The Middle East’s very first solar powered enhanced oil recovery (EOR) pilot project was today commissioned in the southern oilfields of Oman, with the potential to save billions of cubic feet of wasted gas in conventional EOR.
Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), the largest producer of oil and gas in Oman, and the California based solar enhanced recovery pioneer, GlassPoint Solar started up super-heated steam generation from its 4 acre farm of parabolic mirrors at the Amal West field.
By harnessing the sun’s energy with GlassPoint’s ‘Enclosed Trough technology’, the solar EOR project produces a daily average of 50 tonnes of emissions-free steam that feeds directly into existing thermal EOR operations at the field.
The 7MW system is in regular operation and recently passed its first performance acceptance test since coming online, exceeding contracted steam output by 10 per cent, according to GlassPoint.
“PDO has successfully extended the life of its heavy oil assets by deploying innovative EOR technologies over the past few decades,” said Raoul Restucci, managing director of PDO. “The GlassPoint system is proving it can reliably fuel thermal EOR with solar power while reducing the need to burn natural gas. This solar EOR solution provides for an economically viable and environmentally sustainable long term resource to develop Oman’s heavy oil portfolio, while saving valuable natural gas resources for use in other gas-dependent industries.”
Currently EOR applications account for a significant portion of Oman’s annual natural gas consumption. By incorporating solar steam, PDO can significantly reduce the amount of natural gas it burns to produce steam for EOR. GlassPoint claims that its solution can cut natural gas used for EOR by up to 80 per cent, helping Oman release its natural gas resources for higher value applications such as power generation, desalination, industrial development or export as LNG.
“PDO is widely recognised as the EOR pioneer throughout the Middle East,” said Rod MacGregor, GlassPoint CEO. “Deploying the region’s first solar EOR project further underscores its leadership and commitment to advancing new technologies that will economically expand production of existing reserves.”
“Preliminary results from this project demonstrate that solar steam generated with GlassPoint’s Enclosed Trough architecture is equally effective as natural gas for thermal EOR,” said Dr Syham Bentouati, Head of New Technology Implementation at PDO and is credited with facilitating the introduction of the technology for PDO. “This unit serves as a performance and operational baseline for future solar steam generation projects in Oman, providing us with valuable information for planning potential future large-scale solar steam projects.”