Kuwait is exploring renewable energy-enhanced oil recovery techniques, mainly from concentrated solar power, to slash import bills.
Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) said it was in discussions with companies to use concentrated solar power to extract oil as the Opec member country looks for alternative methods to maximise production at a cheaper price.
As the days of easy oil are over with about 70 per cent of the world’s remaining reserves classified as heavy, countries most commonly inject gas to improve recovery rates – known as enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Gas-constrained Kuwait is exploring renewable energy-EOR techniques, mainly from concentrated solar power (CSP), to slash import bills.
Raed Sherif, a senior consultant at KOC, highlighted that every company in the country was looking at what they can do to help meet the 15 per cent renewable energy target set out by the government. “Everyone is tasked to find applications and KOC is looking to meet our own 15 per cent from solar to reduce the energy imported,” he said last week at Menasol in Dubai. “We’re looking at solar as there’s a need for it in our EOR.”
The country has planned EOR projects in the north and west, which could be some of the largest projects in the world, according to the California-headquartered Glasspoint Solar.
Currently, one of the world’s largest projects is in nearby Qatar spanning 6,000 square kilometres. The North field, also known as the North Dome, holds an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas reserves, or about 13 per cent of the world’s total proven gas reserves.
But, unlike Qatar, Kuwait faces a gas deficit triggered by its power sector as well as industrial expansion which will force the country to burn a high amount of imported natural gas or petroleum to generate steam.
The country began importing liquefied natural gas more than six years ago and Glasspoint estimates that using LNG to fuel these EOR projects could cost up to US$13 per million British thermal unit. “Solar steam could supply the majority of Kuwait’s thermal EOR needs at half the cost of these fuel alternatives,” Glasspoint said.
Despite last week’s slight rebound in oil prices to $50 per barrel, the two-year slump from highs of more than $110 have put a dampener on spending across the oil-rich Arabian Gulf. The hydrocarbon sector makes up nearly 60 per cent of Kuwait’s GDP and accounts for up 95 per cent of export revenues, according to Opec.
Mr Sherif said that timing and budgets have yet to be decided, but that renewable energy techniques in the country were going to happen in stages. “Things have a tendency to move slowly when there’s no urgent push, but we have to keep an eye on solar,” he said, adding that ultimately it would depend on the price tag.
“Kuwait is an emerging market and serious about solar power,” Mr Sherif said.