A substantial percentage of Africa's upstream petroleum activity occurs offshore in high risk environments with attendant environmental concerns. Power demands on offshore rigs are met principally through the use of diesel engines and gas turbines. This adds to the already high safety hazards and environmental threat through greenhouse gas emissions, heat and noise generation. Additionally, petroleum generated power is an expensive venture that can have significant impact on oil and gas project economics. Moreover, some of these offshore locations are so remote that accessibility to petroleum fuel may be challenging. As petroleum exploration and production pushes steadily into deeper, farther waters especially in sub-Saharan Africa, safety, environmental and logistical security may be key for sustainability. Situated almost entirely within the tropics, Africa is a very suitable place for solar energy applications. This study assesses the potential of solar power for offshore oil and gas operations in Africa to mitigate the issues associated with the use of fossil fuel thereby ensuring sustainability of the upstream petroleum industry in Africa. The size of the solar power system that may meet the power requirement of a sample floating storage and production vessel (FPSO) in offshore Angola was estimated. Appropriate areas and extent of potential solar power application on this sample rig were also assessed. This was followed by some cost analysis to compare the two sources of power economically. It was found that solar power can currently provide only a small part of the power needed on offshore rigs primarily due to lack of space and weight restrictions.

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