Solar for Oil and Gas Applications

EcoSol Energy Systems, Kuwait—solar powered remote terminal units use Morningstar charge controllers and communications accessories in harsh desert conditions. > Project
SunWize Power Ready system is used to power monitoring and control in remote oil and gas applications in North America, and relies on the Morningstar SunKeeper for solar electricity. > Project
Ameresco Solar uses charge controllers to regulate power for SCADA equipment, remote telemetry (RTU), seismic equipment, cathodic protection, valve control, injection pumps and other applications. > Project

More than any environmental statement, the partnership between renewable energy and oil & gas is based on practical, pragmatic need. By nature, oil & gas production and pipeline operations are in remote locations and usually far beyond access to any grid electrical services. That means vital functions including measurement and control, injection pumping, security monitoring and many others, must depend on stand-alone, on-site electricity generation. As operators are learning, there’s no better way to produce on-site electricity at their remote facilities than with solar power.

Unlike generators and wind turbines, photovoltaic (PV) solar has no moving parts—so consequently, no down time. And solar electric systems never need fueling or an overhaul. That’s why oil & gas operators are increasingly specifying solar electric systems into their projects, and Morningstar charge controllers at the core of those systems.

In such a system, the charge controller is both “heart and brains” of the outfit, controlling the PV/solar-generated electricity flowing from the panels, or modules, into batteries for storage as well as the DC output to power connected loads, maintaining both system operation and battery health. In oil & gas operations, two things matter: safety and reliability. On the safety front, Morningstar meets critical industry safety standards for hazardous location use (see below). And with over four million Morningstars installed in the field since 1993, there’s no brand in the solar industry that’s more proven or accepted in terms of reliability.

Monitoring Oil & Gas Systems with SNMP

Select charge controller models have:

  • Tested to lab-recognized hazardous environment certification for installation near or in Class 1 Division 2 operating zones, as is generally required in oil & gas applications
  • Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) technology to extract every bit of electricity possible from the solar source, by converting extra voltage into useful amperage. Morningstar MPPT controllers have industry-leading TrackStar technology on-board for that purpose.
  • Industry-leading technical support from a US-based company.
  • Load control for easy system integration.
  • Select models support industrial-standard networking, monitoring and communications protocols including MODBUS, MQTT and SNMP, when used with Morningstar’s Ethernet MeterBus Converter (EMC) accessory.
  • Data logging to record charging/load Amp-hours and alarm/fault notifications.
  • Full programming to enable a high-level of system customization.
  • Built-in communications and diagnostics capabilities
  • Temperature charging protection and advanced charging algorithms to protect expensive storage batteries, both lead-acid and advanced types including lithium. Dead battery recovery feature helps reduce system down-time.
  • Designed for trouble-free operation in extreme temperature and weather conditions. Epoxy-encapsulated circuit boards and 60C ambient temperature ratings to handle harsh environments including tropical, coastal and arid regions. Weatherized construction; no cooling fans to fail
  • Simple, out-of-the-box operation and easy installation
  • UL listing on most models
  • Safety features built-in, including alarm/fault notifications, mis-wiring protection, lightning protection

How PV systems work in Oil & Gas applications

Small and Medium Solar Powered Applications
Larger Solar Powered Applications

During the day:

  1. Sunlight is converted into DC electricity in the solar modules or panels.
  2. The DC electricity from the panels flows into a charge controller, which both provides perfect battery charging and powers DC-operated loads.
  3. Smaller systems and systems with consistent sunlight (little shading or seasonal variation) usually feature PWM (pulse-width modulation) charge controllers, which are simple and reliable.
  4. Larger systems and systems where there is variation in sunlight due to seasonal changes or shading often use MPPT (maximum power point tracking) charge controllers, which are more complex but also are more effective at harvesting solar electricity.

During the night:

The solar charge controller keeps working—by preventing any “reverse current” flowing from the batteries to the PV modules, and (if equipped with load control) disconnect power to the loads if the battery voltage dips too far, which can quickly kill batteries.

How do I choose if I need MPPT or PWM-type solar controllers?

This is not a quality difference, but a function of prevalent solar conditions and location considerations.

  • Because MPPT (maximum power point tracking) controllers convert extra solar electricity voltage into useable electricity, they are ideal for areas where seasonal, weather and shading conditions cause wide variations in solar “harvesting.” Morningstar’s proprietary TrackStar™ MPPT technology is considered the industry’s performance standard. Because of their additional circuitry on-board, MPPT controllers are also more complex and expensive.
  • PWM (pulse-width modulation) controllers are the right choice for systems using 36 or 72-cell solar-panels in locations with consistent sunlight, minimal shading and no physical space limitations—such as at the top of light poles, for example. PWM controllers are simpler and cost effective as a result.

All Morningstar charge controllers, regardless of their technology or design, built to one industry-leading quality standard. They all have “over-spec’d” components, incorporate advanced electronic design and thermal engineering, and have no cooling fans to fail—unlike all the in-kind competition. Because of this, over four million Morningstars have been sold since 1993 and are the first choice for leading solar installers in mission-critical installations around the globe.

Charging Batteries in Hazardous Locations

Watch the recorded webinar to see how Morningstar solar charge controllers are used to charge batteries and help provide power at remote oil and gas sites.

Oil and Gas Primer

What exactly does the Hazardous Locations (Class 1, Division 2 Groups A-D) Classification mean—and why should operators look for it when looking into off-grid solar-powered components and systems?

Everything you need to know is in Morningstar’s “Classifications for stand-alone electrical installations in hazardous locations” paper. Download a free copy here:

Shell Oil Case Study

More companies are developing climate-friendly  policies and initiatives. While it may seem ironic, oil & gas providers are leading the pack. The reason is that oil & gas extraction and delivery infrastructure is almost always located away from grid electricity  sources,so companies must rely on local electricity generation to maintain operations. They increasingly turn to solar power as an alternative to expensive and less-reliable generators. This is leading to oil & gas facilities ranking at the top for renewable energy adoption.

Typical oil & gas solar electricity applications

  • Remote telemetry (RTU)
  • Seismic equipment
  • Remote measurement
  • Cathodic protection (using DC current to help prevent pipeline corrosion)
  • Valve control
  • Injection pumps
  • SCADA equipment

Monitoring Oil and Gas Systems with SNMP

As spending increases and oil companies expand their operations, their equipment assets become more widespread. This requires a scalable, convenient and effective means of centralized management, now referred to as the “digital oilfield”. Because this requires secure local and remote monitoring capabilities through a modern, complex network incorporating Ethernet switches and wireless access points (WAPs), SNMP is a common requirement for these systems.

SNMP makes device setup simpler, and provides universal protocol support across many types of networking equipment and IT management systems. With the added versatility to store data onsite or in the cloud, users of an SNMP-based system have the ability to choose how their data is managed and protected.

This is why Morningstar has integrated Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) into its products. An open standard IP-based protocol, SNMP works with selected Morningstar products in conjunction with Morningstar’s Ethernet MeterBus Converter (EMC-1) communication gateway. As Oil & Gas operators increasingly turn to solar electricity for powering various systems, Morningstar solar components are better equipped to meet their needs. Click here to learn more about SNMP and Morningstar Products.