GlassPoint Uses Solar Mirrors to Loosen Dirty Oil in Oman

GlassPoint Solar, Greenhouse, CSP, solar energy, oil, Oman, clean techCalifornia-based GlassPoint Solar has installed an unconventional concentrating solar power (CSP) plant in Oman. Comprised of rows of six meter tall steel mirrors encased in glass boxes that look and in some ways act like greenhouses, this 7MW pilot project uses clean technology to extract dirty fossil fuels.

Commissioned by Petroleum Development Oman, GlassPoint has applied technology similar to that used by Areva and Abengoa to generate electricity, except there are a few fundamental differences.

Like conventional solar thermal plants, the mirrors focus sunlight onto pipes that contain water to produce the steam. But instead this to drive a turbine and generate clean energy, the steam is injected underground with a high pressure system to loosen up and thin oil so that it can be extracted more efficiently.

Two distinct advantages separate this technology from that of its competitors: first the glass case surrounding the concentrating mirrors shields the solar array from wind, sand and sun, increasing its efficiency.

It can also function perfectly well with dirty water, unlike normal plants that require pure water to run their systems, thereby mitigating the expense of wastewater treatment facilities. Given the project’s location amid sand dunes, this latter quality should prove especially useful.

In addition to reducing costs, being able to use polluted water from the oil field slashes the plant’s water footprint – an oft criticized downside to CSP systems.

GlassPoint Solar announced its receipt of a $26 million capital infusion from Shell, RockPort Capital, Nth Power and Chrysalix Energy Venture that will be used to hire more staff and grow the relatively new Fremont-based company, Giga Om reports.

This is GlassPoint’s first project in the Middle East. Previously the firm built a 300 KW system for California’s Berry Petroleum, but since the Gulf exports the bulk of the world’s crude oil, it makes sense to target companies in the region. This plant will set an important precedent.

CEO Rod MacGregor told Giga Om that the pilot project is “crucial to validate its concentrating solar thermal technology.”

Once online, which should happen by the end of December, the pilot project is expected to produce up to 50 tons of steam each day.

:: Giga Om

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