It’s an unlikely pairing, but Australian oil and gas company Santos has turned to solar energy to power some of the company’s most remote oil wells.
Twenty of Santos’ oil wells across South Australia and Queensland will now be powered by solar energy, instead of being fuelled by crude oil.
Santos has worked with AGL Energy to deploy 1.2MW of solar panels across its oil well sites in the Cooper Basin. An additional 2MWh of battery storage capacity was installed along side the solar power systems.
“We created Australia’s first oil well running on solar and battery, off grid,” Santos CEO Kevin Gallagher said in a statement.
“There are more than 200 existing pumps across the Cooper Basin that could be covered and ultimately Santos aims to use solar power as the standard energy source for new onshore oil wells.”
“Converting oil well pumps to solar power will deliver environmental and commercial benefits by reducing crude oil consumption, long distance fuel haulage and emissions,” Gallagher added.
AGL said that the unique aspects of the project required the “[adoption of] a different project delivery approach and overcome a number of challenges to deliver a technically and economically feasible solution.”
AGL engaged engineering company 5B which utilised the company’s Maverick solar installation system to optimise both the deployment and automated operation of the solar and storage systems, which will operate in some of Australia’s most extreme environments.
5B’s Maverick solar deployment system allows for modular solar units to be deployed that are pre-wired, and “plug & play” which allows for a solar power system to be installed with less heavy equipment and significantly faster.
The new systems will supply continuous power to the oil well operations, and will avoid the need for a back-up generator, such as a diesel-fuel genset.
The project follows the completion of a 2.12MW solar farm in Whyalla, also undertaken by AGL Energy, that will supply power to a Santos’ oil and gas processing facility.
“The solar and battery combination was sized to ensure continual operation 24 hours a day in some of Australia’s harshest climates,” AGL’s head of delivery operations Brendan Weinert said.
“Each site has 160 solar panels with the capability to generate up to 100 MWh of energy per year, which is enough to power 18 average Australian homes.
“They were installed using an innovative system which streamlines engineering and procurement and provides cost efficiencies through deployment in-field.”
The $16.05 million project was supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which provided $4.2 million in grant funding.
“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,” ARENA CEO Darren Miller said when announcing the grant funding.