Category Archives: Individuals

Using Solar Power to Extract Oil

A California company has begun using solar power to squeeze oilout of an old oil field, flooding the underground rock with steam that comes from the sun’s heat instead of from burning natural gas.

The technique was tried in the 1980s by the Atlantic Richfield Company, butGlassPoint Solar, of Fremont, Calif., which cut the ribbon on a pilot project Thursday, says its plant is the only one of its kind now operating. Other companies have discussed such projects.

The process is cheaper than using natural gas, even at today’s depressed prices for that fuel, and trims the carbon footprint of the gasoline, according to GlassPoint. The pilot plant, completed in January in Kern County, is very modest, occupying less than an acre and producing only about a million B.T.U.’s per hour. But the company says it could quickly be replicated on a larger scale and could eventually displace 80 percent of the natural gas used to produce a barrel of oil.

GlassPoint said that at a full-size plant, its technology could produce steam at a cost of $3 per million B.T.U., compared with a market price of gas today of around $4 per million B.T.U.

Whether GlassPoint can get that far remains unclear. The company has no track record in the oil industry and has had three different business strategies in less than two years. Formerly known as CleanBoard, GlassPoint changed its name in October 2009 when it abandoned plans to use a solar-powered factory to make gypsum-based wallboard and said it would work with other wallboard manufacturers. Last year, it refocused its business yet again on using solar power to extract oil.

Rod MacGregor, GlassPoint’s chairman, said that burning natural gas to make steam for oil recovery was the largest single use of natural gas in California. About 40 percent of California’s oil is produced through such “enhanced oil recovery,” and the steam can account for as much as two-thirds of the production cost of such oil, according to GlassPoint.

The amount of steam needed to produce a barrel of oil varies according to the age of the field, but two million B.T.U. per barrel is typical.

Several companies use curved mirrors to focus the sun’s light to make steam, but on Thursday, GlassPoint unveiled a radically different design, one it says could also be used to make steam for electricity production.

In existing steam-electric solar plants with curved mirrors, the mirrors sit on heavy, rigid frames so that they will not be deformed by wind and can survive storms.

GlassPoint has built a greenhouse and suspended extremely lightweight mirrors from the skeleton of the building. The greenhouse is kept at higher air pressure than the outside environment, so no dust can come in, reducing the problem of cleaning the mirrors. A robot crawls across the glass roof to wash it. The wash water is collected for reuse, an important point since many old oil fields are in deserts.

A different solar energy company, BrightSource Energy, is building a solar steam system at a Chevron oil field project in Coalinga, Calif. It is supposed to go into service in the second half of this year.

Using solar power for oil recovery makes moot one of solar’s most difficult characteristics, its intermittency, according to John O’Donnell, vice president of GlassPoint. “You’re heating a cubic mile of rock,’’ he said. “It doesn’t matter if you heat it up a little higher in the day.’’

In the pilot project, the greenhouse is too far from the wellhead to send the steam by pipeline, so it is preheating the water, which will then be boiled by natural gas, reducing natural gas use but not as much as in a mature production facility.

Another advantage, according to Mr. MacGregor, is that the well is not fussy about steam quality, in contrast to a steam turbine that makes electricity, which demands constant temperature and pressure. “If there are hot water droplets in the steam stream, the rock won’t care, but a turbine certainly would,’’ he said.

Final Presentation

The following is a pdf in which we outline the process used to study projects going on in slums from all over the world and the players involved. The goal is that by organizing and categorizing this information, using a system of frames we created, designers will gain insight into how to best work in slums.

Final Presentation

Social Design Chart

We hope to continue to work to make the chart above an interactive website, hopefully in a partnership with an established social design organization.

Globalization, Politics, Economy – The Context of Slums

“The root cause of urban slumming seems to lie not in
urban poverty but in urban wealth.”
– Gita Verma, Slumming India: A Chronicle of Slums and Their Saviours

I came across a series of papers addressing the ‘Culture of Open Networks.’ Although the majority of the writing addresses new media, a pair of essays by Mike Davis and Saskia Sassen examine the presence/evolution of slums in the contemporary city. The specific focus is Bangalore, but their analysis of ‘slum production’ is a helpful addition to our general research. As we look further at the opportunities available to us as architects/designers, it is important to remain cognizant of the larger socio/econ/poli structures influencing the physical context we see in front of us.

Here are the Davis/Sassen essays
Here is the full publication entitled In the Shade of the Commons: Towards a Culture of Open Networks



Cameron Sinclair

-Architects Without Borders:

UN Habitat

Habitat for Humanity

Solid House Foundation



Estudio Teddy Cruz

Design Corps
Design Corps’ mission is to create positive change in communities by providing architecture and planning services. Our vision is realized when people are involved in the decisions that shape their lives, including the built environment.

Arquitectura 911


Urban Think Tank
Alfredo Brillembourg
(+58 212) 951-0914 / 7363

tel. 55+21+2286-1817 cel. 55+21+8169-3416

Vigliecca & Assoc.
vigliecca @
+55 11 3082-2087

In 2000, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation was invited by the municipal authority of Rio de Janeiro to develop a model project for one of the 500 favelas in the Brazilian metropolis. This international co-operation on a project in a favela was a new departure.

South East Asia:

Tel: +91 (0)20-2444 0363, (0)20- 24482045, 020-9371015311
Email: ,
Architect Pratima Joshi set up Shelter, an organization which works with slum dwellers in Pune to improve sanitation and basic accommodation.

-Waste Concerns
+880-2-9873002, +880-2-9873067, +880-2-9873110
Waste Concern
House-21(Side B), Road-7, Block-G, Banani
Model Town,


CASE is a collaboration of architects that works in slums and tries to change the traditional role of the architect.


Wikipedia’s ENTRY on global poverty by country.

A map documenting MEGA-SLUMS

And a map of urban population living in slums BY COUNTRY

Wikipeda also explains that “The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$ (PPP) 1 per day, and moderate poverty as less than $2 a day. It has been estimated that in 2001, 1.1 billion people had consumption levels below $1 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than $2 a day. The proportion of the developing world’s population living in extreme economic poverty has fallen from 28 percent in 1990 to 21 percent in 2001. Much of the improvement has occurred in East and South Asia. In Sub-Saharan Africa GDP/capita shrank with 14 percent and extreme poverty increased from 41 percent in 1981 to 46 percent in 2001. Other regions have seen little or no change. In the early 1990s the transition economies of Europe and Central Asia experienced a sharp drop in income. Poverty rates rose to 6 percent at the end of the decade before beginning to recede. [9] There are various criticisms of these measurements.”

Mike Davis

Planet of Slums

Teddy Cruz