Last November, Rod MacGregor, the CEO of innovative GlassPoint Solar approached oil drillers in the Middle East to offer Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) using solar, and returned with no orders. This week, he is announcing the fruit of the mission. His first MENA contract will be with Oman’s 60% government-owned partnership with the Shell Group, Petroleum Development Oman.
MacGregor offered GlassPoint Solar’s solar technology to help extract the last few drops of oil from oil fields, replacing natural gas. At the time of his first approach, his technology was similar to that of other solar thermal companies, there was no mention of encasing the installation in a glasshouse.
But, on his return home, he came up with an additional protection from the dust and dirt that so often accompanies the ideal solar conditions of the desert, and immediately won a contract from California’s Berry Petroleum oil field.
MacGregor’s innovation was to enclose the entire installation in a glasshouse. This is a huge advance, protecting the moving parts of the solar system from dirt, dust, sand, and humidity, extending the life and lowering the cost of depreciating equipment.
GlassPoint Solar’s Oman installation will also be inside a glasshouse structure like the California installation, enclosing their single transit trough (STT) technology inside the protection of a glasshouse structure, but it will be on a far more gigantic scale.
Twenty seven times larger than the system installed in California, the solar installation in the Sultanate will span more than four acres, and will steadily hiss out 11 tons per hour of super-high pressure steam (at 1,450 psi) at super-hot temperatures at 312˚C – 562˚F.
As a fuel-free energy source, solar is looking increasingly enticing to post-peak oil nations to supply the steam flooding needed on oil sites to push out those last precious drops of fossil fuels. Solar thermal technology can largely replace the massive amounts of natural gas that is currently used to generate steam. But GlassPoint has found the way to make solar thermal for this purpose actually cheaper than gas.
“GlassPoint’s solar steam generators have the potential to release valuable natural gas for use in higher-value applications within the Sultanate,” says Dr Syham Bentouati, the Corporate Technology Advisor to Oman’s government.
With this order, MacGregor’s innovation is paying off. He has long approached the industries that need steam heat. Steel smelters, food processors, sustainable gypsum board manufacturers. And then oil drillers.
By protecting its lightweight sun-tracking reflective mirrors inside a glass building, GlassPoint Solar has broken the solar thermal cost barrier, making it possible to produce steam with solar at a lower price than natural gas.