Uzbekistan’s largest oil producer SEG hopes to decide soon on whether to proceed with a proposed pilot programme to install solar panels to power pumps at producing oilwells with low flowrates.

The pilot programme is currently thought to involve up to 50 well clusters in the country’s Andizhan region, with the solar panels expected to be placed next to the oilwells to deliver power to sucker rod pumps that are commonly used across Uzbekistan at legacy and often depleted fields.

The company has been been assessing the reliability of the power source after placing 44 solar panels at its oilfield training site near the city of Karshi in the country’s Kashkadarya region during October.

SEG hopes the pilot programme will help reduce the costs of maintaining a network of power lines to its remote and rarely attended oilwell clusters that utilise the sucker rod pumps.

“We have two options for electricity provision at our remote sites”, SEG’s chief engineer Sergey Ryabov said.

“We can either use petroleum gas, or the energy of the sun. Initial investments into solar panels are offset by the cost of restoring electricity supply when power lines are damaged by weather events”.

“With solar power, we can achieve round-the-clock and trouble-free power for the company’s fields”, he added.

SEG said the ultimate goal of the programme is for oilwell clusters to become fully energy-independent and protected from conditions such as heavy winds and sandstorms that disrupt power supply lines.

“Uzbekistan is one of the sunniest countries in the world. It makes much sense to use this natural advantage to provide electricity,” Ryabov added.

Uzbekistan hopes to sign more agreements to build solar farms with foreign investors following the commissioning of such facilities by United Arab Emirates state-owned company Masdar in the Navoyi region last year, and by French developer Total Eren in the Samarkand region in June this year.

SEG added that it has firmed up its position as the country’s leading oil producer this year, reporting an 8% output increase to almost 11,000 barrels per day between January and September against the same period in 2021.

The company said it drilled 10 new development wells during the reporting period and completed workovers to increase the productivity of 159 existing holes.

The expansion of SEG’s oilfield operations have prompted the company to hire additional workers, with its headcount increasing by 6% to exceed 3400 employees during the first nine months of this year, it said.

With new hires usually sourced locally, SEG said it had to create “its own team of teachers” to educate hundreds of new and current employees at its training site near Karshi.

Founded as Jizzakh Petroleum in 2017, SEG got a boost in December 2019 after a government resolution ordered state-run oil producer Uzbekneftegaz to transfer its licences for more than 100 oilfields with a large share of associated petroleum gas in output, to SEG.

The decision made SEG the largest oil producer in Uzbekistan. According to the Uzbek Energy Ministry, the focus of former monopoly Uzbekneftegaz has switched on developing natural gas tracts and remaining oilfields which produce oil without associated gas.

Earlier this year, SEG said it decided to step up exploration efforts at its licence blocks on the Ustyurt Plateau in northwest Uzbekistan, hoping to confirm oil and gas reserves in an area the country has long wanted to establish as a major hydrocarbon province.