First-of-its-Kind Solar Installation to Power California Heavy Oil Project 0

One of California’s largest oil and gas producers is preparing to build the state’s biggest solar energy project at an oilfield near Bakersfield.

Aera Energy is teaming up with GlassPoint Solar to build the project at the Belridge oil field. Once complete, it will be the first installation of its kind in the world to use solar steam and solar electricity to power oilfield operations. The installation is expected to save more than 376,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, offsetting the equivalent of 80,000 cars, more than one-third of the cars in Bakersfield today.

“Our partnership with Aera demonstrates the growing energy convergence where renewables and traditional energy leaders are working together to address some of the biggest challenges of our time,” said Sanjeev Kumar, senior vice president of Americas for GlassPoint.

Once complete, Aera says the Belridge Solar project will deliver the largest peak energy output of any solar plant in California.

The installation will consist of an 850 MWt solar thermal facility that will produce 12 million barrels of steam per year and a 26.5 MWe photovoltaic facility to generate electricity. The combined solar-generated steam and electricity will reduce the amount of natural gas now being used onsite for oilfield operations.

“Aera is committed to safe, responsible operations and is thrilled to extend our environmental leadership by using solar to power our production. Adding solar energy at Belridge allows us to continue to lead the way in the safest, most environmentally responsible energy extraction there is,” said Aera Energy President and Chief Executive Officer Christina Sistrunk.

Belridge is a heavy oil field which requires the injection of steam into the reservoir to heat the oil so that it can be pumped to the surface. This process, known as thermal enhanced oil recovery (EOR), typically generates steam using natural gas. By using the thermal energy of the sun to replace the combustion of natural gas, GlassPoint’s technology will allow Area to reduce its energy consumption and carbon footprint at Belridge.

The planned facility at Belridge will reduce NOx and other local pollutants, improving air quality in the San Joaquin Valley, one of California’s most challenged air districts.

California is the third-largest oil producing state in the US, with 2016 output of 510,000 barrels of oil per day, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration. Heavy oil fields like Belridge account for half of the state’s crude oil production.

Aera is one of California’s largest producers, and it is responsible for 25 percent of the state’s oil and gas production. The company expects to break ground on the Belridge Solar plant in the first half of 2019. The project is slated to start producing steam and electricity as early as 2020.

Glass Point says the oil and gas industry is a prime market for renewables because it consumes up to 10% of its own energy projection. Glass Point unveiled its first commercial solar oilfield project in 2011 with Berry Petroleum in California’s Kern County and now has more than 1 gigawatt of solar oilfield projects under construction around the globe. Last year, the company was recognized by the World Economic Forum as a 2016 Technology Pioneer for its role in enabling more economical and sustainable oil production.

“By harnessing the power of the sun to produce oil, oil operators can efficiently reduce emissions using advanced technology, creating long-term benefits for the local economy and environment,” senior vice president Kumar said.

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Recommended Lighting Practices Collaboration 0

FORT DAVIS, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory has collaborated with the Permian Basin Petroleum Association (PBPA) and the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA) to reduce light shining into the sky from drilling rigs and related activities in West Texas. The excess light has the potential to drown out the light from stars and galaxies and threatens to reduce the effectiveness of the observatory’s research telescopes to study the mysteries of the universe.

“This partnership of PBPA and TXOGA with McDonald Observatory to protect dark skies in its vicinity is vital to the research of the universe taking place at McDonald,” said Taft Armandroff, director of the observatory.

The collaboration’s Recommended Lighting Practices document details best lighting practices for drilling rigs and other oilfield structures, including what types of lighting work best and how to reduce glare and improve visibility. These practices will increase the amount of light shining down on worksites, thus increasing safety while decreasing the amount of light pollution in the sky. Reducing excess light helps the observatory and also decreases electricity costs for the oil and gas producers.

The document specifically targets oil and gas operations in the seven counties with existing outdoor lighting ordinances surrounding the McDonald Observatory: Brewster, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Pecos, Presidio and Reeves. However, the recommendations can be beneficial across the industry.

A new video that helps to introduce the recommendations to oil and gas companies is now available. It features the observatory’s Bill Wren explaining the importance of dark skies, and how lighting practices can both preserve dark skies and improve safety for oilfield workers. The video was produced with the support of the Apache Corporation, following the company’s extensive collaboration with observatory staff and implementation of these practices with their assets in the area. It is available to watch and share at: https://youtu.be/UnmwnO6CIR4

“For years, the PBPA and the McDonald Observatory have worked together on educating members of the Permian Basin oil and gas community about the Dark Skies Initiative and the possible impact lighting practices can have on the observatory’s work,” said PBPA President Ben Shepperd. “About two years ago, the PBPA board of directors agreed to support the creation of lighting recommendations. We decided a great way to educate members of the industry on how they could provide a positive impact on this issue was through the utilization of such recommended practices.

“So we began work with the observatory to publish recommended lighting practices and have since worked to educate our members and those outside the oil and gas industry on the recommendations through presentations, seminars, articles in magazines and newspapers, and even one-on-one conversations,” Shepperd said.

Recently, the Texas Oil and Gas Association joined the collaboration.

“The Texas Oil and Gas Association recognizes that production practices and protecting the environment are in no way mutually exclusive,” TXOGA President Todd Staples said. “The Recommended Lighting Practices collaborative effort allows for the oil and natural gas industry to continue the work vital to our economy and our future, and for the simultaneous reduction to our ecological footprint.”

In April, the observatory’s Dark Skies Initiative was named one of six Texan by Nature Conservation Wrangler projects for 2018. Texan by Nature, a Texas-led conservation nonprofit founded by former first lady Laura Bush, brings business and conservation together through select programs that engage Texans in the stewardship of land and communities.

The award will provide the observatory connections to technical expertise, industry support, publicity, and more for its Dark Skies Initiative.

“Our Conservation Wrangler program recognizes innovative and transformative conservation projects across the state of Texas,” said Joni Carswell, the organization’s executive director. “Each Conservation Wrangler project positively impacts people, prosperity and natural resources.”

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Media Contacts:
Rebecca Johnson, Communications Manager
McDonald Observatory
The University of Texas at Austin
512-475-6763

Stephen Robertson, Executive VP
Permian Basin Petroleum Association
432-684-6345

Kate Zaykowski, Communications Director
Texas Oil and Gas Association
325-660-2274

Taylor Keys, Program Manager
Texan by Nature
512-284-7482

Castlen Kennedy, VP of Public Affairs
Apache Corporation
713-296-7189

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