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A Funny Use for Solar-Powered Steam: Oil Recovery

Here’s a way to use solar power that’s not so great for the planet — enhanced oil recovery. The executive vice president of solar thermal startup Ausra, Robert Morgan, said on Monday at the Intersolar conference that the company is looking at selling its solar-powered steam generating technology for the purpose of enhanced oil recovery. Oil companies inject steam into oil wells to increase oil recovery.

Normally that steam injection process is powered by natural gas, so on that front using solar is a cleaner option. Morgan said the company figures if the industry is using fossil fuels to power the process anyway, why not offer them a cleaner alternative. True, but it should still remind those that tend to become enamored with the green actions of cleantech companies that these are money-making businesses first and foremost.

Morgan also confirmed today that the company is close to closing that Series C round of funding, which was reported back in February. But Morgan said that the funding will be closer to $50 million, instead of the previously reported $100 million to $150 million range. GreenVolts also said today that it is raising a sizable round this year.

9 Responses to “A Funny Use for Solar-Powered Steam: Oil Recovery”

  1. I’d rather see solar thermal or geothermal used in the oil sands to displace natural gas. Alberta seems dead set on extracting every drop of oil out of the tar sands, and the U.S. is more than happy to take it. Better to make this extraction less greenhouse gas intensive than to do nothing at all. Enhanced oil recovery should be reserved for CO2 sequestration.

  2. kerry bradshaw

    I love the logic that we can avoid using oil simply by not pumping it out of the ground. Perhaps we should clue in Katie that 1) even if all of the private transportation were to go entirely electric tomorrow, there would still be the need to power : boats, RVs, lawn mowers, and most impotantly commercial trucks
    using petroleum based fuels because those guys ain’t gonna be electrified anytime soon. Over 33% of out petroleum fuels will still e needed. Katie has the rather simpleminded idea that oil is evil and should be exterminated. Sorry, Katie, but perhaps you’d better wise up about carbon emissions – we don’t WANT to eliminate ALL of them, only a certain percentage. We go too far and we go into global freezing, which is far, far worse than global warming
    because the earth won’t be able to produce enough food and billions will starve. And if those two Australian astrophysicists are correct, global warming concerns are pure nonsense -we are in for a global cooling of 1 to 2 degrees centrigrade for the next 20 to 50 years.