Mar. 3, 2019
Oman's portfolio of energy solutions leans healthily toward renewables, and in one case examined elsewhere in the chapter, even turns trash into therms. Our case at hand, however, confirms how traditional modes of generation and their green cousins are sustainably working together to curb both cost and natural gas use, or else channel it to alternative productive ends, rather than send it up the flue. This is significant since neither mode of generation suffices on its own, while innovative combinations foster better industrial practices.
A look in the Miraah
A prime application of Oman's solar energy component is in evidence in the oil extraction industry. Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and GlassPoint, a global leader in solar technology solutions, began a fruitful relationship in this area in 2017. GlassPoint has pioneered the solar steam generator specific for oilfield use, and PDO boasts a high pedigree in oil recovery, making for considerable synergy in building tomorrow's energy solutions. Indeed, PDO asserts that this partnership has positioned Oman on the global solar energy map. It commenced with the construction of the Miraah solar plant in southern Oman, one of the largest in the world. Upon completion it is earmarked to deliver 1,021 MW of peak thermal energy capable of generating 6,000 tons of steam per day.
How it works
This technology deploys large mirrors that focus sunlight, but unlike solar panels that generate power, the mirrors boil water into the steam used in thermal enhanced oil recovery (EOR). This is an alternative to steam generated using natural gas. As a result, available natural gas is available for export, or else destined for higher-value usage, such as power generation or other industrial applications and thereby assisting economic diversification. Moreover, the entire system of mirrors and other components is located indoors in a greenhouse-enclosed system, thus protected from the elements, maximizing performance, and curbing operational costs. GlassPoint solar technology also makes maximum use of available sunshine by tracking the sun's movement during the day.
Step by step
In late November 2017 the first block of the Miraah solar plant delivered steam to the Amal West oilfield, on time and on budget. The project uses a sequenced construction process, with each greenhouse block deployed sequentially, enabling operation upon completion of each stage, rather than awaiting the distant ribbon cutting for an entire facility. Additionally, the modular model means additions may be made in light of demand.
In September 2018, it emerged that, extending the partnership, PDO was to open a solar technology center with GlassPoint in Muscat. Dubbed SolaRISE, an amalgam of solar research, innovation, and sustainability in energy, it has been tasked with developing and testing automated solar technologies employed at oil fields and automated and cost reduction projects across other economic sectors. The center's scope extends beyond both Oman and the oil sector. Indeed, GlassPoint CEO Steven Moss has described the company's primary role as establishing Oman as an industrial hub for renewable energy. GlassPoint's presence on the ground has been fostering commercial expertise ranging from project planning to innovation in the solar technology ecosystem. The solutions considered above reveal nothing if not that the technologies employed in Oman's energy and industrial matrix today are as fluid and evolving as the economy they help to sustain. Sunny days are plentiful in Oman; so too, it seems, is the lateral thinking that can turn a scorcher into a winner.