at the 21Z Commissioning.

Importing crude oil means exporting wealth, jobs and taxes, but reopening heavy oil fields operated by solar power will lead to an increase in jobs and profits on the domestic front. Solar EOR is also a viable solution for other parts of the world where natural gas is either too expensive or not readily available.

After GlassPoint's first commercial solar EOR project launched in February, Berry Petroleum can now extract heavier oil from its more a matured oil field in McKittrick, Calif. Soon to follow, GlassPoint won a contract to build a massive 7 MW solar EOR system for a national oil company in Oman, with more to come in 2012.

“Much of the world’s heavy oil is located in the Persian Gulf region, which has abundant sunshine,” Syham Bentouati, Corporate Technology Adviser for Petroleum Development Oman, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “In these locations, switching to solar saves gas for higher value applications like industrial development and export as LNG.”

GlassPoint may have been the pioneer of solar EOR this year, but others are quickly hopping onto the idea. BrightSource Energy recently launched the world's largest solar EOR project under Chevron in Coaling, Calif., and is expected to be finished this year. BrightSource claims that its plants cost less to build and operate more efficiently than other solar thermal plants. The company is actively developing over 4.2 GW of solar power, which will be enough to generate 1.5 million homes in upcoming years.

BrightSource Technology:  


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Jul 26, 2021

Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April

Dominic Ellis
3 min
Ofwat confirms levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue

Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.

The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.

Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.  

In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue. 

Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”  

There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:   

  1. Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps. 
  2. Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold. 
  3. Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice. 

Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.

Anita Dougall, CEO and Founding Partner at Sagacity, said Ofwat’s decision comes hot on the heels of Ofgem’s price cap rise in April.

"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.

"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."

United Utilities picks up pipeline award

A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.

The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.

“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.

Camus Energy secures $16m funding

Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent VenturesWave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.

As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.

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