• Miraah will be one of world’s largest solar plants
  • Solar energy will displace use of natural gas for steam production
  • First steam to be generated in 2017

US-based GlassPoint Solar has been awarded a contract by Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) to develop a $600m solar enhanced oil recovery (EOR) plant at the Amal oil field in southern Oman.

The 1,021-megawatt (MW) Miraah project will be one of the world’s largest solar plants, using the sun’s rays to produce steam to inject into oil wells to boost recovery.

GlassPoint completed a 7MW pilot plant at the Amal field in 2013 to demonstrate the commercial viability of the technology, which is a first for oil fields in the Middle East.

Steam for EOR at the field is currently produced by burning natural gas. Once complete, Miraah will save 5.6 trillion British thermal units (btu) of gas a year – enough to provide electricity for 209,000 people, according to the announcement by GlassPoint and PDO.

“The project will provide a significant portion of the steam demand at Amal and is an important part of PDO’s production plans,” said PDO’s managing director Raoul Restucci.

“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,” he added. “It also will displace diesel and higher carbon intensive power generation and oil burning in future thermal projects.”

GlassPoint said the Miraah project will account for a third of its global production by 2023 and will generate 6,000 tonnes a day (t/d) of steam for oil production.

The full-scale project will comprise 36 glasshouse modules, built and commissioned in succession in groups of four. The total project area, including all supporting infrastructure, will span three-square kilometres.

The scheme is expected will break ground this year with steam generation from the first glasshouse module in 2017. It is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 300,000 tons annually, the equivalent of taking 63,000 cars off the road.

GlassPoint’s concentrating solar power (CSP) technology uses large, curved mirrors to focus sunlight on a boiler tube containing water, which in turn produces steam to be fed into the oil fields steam distribution network.

The mirrors are contained within a glasshouse to protect them from the wind, sand and dust storms common in Oman’s arid environment.

GlassPoint said in 2014 it was also eyeing Kuwait, where EOR projects will also be used to increase production from heavy oil fields.