Enhanced oil recovery currently uses a vast amount of energy: 1.7 quadrillion btu of gas around the world every year. According to GlassPoint Chief Executive Rod MacGregor, even though natural gas prices are currently at historic lows, a large cost of operating a heavy oil field is from purchasing natural gas. GlassPoint, a small startup, makes steam for enhanced oil recovery more cheaply by using the sun, particularly in overseas markets with higher gas prices.
Solar enhanced oil recovery (EOR) is easy to operate: Lightweight, 20-foot mirrors reflect light from the inside of a glasshouse (to eliminate oil field dust) onto water pipes that generate and inject steam into the wells. The video above gives a good look at the technology. After running a self-financed pilot plant for Berry Petroleum in McKittrick, CA, for over two years, the company now has a deal with Oman for 7 megawatt plant - a 16,000-square-meter greenhouse providing some 57 billion btu of steam a year. Oman will be using 200 trillion btu of steam a year for oil recovery by 2015.