Estimates indicate that more than 50% of global oil reserves require enhanced oil recovery. EOR enables oil producers to recover significantly more oil from sub-surface, highly viscous reservoirs. Conventional production captures only 10-30% of oil in such reservoirs.
Growth in EOR over the next decade will be driven by rising oil prices, aging oil fields and the need to reduce CO2 emissions. Within this category, solar thermal enhanced oil recovery is estimated to become a $16 billion market by 2020.
Thermal EOR extends the life of the site as well as increases the amount of oil extracted.
High-temperature, high-pressure steam created by the sun is injected deep into reservoirs, heating the area, and reducing the viscosity of the oil – making it easier to bring it to the surface.
Historically, fossil fuels have been used as the fuel source for EOR. Solar thermal is carbon-free and acts as a hedge against natural gas price volatility. In many places in the world today, solar thermal EOR can be a cost-effective solution compared to alternatives such as liquefied natural gas.