KINGMAN COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – A group of Kansans believe solar could be the next big thing to drive oil production.
Wells pumping oil are a common sight across the plains of Kansas. Out near the Kingman County line, nestled between a few dozen wind turbines, sits a very unique oil well.
“We have no grid power, no engine. The only source of energy operating this piece of equipment is the sunlight hitting on these panels,” said Lee Lindquist with Ridge Enterprise.
“It’s a solar-powered system to run a pumping unit,” said Ridge Enterprise Co-Owner Jeff Base.
Lindquist and Base believe they have created the first ever solar-powered oil well. Base said it’s an invention that many people told him would never come to fruition.
“I kept getting, ‘no it wont work, it can’t work,'” Base said.
Base said at one point he gave up on the idea.
“Most people that tell you you can’t, there’s always a way that it can be done,” Base said.
That’s when Base started pitching the idea to his coworkers, friends and Lindquist.
“Within a few short months he (Lindquist) said yeah, it can be done,” Base said.
The pair started working on the solar system in May and by late July they had a working test project completed.
“Christmas! It was great. I hope it does as good as we feel like it can. It was great. It was great to see an idea come reality,” Base said.
The solar oil well works like this: when the sun hits the solar panel it produces electricity. The electricity is then transferred and controlled by a box that then drives the motor.
“The box is kind of the heart and soul of the system. What makes it special and makes it work, is our programming in the drive and the way we have constructed it to vary the output of the motor based on the sunlight that is coming in,” Lindquist said.
The well produces between five and seven barrels of oil per day. Lindquist and Base said they believe the solar well will be cost efficient for many low-yielding wells that run on an engine.
“Engines have been in the oil fields for dozens of years and they consume fuel which is an operating cost and they are a maintenance item, so in addition to the fuel you have to pay for their maintenance,” Lindquist said.
Lindquist admits some oil wells need engines to run 24 hours a day, but many of them do not.
“Our target is the low-production wells, fewer than 15 barrels per-day that can be pumped off completely within six to eight hours of sunshine time,” he said.
The pair also said the solar well is environmentally friendly and is built to last.
“You’re not putting any fuel, gas into the air with old engines and what not,” Base said. “I can just imagine it, if they pay for it in a year’s time you are basically running on free stuff for I don’t know how long.”
Base and Lindquist do admit there are some negatives to going solar, but they are few and far between.
“Obviously, we cannot overcome mother nature, so that’s just one of those things,” Base said.
However, production doesn’t completely halt on cloudy days. Lindquist said the pump will slow down if there are clouds, but he said he doesn’t believe there will be a total loss in production.
“We have had a couple of cloudy days where we have lost a little production on the cloudy days, but the days that follow it we make that production back up,” Lindquist said.
The solar well was a test project. It’s located in Kingman County on an area leased by McCOY Petroleum Corporation.
Lindquist and Base said their ultimate goal is to replace engine-based oil wells with solar-powered wells.