GlassPoint inaugurates solar steam heavy oil production project in Oman

Image: GlassPoint Solar

GlassPoint Solar and Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) have inaugurated the Miraah solar plant, which will be among the world’s largest solar projects when completed.

Four blocks of the plant have now been constructed safely, on time and on budget with steam production integrated with the Amal oilfield, GlassPoint said. The four blocks have a total capacity of over 100 MWt and will deliver 660 tonnes of steam per day, providing significant gas savings.

Once complete, the one gigawatt installation will consist of 36 blocks built in a sequence, which allows PDO to benefit from solar steam now and gradually ramp-up production over time to meet the Amal oilfield’s steam demand. The project is on track to deliver an additional eight blocks in early 2019.

GlassPoint’s solar technology was specifically designed to harness the sun’s energy to generate the steam required for thermal enhanced oil recovery (EOR), seamlessly integrating into existing oilfield operations. The natural gas saved by using GlassPoint’s technology can be exported or directed toward higher-value applications such as power generation or industrial development, helping to diversify the economy.

Unlike solar panels that generate electricity, GlassPoint’s solution uses large mirrors to concentrate sunlight and boil oilfield water directly into steam. The steam is used for the extraction of viscous or heavy oil as an alternative to steam generated from natural gas.

GlassPoint’s innovation was to bring the mirrors and other system components indoors, using a greenhouse structure to protect from wind and sand, which is common in remote oilfields like Amal. The greenhouse enables major cost and performance advantages compared to exposed solar designs, from reducing overall material usage to automated washing operations.

“Today, alongside our partner PDO, we are ushering in a new era for renewables here in the Sultanate and for the broader oil and gas industry,” Ben Bierman, chief operating officer and acting CEO of California-based GlassPoint, said in a statement. “The current climate of low oil prices and the transition to cleaner energy sources, validates the important work we have achieved together with Miraah. Oman is becoming an epicenter of excellence for using solar energy to power oilfield operations and overcome today’s energy challenges.”

GlassPoint’s track record in Oman has led to the company’s expansion in new markets, including the recently announced project with oil and gas producer Aera Energy to build the largest solar plant in California.

The inauguration also marked the official opening of the Miraah Visitor Centre, a permanent gallery that showcases Miraah’s journey.

“Deploying solar on Oman’s oilfields to reduce the industry’s natural gas consumption has a significant and lasting economic benefit for the Sultanate,” said Salim bin Nasser Al Aufi, undersecretary of Oman’s Ministry of Oil and Gas. “The project, which stands to be among the largest solar projects in the world, has contributed to developing local Omani talent in the renewable energy field and created job opportunities for local companies. We look forward to exporting our knowledge and expertise to the rest of the world as other progressive oil and gas producers follow in PDO’s footsteps.”