Amal/Muscat: The power of the sun could be used to help pull oil out of the ground in Oman as part of a huge solar project that is under discussion.
US-based GlassPoint is in discussions with state-owned Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) to build a mega solar-based steam generation project for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) programmes, with an estimated capacity of 700 megawatt to one gigawatt.
The discussions are at an early stage and the national oil company has yet to decide on whether to proceed with the plan.
The solar EOR project substantially reduces consumption of natural gas in EOR projects, which can be diverted for priority areas such as power generation, industrial projects and liquefied natural gas projects for exports.
"We are currently discussing with PDO about how they want to expand. They haven't taken a decision yet. So, we are working together to figure out the in-country value, where it will go and how much it will cost," Rod MacGregor, CEO of GlassPoint, said. He was briefing the media on the sidelines of a US embassy delegation visit to the company's pilot project at Amal oilfields in southern Oman. The US Ambassador to Oman, Greta C. Holtz, visited the solar EOR pilot project, along with other embassy officials early this week.
MacGregor said a proposed solar steam generator project of this magnitude requires much planning.
"If you imagine something 100 times bigger than what we saw (pilot project of seven-10 megawatt), several studies on infrastructure and supply chains are needed." GlassPoint has been operating in Oman since early 2012.
The company's seven megawatt steam generation pilot project, which can produce an average of 50 tonnes of steam per day, completed its first year of operation, exceeding all performance targets. The pilot's success has proven solar is a viable source of steam for enhanced oil recovery projects.
GlassPoint's enclosed trough technology harnesses the power of the sun to power thermal EOR operations. EOR requires steam, typically produced by burning large volumes of natural gas — a scarce and valuable commodity in many oil producing countries including Oman. By deploying GlassPoint's innovative solar steam generators, oilfields operators can reduce EOR gas consumption by up to 80 per cent
"Today, nearly a quarter of Oman's gas is used for oil production, and that percentage continues to increase each year," noted MacGregor. "By adopting solar steam generation, oil companies can release these valuable natural gas supplies for use in power generation, desalination or industrial development, diversifying the Sultanate's growing economy."
A report published by Ernst & Young in January this year found that full-scale deployment of solar EOR in Oman, in which solar steam accounted for 80 per cent of the country's thermal EOR needs, could save up to half a billion cubic feet of gas per day, contributing more than $12 billion in Oman's gross domestic product, and create thousands of permanent jobs by 2023.
This forecast includes jobs directly generated from local manufacturing, induced and indirect jobs generated throughout the supply chain. Employment opportunities can also be created by redirecting valuable natural gas away from oil production to industrial development. Oman is the region's leader in deploying advanced EOR techniques.
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