Hyperlight targets oil wells for new CSP + geothermal storage concept

hyperlight energy

Concentrated solar power (CSP) tech company Hyperlight Energy is launching a new concept, Tectonic Sun, to use solar and stored heat energy to decarbonize oil wells. The combination of its flagship solar thermal solution Hylux and the new Tectonic Sun use the existing infrastructure at oil wells to provide zero carbon electricity while reducing emissions during the extraction process at Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) sites.

The application of CSP thermal energy for this dual benefit is an industry first. Hyperlight is building its first pilot installation, called Tectonic Sun Alpha, in Bakersfield, Calif. This demonstration builds on analysis of geological thermal energy storage (GeoTES) performed by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a Hyperlight partner. The analysis showed the energy capacity of a typical GeoTES installation to be about 146,000 MWhe with a storage duration of 4,000 hours – approximately six months of energy storage – at a fraction of the cost of any other approach.

“Tectonic Sun Alpha reshapes the way we think about long duration storage and has transformative potential not just for California’s grid, but for the oil and gas industry throughout the state,” said John King, co-founder and CEO of Hyperlight. “Unlike oil and gas projects which eventually run dry, a GeoTES project will never run out of sunlight. We believe Tectonic Sun Alpha can offer a blueprint to retrofit the tens of thousands of existing oil wells in California with solar thermal energy to produce a significant new source of cost effective, non-intermittent clean power.”

Tectonic Sun is capable of providing emissions-free power with 80 percent capacity factor for use at any time of day or night throughout the year. Using this type of existing infrastructure could enable the geological storage of a 100 percent renewable energy source with an estimated levelized cost of electricity between four and eight cents per kWh, Hyperlight estimates.

What’s next?

Hyperlight aims to unlock the full potential of GeoTES by expanding deployment of Hylux and Tectonic Sun to lower the cost and boost the performance of these applications at existing EOR project sites. With support from California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program, Hyperlight has signed a Heat Purchase Agreement (HPA) with Hathaway LLC, a Bakersfield, CA based independent oil producer, for the development of the pilot project that will demonstrate Hyperlight’s technology and to reduce emissions at Hathaway’s EOR site.

Hyperlight’s new project comes at a pivotal time in the energy transition with The California Public Utilities Commission requiring 11.5 Gigawatts of renewable energy, including at least 1 GW from emerging and nascent technologies. Meanwhile, the oil industry in California comprises over 100,000 wells, according to the California Department of Conservation.

Applying NREL’s GeoTES analysis conservatively, Hyperlight estimates the statewide potential storage capacity of its technology to be the equivalent of one billion Tesla Powerwalls, with annual energy production potential over 100 TWh annually, exceeding the output of all the natural gas power plants in California combined. With solar infrastructure and wells able to remain in place once EOR activity ceases, projects like Tectonic Sun Alpha can remain in service to produce this form of low-cost renewable power to the grid indefinitely.

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