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Oman to build $600 million solar energy plant to cut country's gas use

Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) plans to build a $600 million solar thermal facility that will be one of the world's largest solar plants. 10 Jul 2015

The 1,021 megawatt plant in South Oman is being built by PDO and GlassPoint Solar, a US specialist in solar enhanced oil recovery (EOR), PDO said.

The Miraah (which means mirror in Arabic) plant will harness the sun's rays to produce steam, which will then be used in solar enhanced oil recovery to extract heavy and viscous oil at the Amal oilfield, PDO said.

Mirrah will deliver the largest peak energy output of any solar plant in the world, PDO said.

EOR steam is currently produced in Oman by burning natural gas. Once it is complete, Miraah will save 5.6 trillion British Thermal Units (BTU) of natural gas a year - enough to provide electricity to the homes of 209.000 people in Oman, PDO said.

The project is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by over 300,000 tons annually, the equivalent of taking 63,000 cars off the road, PDO said.

At the contract signing ceremony in Muscat, Raoul Restucci, managing director of PDO said: "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."

"EOR … will play an increasingly important part in [PDO's] portfolio, accounting for around a third of our production by 2023," Restucci said.

The project will generate an average of 6,000 tons of solar steam daily, dwarfing all other solar EOR installations, PDO said.

The full-scale project will include 36 glasshouse modules, built in groups of four. The total project area, including all supporting infrastructure, will span three square kilometres and the actual solar field will span less than two square kilometres, it said.

PDO and GlassPoint have been working on a pilot scheme at Amal since 2010 to test the commercial viability of solar steam. The seven megawatt solar steam pilot now produces 50 tons of steam a day and will continue to operate at Amal alongside the full-scale development.

GlassPoint has developed a concentrating solar power (CSP) technology specifically for the oil and gas industry. Its enclosed trough technology uses large curved mirrors to focus sunlight on a tube containing water. This boils the water to produce steam which is then fed to the oilfield's steam distribution network.

The self-cleaning glasshouses protect the solar collectors from the wind, sand and dust storms that are common in Oman. This allows the mirrors and other components to be very thin and lightweight, with significant material and cost savings, PDO said.