Santos to power oil well operations with solar+storage

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Looking to reduce emissions from oil production, Australian oil and gas giant Santos is planning to roll out 3.2 MW of solar PV coupled with batteries at the 56 oil wells in the remote Cooper Basin in South Australia and Queensland.

The project to convert beam pumps on oil wells to solar+storage will cost just over $16 million, and will be underpinned by $4.2 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) under the Advancing Renewables Program.

“Santos will be ARENA’s first off-grid project with the oil and gas industry, building upon our previous support for implementing renewable energy at remote operations around Australia,” ARENA CEO Darren Miller said.

This will also be ARENA’s first off-grid project that involves switching to 100% renewables, which will result in saving large amounts of oil required to fuel the pumps.

“The solar beam pump will reduce emissions and waste from oil production, saving 140 barrels of oil per day which is required to fuel the pumps, and instead will be sold for beneficial use,” Santos Managing Director and CEO Kevin 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 cutting our fuel consumption, but also by eliminating the costs of transporting fuel by road over long distances to our wells.”

Santos says that the project follows a successful pilot installation – a solar beam pump that has been continuously operating since August, proving that solar PV and batteries can maintain reliability and availability in the harsh environment of the Cooper Basin.

If this initial rollout is successful in commercialising the technology, the company will look to convert an additional 151 beam pumps across the Cooper Basin to solar and batteries. By converting all 208 sites, this would save 140 barrels of oil a day currently used to fuel the pumps.

Moreover, ARENA expects the Santos project could also increase confidence that renewable energy provides the reliability required for resources applications and see other companies follow suit.

In terms of off-grid solar applications, ARENA has previously supported a 6.7 MW solar PV farm at Rio Tinto’s remote bauxite operation in Weipa, Queensland, and a solar and battery project at the Degrussa Copper and Gold Mine, Australia’s largest solar PV installation at the mining site to date, and has funded a range of other projects.

Other notable off-grid installations in the Australian mining sector include: a 7.3 MW solar array and 2 MW/1 MWh battery at the Granny Smith gold mine in Western Australia’s Eastern Goldfields region, a 3 MW solar farm at the Cannington silver and lead mine in north-west Queensland, and a 6.7 MW solar PV array at the Nova mine in Western Australia.