Shell takes stake in solar pioneer Glasspoint
Shell and others to invest in Glasspoint's large-scale solar project
In a boost to efforts to develop renewables solutions fit for the region's specific conditions, GlassPoint Solar, widely regarded as the leader in solar enhanced oil recovery (EOR), has this week announced it has closed a US$26 million Series B financing round.
The round included participation from a new strategic investor, Royal Dutch Shell plc group, as well as leading energy investors RockPort Capital,Nth Power and Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, an existing investor. The funding is a key next step to future large-scale deployment of GlassPoint’s solar steam technology in EOR projects around the world.
GlassPoint’s unique design encloses parabolic troughs inside a glasshouse structure, which protects the system from high winds and seals the solar collectors from dust, dirt, sand and humidity. The protected environment enables the use of ultralight, low-cost reflective materials and automated washing equipment, further reducing costs and water use. Furthermore, GlassPoint steam generators are designed to use the same low-quality boiler water as once-through steam generators, the industry’s current best practices, eliminating the need for costly water pretreatment.
Thermal EOR is a proven technique to facilitate the recovery of heavy oil that is too thick to pump to the surface using conventional means. High-pressure steam is injected underground in order to raise the temperature of the oil and change its consistency from that of molasses to that of water. Normally, the steam is generated by burning very large amounts of natural gas, but in the GlassPoint system, the steam is generated by concentrating sunlight onto pipes that contain water. This approach to EOR may significantly reduce the amount of natural gas used for EOR, which is an important consideration in regions of the world where gas is a scarce and expensive commodity. The natural gas that is saved and not burned for EOR applications can be used for higher value applications such as power generation, desalination, industrial development and exported as LNG.
“We are delighted that Shell and some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent energy investors chose to participate in this round of funding,” said Rod MacGregor, CEO of GlassPoint. “We believe this investment validates our business and technical approach of creating solar solutions specifically for the oil and gas industry.”
Geert van de Wouw, Fund Manager, Shell Technology Ventures, said: “Our decision to invest in GlassPoint is further underpinned by the extensive definition and assessment work undertaken by Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), a joint venture between the Government of Oman, Royal Dutch Shell, Total and Partex, with a 7 MW solar project field trial currently in construction in the Sultanate of Oman.”
He added: “The collaboration with GlassPoint and PDO represents an exciting opportunity to leverage an innovative technology which aims to use the full potential of solar power in the oil and gas industry. We are looking forward to the outcome of the solar trial which, if successful, can help to optimize oil recovery and avoid the use of valuable natural gas in Thermal EOR projects. The promise of the GlassPoint system is that it is expected to lower both the economic cost of producing oil whilst at the same time reducing our footprint.”
“At GlassPoint we believe in creating in-country value wherever we do business,” said Rod MacGregor, CEO of GlassPoint. “To support our projects we aim to create local factories generating employment and demand for local goods and services like steel and aluminum.”
Last year, GlassPoint unveiled the world's first commercial solar EOR project at a 100-year old oil field operated by Berry Petroleum in McKittrick, California. The company is currently constructing a 7 MW field trial project in Southern Oman together with PDO.
Speaking exclusively to ArabianOilandGas.com MacGregor revealed the Oman project finished its construction phase a couple of months ago and has been going through commissioning, due to be operationally complete, on time this month.
“2012 has been a hugely exciting year for Glasspoint. Obviosuly there is the project in Oman which is very exciting, but also its become increasingly clear from the conversations we’re having in the region that Enhanced Oil Recovery is going to play a hugely significant role in oil production of the Middle East.”
“Kuwait and Bahrain have now joined the EOR bandwagon, and of course Oman is already there. It is now common and accepted knowledge that thermal EOR is going to play an ever increasing role in the Middle Eastern picture,” said MacGregor.
“Another thing which is emerging is, with the exception of Qatar, a gas crisis in many countries as demand expands quicker than new supply, and that situation is broadly going to persist.”
“It’s essentially the perfect storm for us, as heavy oil production requires steam, in an environment where gas is becoming more scarce, and there is an abundance of sunshine. The combination is almost perfect for our solution,” he said.