Q&A

What is the main scope of the first thermal enhanced oil recovery (EOR) project in the Middle East and what are the technologies involved?

Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), the largest producer of oil and gas in Oman, partnered with GlassPoint to build the Middle East’s first EOR project. GlassPoint’s Enclosed Trough technology was selected because of its protective glasshouse structure and streamlined oilfield integration. This technology takes proven concentrated solar power trough designs and pairs them with an agricultural glasshouse, making a system uniquely suited for desert oilfield applications. The 7 MW system is now in daily operation, generating an average of 50 tons of emissions-free steam per day that feeds directly into existing thermal EOR operations at PDO’s Amal West oil field.

Was “cutting-edge technology” used in the development of the project?

The Enclosed Trough architecture is an innovative approach to concentrated solar power. The system uses traditional agricultural glasshouses to protect solar collectors in a sealed environment, free of dust, dirt, sand, and humidity. By shielding the solar collectors from the elements, low-cost, lightweight materials can be used. The system generates steam by using ultra-lightweight curved mirrors. These aluminum mirrors move throughout the day, tracking the sun and focusing light on stationary receiver tubes. The high-intensity light heats the water in the receiver tubes to generate high-pressure steam for EOR.

The maintenance of solar panels in the region is expensive because of the dust. How did you manage this problem?

The technology’s architecture reduces maintenance cost by protecting the solar collectors from the harsh oilfield environment. We further reduce cost by using an automated robotic washing system, which eliminates the need for manual cleaning and minimizes water use, recapturing nearly 90% of the wash water.

What are the major challenges you faced during the execution of the project? How did you manage them?

Building anything in a remote desert location is a challenge. You must construct an entire work camp and bring all your materials in from a great distance. You cannot afford to forget a screwdriver, because it might cost you days of work. Extreme heat during the day means that workers are often building during twilight or dark conditions, when temperatures are less dangerous. We overcame these challenges by meticulously managing every detail of the building process. We designed our system to be easy to assemble, so it was a matter of being organized and making sure we had all the materials we needed on hand.

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