GlassPoint: At the Vanguard of Conventional and Renewable Energy Convergence in Oman

Bureau05-10-2017, 12:15 AM
GlassPoint

GlassPoint Solar today stands at the cutting edge of the global energy industry thanks to its unique solar energy technology, which is paving new partnerships between the renewable and conventional energy industries. Specifically developed in response to the environmental and economic challenges faced by oil producers, GlassPoint’s innovative technology addresses the cost, conservation and environmental issues associated with energy intensive Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) operations around the world.

“Today, heavy oil makes up about 70% of the world’s crude oil reserves and steam injection or thermal EOR is one of the most efficient and widely deployed methods for extracting this thick, viscous oil,” explains Badar Al-Sariri, Senior Manager of Project Development at GlassPoint Oman. “Steam generated from burning gas is an essential part of this process, and in a typical heavy oil field, gas purchase makes up about 60% of the field’s operating costs. On top of this, of course, it places a heavy demand on a valuable natural resource and creates high-levels of harmful carbon emissions. GlassPoint has proven that by harnessing the Sun’s clean and renewable energy to generate emissions-free solar steam, we can significantly reduce energy consumption, operating costs and toxic emissions. We believe this can be a game-changer for the oil and gas industry and for the environment.”

Building on Oman’s oil industry roots and world leading expertise in advanced EOR solutions, GlassPoint and its partner Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) are reshaping the future of energy and creating a world-class solar industry in the Sultanate. Together, the two companies are building Miraah, one of the world’s biggest solar plants of any kind. Located in south Oman on PDO’s Amal field, Miraah is scheduled to begin generating solar steam later this year.

PDO and GlassPoint commissioned the first solar EOR plant in the Middle East, a seven-megawatt pilot project, back in 2013. The pilot proved the commercial viability and cost effectiveness of GlassPoint’s solar steam technology. Rather than burning gas to produce steam, GlassPoint solar steam generators were deployed. Large curved mirrors concentrate sunlight on a pipe filled with oilfield water to create steam for the EOR process. Enclosed in inexpensive mass produced agricultural type greenhouses, the specially created ultra-thin mirrors are protected from the region’s severe dust and sandstorms. As a result, the pilot achieved 98% uptime, operating even when other facilities had to shut down due to challenging weather conditions.  

“The pilot was extremely successful and gave GlassPoint and PDO key insights that led to continued innovation and cost reductions. We’ve developed design and engineering enhancements to optimize the processes of building and operating our systems at scale, resulting in cost savings over 40% compared to the pilot plant,” noted Al-Sariri.

More than 100 times bigger than the pilot project, Miraah will produce over 1 gigawatt of peak thermal energy once complete. Miraah comprises 36 easy-to-maintain greenhouse modules, which will span 1.8 square kilometers. Together, with the plant’s supporting infrastructure, total plant size is just under three-square kilometres, equivalent to over 360 football pitches.

Miraah achieved savings by sourcing many raw materials locally, including all the fabricated steel. Savings of more than US$1 million in shipping costs were made just in the setting up of a factory on site to manufacture supports for the solar collectors using domestically sourced aluminium extrusions. The surrounding community benefited too from the hiring of local contractors.

At full production, Miraah will produce 6,000 tonnes of solar steam a day for the extraction of heavy oil at Amal. Additionally, it will save 5.6 trillion British Thermal Units (BTUs) of natural gas each year, freeing the precious resource up for residential, commercial or industrial use to help diversify the economy. The amount of gas saved on the Amal oil field alone could be used, for example, to provide residential electricity to 209,000 people in Oman. This is an important consideration at a time when oil operations, including steam generation for EOR, accounts for roughly 30 percent  of the Sultanate’s total gas consumption. With peak domestic demand for energy in Oman projected to grow at the rate of 8% per year until 2022, solar powered oilfields are an important part of Oman’s long-term strategy, diversifying its energy mix and releasing precious gas resources to higher value applications, including power generation, desalination and industrial development.

Miraah is also expected to reduce carbon emissions by over 300,000 tons annually, which is equivalent to taking 63,000 cars permanently off Oman’s roads.

Looking ahead, Al-Sariri says, “Miraah is only the beginning for Oman’s energy convergence. Beyond EOR, our solar steam generators can be used in oil and gas applications of all sizes that require steam. The possibilities are immense and will provide long-term benefits for Oman’s renewable energy sector, local supply chain development and associated industries that need natural gas.”

Oman’s emergence as an international center for the convergence of alternative and conventional energy has economic, environmental and social implications, adding an important and far reaching aspect to the nation’s diversification strategy.

The significance of this role cannot be overstated given the 35% growth in world energy demand anticipated by the International Energy Agency, 26% of which is expected to be supplied from crude oil reserves that are largely located in countries blessed with abundant sunlight.

Put to the test in Oman’s harsh desert conditions and proven to reduce energy consumption in the oil field by 80%, GlassPoint’s technology has captured the attention of industry worldwide and positioned Oman firmly at the vanguard of energy convergence

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