Santos saves oil with renewables

Renewable energy integration in oil and gas industry

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A view of the pilot program installed in central Australia. Photos courtesy of Santos.

A view of the pilot program installed in central Australia. Photos courtesy of Santos.

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Oil and gas company Santos will begin converting the pumps on their oil wells to solar and battery power, thanks to $4.2m in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

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In an Australia-first trial, oil and gas company Santos will begin converting the pumps on their oil wells to solar and battery power, thanks to $4.2m in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Speaking on behalf of the federal government, ARENA said the funding came in the wake of a successful pilot installation.

Solar PV – totalling 3.2 MW – and batteries will be installed at 56 remote crude oil beam pumps across the Cooper Basin in South Australia and Queensland to supply each site with 100 per cent renewable energy.

If the ARENA-funded trial is successful, Santos will look to convert an additional 151 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.

The project could see increased confidence that renewable energy provides the reliability required for resources applications and see other companies follow suit.

Related: Queensland hails new dawn in renewable energy

The trial is the next step towards commercialising the technology by providing adequate scale needed to achieve supply chain and execution synergies, and allowing the trial multiple suppliers to reduce unit costs. 

The $16 million project will be ARENA’s first off-grid project with the oil and gas industry, and ARENA’s first off-grid project that involves switching to 100 per cent renewables. 

Another view of the solar panels powering a crude oil beam pump in an Australia-first trial.

Another view of the solar panels powering a crude oil beam pump in an Australia-first trial.

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, said the project would complement ARENA’s previous work with the resource sector, and could also have broader applications in remote areas. 

“Assisting the resources sector in turning to renewable alternatives is something we’re extremely proud of,” Mr Miller said.

ARENA has previously supported a solar farm at Weipa and a solar and battery project at the Degrussa copper and gold mine, and has funded a range of other off-grid projects. 

Santos managing director and CEO, Kevin Gallagher, said this Australian-first idea came from the company’s energy solutions team.

“The solar beam pumps will reduce emissions and waste from oil production with 140 barrels more per day saved,” Mr Gallagher said.

“Our own consumption of fuel in the Cooper Basin is equivalent to about 5pc 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.”

He said the solar beam pump was also a perfect demonstration of Santos’ strategy to become Australia’s safest, lowest cost onshore operator in action. 

“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.”

Read more: Big banks see sunny side of solar

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