Oman could emerge as a regional leader in concentrated solar power (CSP) technology after Middle East’s first solar enhanced oil recovery (EOR) project at PDO’s Amal West field in southern Oman became a success.

Oman could emerge as a regional leader in solar technology after Middle East’s first solar enhanced oil recovery (EOR) project at PDO’s Amal West field in southern Oman became a success.

The project, which aims to reduce the amount of natural gas burned for thermal EOR, created a daily average of 50 tonnes of steam, which was enough to displace 36mn ft3 of gas in a year, since February 2013.

The project was commissioned in partnership with GlassPoint Solar which specialises in solar EOR technology. Rod MacGregor, the company’s CEO believes Oman could be a regional leader in solar energy. He said, “As the pioneer of EOR in the region, Oman is well positioned to grow into a hub for solar technologies and supporting industries. Oil companies throughout the world have been following the progress of the pilot project. EOR is now seen as a strategic solution for saving valuable gas resources. Like Oman, other GCC countries such as Kuwait and Bahrain, also face gas shortages, putting future EOR developments in competition with industrial development. Using solar for oil production will redirect gas towards LNG export, power generation or the private sector.

“As oilfields within the region age, they too will require EOR techniques to support production. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are all following in Oman’s footsteps and have started pilot projects to inject steam into their oil reservoirs to boost production. Solar powered oil production is a compelling alternative to any country producing heavy oil, with limited natural gas resources, but with abundant sunshine. These countries are potential customers of Oman’s solar industry, creating the opportunity to become a leader in solar manufacturing for the entire region.”

When asked whether he was considering setting up a manufacturing facility in Oman, MacGregor said, “Our projects can generate significant in-country value. New jobs could be generated both from the natural gas savings and from the local manufacturing. If Oman were the location of our first large-scale project, we would expect to ramp up local manufacturing capacity quickly and source local suppliers as much as possible. Our solar steam generators are made of raw materials readily available within the sultanate, including aluminium and steel. This allows for almost 80 per cent of the supply chain to be sourced locally, giving Oman a great advantage to lead the industry.”

Meanwhile, Ernst and Young recently published a report on the potential benefits of large-scale EOR deployment in Oman. The report concluded full-scale deployment by the end of 2023 could create 212,000 permanent jobs, release more than half a billion cubic feet of gas per day, and contribute more than US$12bn (RO4.6bn) to the Omani GDP over the next decade.