Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV), the corporate venturing unit of US-based energy conglomerate Chevron, on Monday launched a demonstration project to test the viability of using solar energy in oil production. The technology, engineering and construction will be handled by US-based solar energy company BrightSource Energy, a recipient of CTV investment. CTV was one of BrightSource’s backers in its June 2008 series C round, which raised $115m. Altogether, Brightsource has secured more than $750m in funding from investors including search engine Google and investment bank Morgan Stanley. The project, which will be built on Coalinga Field oil field, will involve using more than 7,600 mirrors to direct solar energy into a boiler, which then injects steam into oil reservoirs to increase production. If successful, the process could the be used to extract heavier grades of crude oil which have thus far proven difficult to access. Desmond King, president of Chevron Technology Ventures, said: "Through this demonstration, we want to determine the feasibility of using solar power for enhanced oil recovery. This technology has the potential to augment gas-powered steam generation and may provide an additional resource in areas of the world where natural gas is expensive or not readily available." Although CTV has traditionally focused more on oil and gas-based companies, BrightSource is one of several alternative energy companies in CTV’s portfolio, including Southwest Windpower, solid oxide fuel cell developer Acumentrics and photovoltaic firm Konarka.

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