In an interesting twist, Royal Dutch Shell is investing in solar technology to “more cleanly” recover fossil fuels.
GlassPoint Solar, a California-based company that’s developing solar-enhanced oil recovery technology, is getting a $26 million infusion to help oil companies extract oil from depleted fields.
Shell’s venture capital arm, RockPort Capital, Nth Power and Chrysalix participated in the Series B funding round.
GlassPoint uses high-pressure steam generated by concentrated solar energy to recover oil that’s usually too thick to pump to the surface using conventional methods.
The steam is injected into the ground and used to heat the oil, changing the consistency from molasses to closer to water, which makes it easier to pump out.
Natural gas is usually used to create steam, but GlassPoint says its solar technology is actually cheaper.
The funding round will help GlassPoint establish a presence in the Middle East, where it just finished construction of a 7-megawatt field trial system in Oman. That project is part of joint venture that includes Shell, French oil company Total and the Oman government.
The region is perfect – there’s heavy oil, a shortage of natural gas and abundant sunshine, says GlassPoint.
“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,” says Geert van de Wouw, Fund Manager, Shell Technology Ventures.
Shell’s investment in GlassPoint is the latest example of a fossil fuels company turning to green technologies to perpetuate the dirty energy status quo.
A number of companies that service the natural gas fracking industry are developing cleaner methods, from recycling wastewater to using cleaner fracking chemicals.
Here is GlassPoint’s website: