The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will provide $4.2 million in funding to Santos to convert 56 remote crude oil beam pumps to solar and batteries to reduce emissions from oil production after a successful Australian first pilot installation.

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

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.

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.

“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 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.

“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,” Mr Miller said.

Santos Managing Director and CEO, Kevin Gallagher, said this Australian-first idea came from the company’s Energy Solutions team, which is dedicated to finding innovative ways to reduce Santos’ 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,” Mr Gallagher said.

“Our own consumption of fuel in the Cooper Basin is equivalent to about five per cent 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.

“The solar beam pump is also a perfect demonstration of Santos’ strategy to become Australia’s safest, lowest cost onshore operator in action,” Mr Gallagher said.

“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.”

APPEA Chief Executive, Malcolm Roberts, said the project sits alongside a range of other innovations the oil and gas industry is taking across the country to reduce its emissions.

“The oil and gas industry already makes a significant contribution to emissions reduction by producing cleaner energy for domestic gas customers and export customers in Asia,” Dr Roberts said.

“This innovative project will power pumps on oil wells using solar and batteries at 56 sites in the Cooper Basin and is a practical demonstration of the actions the industry is taking to shrink its carbon footprint.”

Extending the use of renewables to gas operations could allow more natural gas to be available for sale, adding to gas supply and helping to place downward pressure on prices.

The solar beam pump will reduce emissions and waste from oil production, saving 140 barrels of oil used each day to fuel the pumps.

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