Solar EOR

  • What is Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR)?

    Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) is a set of techniques used by oil producers throughout the world to increase the rate and total amount of oil production. By injecting steam, chemicals or gas into a reservoir, EOR can increase production rates and total production many-fold compared to traditional primary and secondary recovery methods.

    The most common and proven form of EOR is thermal EOR, which injects high-pressure steam deep into an oil reservoir. The steam heats the formation and reduces the viscosity of crude oil, which improves oil flow to production wells.

  • What effect does EOR have on oil supply?

    The world’s easy oil has already been recovered. Production from existing reservoirs is declining and developing new resources is becoming increasingly complex and expensive. EOR is the most economical way to increase the world’s oil supply. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), EOR deployed worldwide could unlock more than 300 billion barrels of oil.

    California currently produces about 40% of its oil using EOR—and will grow to more than 50% in the next few years.

  • What are proven reserves?
    Proven reserves are a measure of the amount of oil that can be economically recovered from an oil well. The lower the costs of heavy oil production, the more oil operators can economically extract from existing wells.
  • What is solar EOR?
    Thermal EOR requires very large amounts of thermal energy. Large amounts of fuel are needed to generate steam for EOR projects. Solar EOR replaces fuel use with solar energy. A field of solar reflectors concentrate the sun’s thermal energy on water to produce steam at the same quality and temperature as fuel-fired steam. In sunny locations, solar steam can provide up to 80% of an EOR project’s annual steam requirements, reducing fuel use without impacting production rates.
  • What are the main advantages of solar EOR?
    Solar EOR reduces EOR fuel costs and helps operators hedge against fuel price volatility. Lower, stable costs for steam improve the economics of oil production. In many oil-producing countries, a shortage of natural gas puts EOR operations in direct competition with industrial development and other economic needs. GlassPoint’s solar steam solution can reduce the gas usage of EOR projects by up to 80%. This gas can be applied to other industries, such as electricity generation, desalination or even export as LNG, boosting total economic activity.
  • How can solar EOR increase proven reserves?
    Solar steam generators are simple and reliable, eliminating 60% of the operating cost of a thermal EOR operation. Once installed, solar steam generators deliver steam for 30 years at very low operating costs. This low-cost long-term steam supply extends the life of existing wells, allowing economic production further down the decline curve. With an optimized solar steaming strategy, more oil can be economically recovered throughout the field’s lifetime. More recoverable oil equals higher proven reserves.
  • Why hasn’t solar EOR been deployed more to date?
    Solar EOR was proven as an effective steaming strategy in the 1980s, but high costs associated with older solar thermal technologies have hindered wide-scale deployment. GlassPoint’s technological innovation has created the first solar thermal architecture to produce steam for lower cost than steam produced by natural gas.
  • What happens when the sun doesn’t shine?

    Solar steam production depends on local sun resources, which vary by the time of day and season. To maintain constant-rate steam delivery to the reservoir, GlassPoint’s technology works in tandem with a field’s existing gas-fired steam generators to supply solar steam during the day and gas-fired steam at night. Automated control systems shift between the two sources to maintain desired steaming levels without operator intervention.

    Recent studies have shown that oil producers can vary the rate of steam injection around the day by steaming more during the day with low-cost solar steam, and less at night when the sun isn’t shining. This strategy, known as variable-rate steam injection, has been shown to deliver the same oil production as constant-rate injection. Without increased facility costs, variable-rate injection can significantly increase the solar fraction of an EOR project. Solar steam can deliver up to 80% of a field’s total annual steam needs, with fuel-fired steam providing the balance.

    The resulting deep reductions in fuel use can significantly improve the value of thermal recovery projects in sunny regions.

  • What third-party resources are available on solar EOR?

    Raymond James analysts have published two reports on the solar EOR market. The first, published in February 2011, assesses the United States market and the economics of GlassPoint’s solution. The second, released in August 2011, examines the potential for solar EOR in the Middle East.

    Two Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) studies on the economics and technical impacts of solar steam have been published: April 2010 – The Impact of Daily and Seasonal Cycles in Solar-Generated Steam on Oil Recovery; and March 2012: Solar-Generated Steam for Oil Recovery: Reservoir Simulation, Economic Analysis, and Life Cycle Assessment.

  • What are the environmental benefits of solar EOR?
    GlassPoint’s solar EOR solution produces emissions-free steam, eliminating all nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate emissions, and CO2 associated with fuel combustion. Emission-free steam lowers operators’ risk to carbon legislation and can sidestep permitting constraints, enabling producers to expand production amidst increasingly strict regulatory hurdles.

The Company

  • What does GlassPoint do? Who are your customers?
    GlassPoint manufactures solar steam generators for the global oil and gas industry. We partner with leading independent producers, national oil companies and oil majors, delivering the lowest-cost solar steam for enhanced oil recovery (EOR).
  • What markets is GlassPoint pursuing?
    GlassPoint targets heavy oil-extracting regions with ample sunshine. Today, that includes the Arabian Gulf, North America, specifically Southern California, North Africa, Western China, and Madagascar.
  • Can solar EOR be used in the Canadian oil sands?
    Though technically feasible, high sun irradiation is required for solar EOR to be economically viable. Locations with heavy oil operations and an average of more than 300 sunny days per year include California, Texas, North Africa and the Middle East.
  • Is GlassPoint looking at electricity generation in addition to EOR applications?
    GlassPoint is currently focusing exclusively on the solar EOR market, a $113B global market opportunity. However, GlassPoint’s proprietary technology can be used in any process that requires large volumes of steam for industrial use, including electricity generation.
  • Does GlassPoint maintain ownership of the system once installed?
    GlassPoint offers turnkey installation, commissioning, training and warranties for its solar steam generators. The customer owns the equipment and is responsible for ongoing O&M of the system. This conforms to typical upstream operator requirements for total project and site control.
  • How is GlassPoint funded?
    GlassPoint is a privately held company. The company has received venture and strategic funding support from Royal Dutch Shell plc group, one of the world’s largest oil companies, as well as leading energy investors RockPort CapitalNth Power and Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital.

The Technology

  • How does GlassPoint’s technology work?
    GlassPoint’s enclosed trough technology houses solar collectors in a glasshouse structure, sealing the mirror system from dust, dirt, sand and humidity. Curved mirrors made of lightweight aluminum move throughout the day, tracking the sun and focusing light on stationary receiver tubes. The high intensity light heats the water in the receiver tubes to generate high-pressure steam.
  • What are the main advantages of GlassPoint’s technology over older solar thermal solutions?

    Most high-temperature solar thermal collectors were designed for electricity generation, not industrial use. These older designs can be scaled down and adapted to produce high-temperature steam for EOR, but they are fragile, expensive to install and maintain, and require very large amounts of land—none of which is effective for oilfield deployment.

    GlassPoint’s enclosed trough technology is the only solar thermal solution designed specifically for harsh oilfield environments, and is the only technology to deliver steam at costs competitive with natural gas. GlassPoint’s enclosed trough is also the only solar technology with long-term proven automatic washing, including wash water recapture and recycling.

    GlassPoint’s boiler process is the only solar technology designed based on current oilfield best practices: once-through process, integrating seamlessly with an oilfield’s existing water treatment and steam distribution network. GlassPoint’s boiler tubes, sensors and pumps are identical to those currently used in fuel-fired oilfield steam generators used throughout the industry.

    The system has been designed for fully automatic operation, to maximize durability and land efficiency while requiring minimal operational intervention.

  • What are GlassPoint’s land requirements?
    The GlassPoint solution produces about 90 barrels of steam (BOS) per day per acre of land during peak conditions. That’s five times more steam per unit area than a solar power tower system and three times more than traditional trough technologies. GlassPoint’s major advance in the efficient use of land makes it practical for solar to be a significant source of oilfield steam. Each GlassPoint steam generator occupies 13 acres (5 hectares) of land; a typical installation may have tens to hundreds of units arranged around the periphery of the oilfield.
  • How much water do the systems use?
    GlassPoint solar steam generators use the same feedwater and make the same steam quality as fuel-fired steam generators. For roof washing, GlassPoint’s automated washing units recapture and reuse the vast majority of the wash water.
  • How long does a GlassPoint system last?
    GlassPoint steam generators are designed and built for a 30-year service life.

The Economics

  • How much does a GlassPoint solar steam generator cost?
    Solar steam generators have no fuel cost, so the cost of steam is fixed for the entire 30-year lifetime of the equipment. GlassPoint delivers a Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) of less than $5 per MMBtu in most locations where heavy oil is being produced.
  • How do the costs compare to other solar technologies?
    Conventional solar thermal technologies produce steam at costs between $10 to $12 per MMBtu, two to three times more expensive than GlassPoint. O&M costs are also much higher than GlassPoint’s systems due to manual washing and frequent mirror replacement.
  • How does GlassPoint reduce costs?
    GlassPoint’s key innovation–the glasshouse architecture–protects mirrors from wind and gritty oilfield conditions, resulting in a number of cost and performance advancements.
    - Advanced composite mirror systems made of ultra-lightweight materials are less than one-tenth the weight of mirrors used in previous systems and a fraction of the cost to manufacture. Consequently, positioning and mounting systems are also smaller and less expensive.
    - The glasshouse structure itself provides foundational support, minimizing steel and concrete requirements.
    - Automated washing designed for commercial greenhouses eliminate the need for manual cleaning labor and minimize water use.
    - Operates on standard oilfield water readily available onsite.
  • To what extent does the glasshouse enclosure reduce O&M costs?
    GlassPoint’s automatic washing system drives a significant reduction in O&M costs. The robotic system cleans the glasshouse at night, and can recapture and reuse most wash water. This maintains optical efficiency while eliminating the need for manual cleaning.Additionally, the glasshouse’s sturdy aluminum, steel and tempered glass construction protects solar reflectors and reduces repair costs.
  • What about additional costs associated with this new architecture?
    The enclosed trough design does require installing a glasshouse. Glasshouses have been perfected and cost-optimized over 100+ years of commercial use. As a result, GlassPoint achieves economies of scale and the ability to deploy globally from the outset, without price penalties for early adoption or manufacturing bottlenecks.


  • What is the standard size of GlassPoint’s projects?
    GlassPoint’s systems are deployed in standardized blocks of 180 meters x 288 meters, roughly 13 acres, to optimize water management. The modules can be scaled to meet customer specification, from a single block to several hundred. Each block can produce 958 barrels of steam per day, displacing up to 144,000 MMBtu per annum of natural gas.
  • How long does it take to install a GlassPoint system?
    The steam generators require 6 to 18 months to install and commission, depending on the size of the project. GlassPoint enclosed troughs are made from modular components mass manufactured throughout the world. The entire system is fabricated offsite and delivered in 40’ ISO shipping containers for local installation.
  • What projects are GlassPoint currently developing?
    GlassPoint is in the contract development stage on several large-scale projects with oil companies in the Middle East. In late 2012, GlassPoint completed the Middle East’s first solar EOR facility in Southern Oman in collaboration with Petroleum Development Oman. GlassPoint’s project with Berry Petroleum in Kern County, California was commissioned in early 2011 and has been in daily operation for more than two years.
  • How do GlassPoint projects contribute to local economies?
    GlassPoint is committed to generating in-country value wherever it builds a project by partnering with local companies and locally sourcing as much of its supply chain local as possible. For example, GlassPoint’s pilot project for PDO in Oman had more than 40% local content.Additionally, by using GlassPoint’s solar steam generators, oil operators can significantly reduce the amount of natural gas burned to fuel its EOR operations. The natural gas saved can be diverted to higher value uses like industrial development, power generation and desalination, further boosting economic activity.

Sales & Corporate Inquiries

46421 Landing Parkway
Fremont, CA 94538
Main +1 (415) 778-2800
Fax +1 (415) 762-1966

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