Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and US GlassPoint Solar have commissioned the Middle East's first solar enhanced oil recovery (EOR) project, the project partners said on Tuesday.
State-run PDO's first full-scale EOR project to extract more oil from low pressure reservoirs opened in 2010 and it has since employed several new techniques to boost production.
The latest project uses the sun's energy instead of scarce natural gas to produce an average of 50 tonnes a day of steam which is fed into PDO's Amal West EOR field in Southern Oman.
"This solar EOR solution provides for an economically viable and environmentally sustainable long term resource to develop Oman's heavy oil portfolio, while saving valuable natural gas resources for use in other gas-dependent industries," PDO director Raoul Restucci said.
EOR projects account for a significant volume of natural gas use in a country which has to import gas to meet rapidly rising industrial demand.
Using the sun to make steam to pump into fields to push out more oil, frees up gas for power generation, desalination plants, and could help Oman export more liquefied natural gas.
Despite plentiful year round sunshine, solar panels have not taken off yet on the Arabian Peninsula in part because dust, sand and high humidity make it difficult to maintain them.
GlassPoint's system gets around this by enclosing parabolic mirrors inside a glasshouse with automated washing equipment.