Solar park construction to begin at Oman oilfield

The 1GW solar-thermal project will turn water into steam for injection into an oilfield, and is due for operation in 2017

The solar park will be located in Oman's Amal West Oilfield. [Image: Bloomberg/GlassPoint]
The solar park will be located in Oman's Amal West Oilfield. [Image: Bloomberg/GlassPoint]

American firm GlassPoint Solar will begin work on one of the world’s largest solar parks this month in Oman's Amal West Oilfield, with the first production planned for late 2017.

The 1 gigawatt (GW) solar-thermal project will turn water into steam for injection into the oilfield.

The process is known as enhanced oil recovery or EOR and involves heating the ground to improve the flow of heavy crude to the surface.

Petroleum Development Oman, and a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell, Total SA, and the government of Oman are working with GlassPoint on the project.

The project is a landmark deal in terms of size but also because it also the first time that solar energy is used to produce oil at a commercial scale.

Rod MacGregor, chief executive officer of GlassPoint, said: "The global oil industry uses about 9 million barrels of the fossil fuel per day to power the production process, the equivalent of Western Europe’s daily consumption." 

GlassPoint’s steam-making facility will largely be run on the sun’s energy by day and natural gas at night.

Solar-powered steam is 28% cheaper compared to the export price for liquefied natural gas in Oman, according to Bloomberg.

“But you also have to factor in the opportunity cost; Oman could be selling that gas,” MacGregor said.

A standard medium-sized oilfield would require 1 gigawatt to 3 gigawatts of solar thermal power to make the right amount of steam.

Some of the larger ones would need up to 30 gigawatts, he added. 

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