Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) — the largest generator of oil and gas in Oman — and solar enhanced oil recovery (EOR) company GlassPoint Solar has announced its mission to develop one of the largest solar plants in the world.

The project, called Miraah, will stand as a 1,021MW solar thermal plant in South Oman, utilizing the sun’s rays to generate steam. The steam will then be used in thermal EOR to withdraw oil from the Amal oilfield.

Once completed, Miraah will dole out the greatest peak energy output of any solar plant in the world. It is projected to save 5.6 trillion British Thermal Units (BTUs) of natural gas per year.

Raoul Restucci, managing director of PDO, said: “PDO is proud to lead the industry by deploying solar-powered oil production at an unprecedented scale and level of efficiency. The project will provide a significant portion of the steam demand at Amal and is an important part of PDO’s production plans.

“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 a pioneering force in EOR for a number of years and it will play an increasingly important part in the Company’s portfolio, accounting for around a third of our production by 2023.”

The full-scale installation will be comprised of 36 glasshouse modules — with the total project area spanning an swath of land equivalent to over 360 football pitches.

Restucci added: "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 over 100 times larger.”

At this time, the project is expected to break ground in 2015, with steam generation beginning in 2017. Once developed, it will also reduce CO2 emissions by over 300,000 tonnes annually.

Rod MacGregor, president and CEO of GlassPoint Solar, noted: “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 oil field consuming the same amount of energy as a small city. PDO is the global leader in oil and gas innovation and the first to realise the value of using solar to replace traditional fuel sources to generate steam for EOR."

The top process used in extracting oil is steam flooding, an EOR method in which steam is sent into a reservoir in order to heat up the oil and lower its viscosity, making it much easier to pump it out of the ground. GlassPoint’s solar EOR method creates steam from solar energy, lowering an oilfield’s gas consumption by up to 80%.

Restucci stated: “This project has the potential to make Oman a world centre of excellence for solar EOR with obvious benefits in terms of job and training opportunities for Omanis, building a robust Omani supply chain and attracting further foreign investment, whilst building a reliable and sustainable proposition for solar EOR worldwide."