California-based GlassPoint Solar is planning to start up the Middle East’s first enhanced oil recovery (EOR) project using solar steam generators by the end of the year.

A pilot plant being built for Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) at Amal, Dhofar governorate, uses the sun to create steam to enhance the amount of crude recovered from an oil well. GlassPoint said it is on target to complete the plant on 12 December, having signed the agreement with PDO in August 2011.

The 7-megawatt plant will have the capacity to produce 11 tonnes an hour of steam to be fed directly into PDO’s steam network, expanding the national oil company’s overall EOR capacity.

GlassPoint’s technology provides an alternative to the steam generated from natural gas currently used in EOR, which will allow Oman to reassign gas for other end uses.

The contract between the two firms runs until the end of 2013, but GlassPoint hopes to expand its operations in Oman to a full-field facility.

“A full field development would be orders of magnitude bigger, but it is up to PDO how and when they want to do that,” said chief executive officer (CEO) Rod MacGregor. “There are no contracts or obligations for them to do anything beyond the pilot.”

The company is also in discussions with the national oil companies across the GCC on building similar plants to recover heavy crude, with Kuwait forecast to have an especially high demand for steam EOR capacity over the next decade.