Crude oil beam pumps powered by solar and batteries
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $4.2 million in funding for oil and gas producer Santos, enabling the company to convert its remote crude oil beam pumps to solar and batteries after a successful pilot installation in the Copper Basin.
A pilot solar beam pump has been continuously operating since August, proving that solar PV and batteries can maintain reliability and availability in the harsh environment of the Copper Basin. Solar PV totalling 3.2 MW and batteries will be installed at 56 oil wells across the basin — which extends from south-western Queensland and into north-eastern South Australia — to supply each site with 100% renewable energy.
The $16 million trial is the next step towards commercialising the technology by providing adequate scale needed to achieve supply chain and execution synergies and use multiple suppliers to reduce unit costs. If it proves successful, Santos will look to convert an additional 151 pumps across the Cooper Basin to solar and batteries — a move that would save a total of 140 barrels of oil a day currently used to fuel the pumps.
Santos Managing Director and CEO Kevin Gallagher said the initiative came from the company’s Energy Solutions team, which is dedicated to finding innovative ways to reduce Santos’s carbon footprint and prepare the business for a lower carbon future.
“The solar beam pumps will reduce emissions and waste from oil production with 140 barrels more per day saved,” Gallagher said.
“Our own consumption of fuel in the Cooper Basin is equivalent to about 5% of East Coast domestic gas demand, so if we can extend our use of renewables to our gas operations, we can also free up more natural gas for sale, which is a good way to put downward pressure on gas prices.
“Renewables will help reduce costs over time not only by reducing our fuel consumption, but also by eliminating the costs of transporting fuel by road over long distances to the oil wells.”
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the project will complement ARENA’s previous work with the resource sector, and could also have broader applications in remote areas. It will be the agency’s first off-grid project with the oil and gas industry and its first off-grid project that involves switching to 100% renewables.
“Assisting the resources sector in turning to renewable alternatives is something we’re extremely proud of,” Miller said.
“The project paves the way for Santos to convert further crude oil engine beam pumps in the Cooper Basin area, resulting in a significant part of their operations run entirely on renewables and providing a broader opportunity and test case for deployment to thousands of other sites in the Australian oil and gas sector as well as in other sectors in remote areas.”
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