GlassPoint to build solar plant for EOR in Oman

GlassPoint and PDOGlassPoint has designed a concentrating solar power technology to meet the specific needs of enhanced oil recovery. (Image source: GlassPoint Solar)Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and GlassPoint Solar have announced plans to build one of the world’s largest solar plants dedicated to enhanced oil recovery (EOR)

Miraah, meaning mirror in Arabic, will be a 1,021MW solar thermal facility in south Oman that will produce steam. The steam will be used in thermal EOR to extract heavy and viscous oil at the Amal oilfield. The peak energy output from Miraah will be the largest for any solar plant in the world.

GlassPoint designed a concentrating solar power technology to meet the specific needs of the oil and gas industry. Unlike solar panels that generate electricity, its enclosed trough technology uses large, curved mirrors to focus sunlight on a boiler tube containing water. The concentrated energy boils the water to produce high-quality steam, which is fed to the oilfield’s existing steam distribution network.

A self-cleaning glasshouse encloses and protects the solar collectors from wind, sand and dust storms common in Oman and throughout the Gulf. The glasshouse structure creates a wind-free environment so the mirrors and other components inside can be very thin and lightweight. The enclosed trough mirrors are a small fraction of the weight of exposed solar thermal systems, resulting in significant material and cost savings.

The plant will provide a sustainable solution for EOR steam, which is currently produced by burning natural gas. Once complete, Miraah will save 5.6 trillion British thermal units of natural gas each year, which in turn could be used to provide residential electricity to 209,000 people in Oman.

PDO managing director Raoul Restucci said, “The use of solar for oil recovery is a long-term strategic solution to develop PDO’s viscous oil portfolio and reduce consumption of valuable natural gas, which is needed elsewhere to diversify Oman’s economy and create economic growth. It also will displace diesel and higher carbon intensive power generation and oil burning in future thermal projects.”

PDO has been working with GlassPoint since 2010 on a pilot scheme at Amal to test the commercial viability of solar steam, which produced 50 tonnes of steam per day. The seven megawatt solar steam pilot will continue to operate at Amal alongside the full-scale development.

“PDO awarded GlassPoint the contract based on the strength of our successful solar steam pilot, which has exceeded expectations for reliable operations and steam delivery for the past two years. GlassPoint’s proven track record propelled us toward this historic project that will be more than 100 times larger,” Restucci added.

The project will generate an average of 6,000 tonnes of solar steam daily, which will be delivered to Amal’s existing thermal EOR operations, meeting a sizable portion of the field’s steam demand. The project will have 36 glasshouse modules, built and commissioned in succession, in groups of four. The total project area, including all supporting infrastructure, will span three square kilometres – an area equivalent to more than 360 football pitches.

GlassPoint Solar CEO Rod MacGregor said, “The oil and gas industry is the next major market for solar energy. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to produce heavy and viscous oil, with a typical oilfield consuming the same amount of energy as a small city. GlassPoint is thrilled to embark on a new era of partnership between the oil and solar industries. Our efforts with PDO will pave the way for additional large-scale solar EOR developments at oilfields around the world.”

Miraah will break ground this year with steam generation from the first glasshouse module in 2017. It is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 300,000 tonnes annually, roughly the same as 63,000 cars off the road.

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