Royal Dutch Shell has become the latest oil company to invest in technology that uses heat from the sun to tap hard-to-reach supplies of crude in aging wells. The oil giant, along with three venture capital firms, is pouring $26 million into California startup GlassPoint Solar Inc. for the project.
GlassPoint uses the sun to heat water and create steam for so-called enhanced oil recovery. The steam improves the flow of heavy oil from depleted fields. Most EOR systems burn natural gas to create steam, but GlassPoint says its technology is cheaper.
GlassPoint operates a commercial solar EOR project at a Berry Petroleum oilfield in McKittrick, California. It is also building a trial project in Oman with Petroleum Development Oman, a joint venture between the government of Oman, Shell, France's Total and Portugal's Partex.
Shell invested in GlassPoint through its Shell Technology Ventures arm. Other investors in the company's Series B financing round included RockPort Capital, Nth Power and Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital.