Middle East’s first Solar EOR project lighting the way
Enclosed trough system from GlassPoint uses the sun’s energy to produce steam for thermal EOR, thereby reducing the need to burn natural gas. Anoop K Menon writes,
Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), the largest producer of oil and gas in Oman, and GlassPoint Solar, a global leader in solar enhanced oil recovery, have successfully commissioned the Middle East’s first solar enhanced oil recovery (EOR) project. 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 PDO’s Amal West field in Southern Oman.
The 7MW system is in regular operation and recently passed its first performance acceptance test since coming online, exceeding contracted steam output by 10%. Oil & Gas 73 August/September 2103 “PDO has successfully extended the life of its heavy oil assets by deploying innovative EOR technologies over the past few decades,” says 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.” Today, 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’s solution can cut natural gas used for EOR by up to 80%, 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,” says 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,” says Dr Syham Bentouati, Head of New Technology Implementation at 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.” GlassPoint’s unique Enclosed Trough design encloses parabolic mirrors inside a glasshouse structure, protecting the solar collectors from harsh conditions of high wind, dust, dirt, sand and humidity common to Middle East oilfields.
The glasshouse enclosure enables the use of ultralight, low-cost reflective materials and proven automated washing equipment, further reducing costs. GlassPoint steam generators are designed to use the same low-quality boiler water as once-through steam generators, the industry’s current standard, eliminating the need for costly water pretreatment. “GlassPoint is committed to generating in-country value by partnering with local contractors and manufacturers,” adds MacGregor. “More than 40% of the solar installation was fabricated and constructed with the help of Omani companies, and we plan to increase the percentage of local content significantly as we grow throughout the country and region.” Construction on the project began in January 2012 and finished in December 2012.
The project was completed on time, on budget and with no Lost Time Injuries in accordance with GlassPoint and PDO’s shared commitment to sound engineering execution and health, safety, security and environment leadership. The Amal project is 27 times larger than GlassPoint’s solar EOR system, installed at Berry Petroleum’s 21Z oilfield in Kern County, California, USA, which has been in daily operation for two years.