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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Exclusive: Oman targets phase two of solar-to-oil plant for 2019

Petroleum Development Oman is building one of the world’s largest solar thermal plants to extract heavier oil reserves

Banks in Oman and Kuwait stand to benefit from the uptick in oil prices following a three year slump however Oman’s banking sector is more vulnerable than Kuwait and faces a number of risks, according to BMI. Getty Images.
Banks in Oman and Kuwait stand to benefit from the uptick in oil prices following a three year slump however Oman’s banking sector is more vulnerable than Kuwait and faces a number of risks, according to BMI. Getty Images.

One of the world’s largest solar thermal plants to recover heavy oil reserves in Oman is targeting phase two expansion in 2019 with future plans to manufacture aluminium mirrors domestically, according to the operator Petroleum Development Oman (PDO).

“We’ll complete the first module (four glasshouses) this year and by the beginning of 2019 another two modules – comprising eight glasshouses - [will be completed] and we’ll go for phase two in 2019,” the PDO External Affairs and Value Creation Director Abdul-Amir Al Ajmi told The National in Abu Dhabi.

“In phase three, we plan to manufacture and produce aluminium used in the mirrors and glasshouse in Oman. The very fine aluminium that is used in building mirrors is currently brought from China,” he added.

One of the Arabian Gulf’s smaller producers, non-Opec Oman sits atop heavy oil reservoirs in maturing fields, which require steam, gas or polymer injection to recover crude.

With gas being in short supply in the sultanate, PDO has embarked on a programme to recover heavy reserves from its southern Amal oilfield using solar-power generated steam through its joint venture with California-based Glasspoint.

The 1,021MW facility called Miraah, Arabic for mirror, is set to generate 6,000 tonnes of steam daily and is the Middle East’s first enhanced oil recovery programme to tap into solar energy.

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“Phase one is supposed to finish by end of the year and we’re already integrating it with the steam network,” said Mr Al Ajmi.

The $600m project will comprise 36 blocks (nine modules) concentrate the sun's rays and generate steam, saving around 5.6 trillion British Thermal Units of natural gas annually, which will be deployed towards power generation.

"Gas is becoming very expensive and we suffered shortages of gas in the past. By using solar, which is free, we generate steam, which will then be injected into the reservoir to get oil recovery,” said Mr Al Ajmi.

The upstream operator’s ongoing major projects, the $1.25bn Rabab Harweel Integrated Project to produce six million cubic metres a day of sweet gas and 60,000 barrels per day of oil, as well as the $900m Yibal Khuff project to deliver five million cm/d of associated gas and 10,000 bpd of oil, are on track for completion in 2019 and 2020, respectively, he added.

“We’re not deferring projects per se but we’re spending more time to study them, how to bring their costs down to meet the current environment.

If you talk about major projects, we’re building the largest oil project in PDO’s history at Rabab Harweel area because it contains sour gas, also Yibal Khuff. Both projects are on time and on schedule,” said Mr Al Ajmi.