Oman has made some major moves to diversify its energy mix, as indicated by the commissioning of new renewable energy (RE) projects. The sultanate has set a precedent by bringing RE into the oil and gas upstream via new innovative schemes.
One of these new schemes involves Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), which announced on October 29, 2018 that it had contracted Omani-Japanese Marubeni consortium to construct a 100-MW solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant under an independent power producer (IPP) model.
The facility will generate power for PDO’s own use and will be located in the Amin oilfield region of southern Oman, where the company has operational concessions. It will be the first plant of its kind in Oman and the world’s first utility-scale solar project to have an oil and gas company as its sole client.
Marubeni consortium, which comprises Japanese multinational Marubeni and Oman Gas Company, will undertake the design, procurement, construction, commissioning, financing, operation and maintenance of the plant, which will supply electricity to PDO under a 23-year power purchase agreement.
Solar & Steam
The announcement follows the February 2018 launch of stage one of another PDO RE project, the 1000-MW Miraah solar facility, which is located at the Amal oilfield. This project combines both renewable and non-renewable energy sources, using solar power to create steam, which in turn will be used to extract oil from nearby deposits.
The use of steam injection is expected to extend the lifespan of the field, which has been in operation since 1984, with the enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technology allowing for the extraction of natural deposits too difficult or too costly to penetrate through conventional techniques.
The plant uses a technology developed by GlassPoint Solar, which has previously built a 7-MW thermal pilot project in the sultanate. The solar facility uses an enclosed trough technology, with large mirrors set up within a self-cleaning, greenhouse-style structure, which focus the sun’s rays on boiling oilfield water to create steam. This is then injected into the reservoirs for EOR, pushing out more of the heavy, viscous oil that remains. When there is no sun, a gas-fired system takes over to keep the steam in production.
Following the pilot project’s success, GlassPoint was commissioned for Miraah, which is a 36-block facility, eventually capable of delivering 6000 tonnes of steam per day for EOR in the field. The first four blocks were inaugurated in February 2018, delivering a combined total of 660 tonnes.
In November 2018 GlassPoint signed with oil company Occidental Oman to build a 2-GW plant for the Mukhaizna oilfield in the central Al Wusta Governorate. Engineering work on defining the scope of the proposed facility and field integration plans were under way in late 2018, with the facility likely to be a similar design to the Miraah project.
Expanding the Mix
Using steam generated by the sun is a more sustainable alternative to using steam produced by natural gas. It also cuts emissions significantly, with GlassPoint calculating that the Occidental project alone could save 800,000 tonnes of CO output per year.
This dovetails well with Oman’s broader objectives for the environment – and commitments under the Paris Agreement, to which it is a signatory – while it also aligns with the sultanate’s goal of using less of its own natural gas resources in energy production, freeing up the reserves for more lucrative uses, such as the manufacturing of petrochemicals and other, higher-value-added industries.
The projects initiated by PDO and Occidental Oman come amid broader nationwide strategies to expand the contribution of renewables to the mix to ensure more sustainable sources of energy.
This ambition has taken concrete form now in a range of smaller-scale projects, such as rooftop PV panels, as well as in larger, commercial utilities.
In May 2018 the state-owned Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP) unveiled plans to develop six new commercial utility-scale IPPs – three solar facilities and three wind farms – by 2024. They will have a combined installed capacity of 2650 MW. The three solar PV parks will be located at Ibri, Manah and Adam, while two of the wind facilities will be in Dhofar and the remaining one will be located in the port town of Duqm.
With the government having committed to ensuring at least 10% of electricity output is produced from renewable sources by 2025, OPWP is ramping up efforts to meet this target, Yaqoob bin Saif Al Kiyumi, the company’s CEO, told OBG.
“That will mean more than 2500 MW of installed renewable capacity by 2025,” he said. “This will likely consist of a combination of solar and wind resources, both of which Oman is well placed to utilise.”
The solar PV power plants will be developed as large-scale facilities, each with a capacity of 500 MW. They have been provisionally named Solar IPP 2022, Solar IPP 2023 and Solar IPP 2024, after their expected years of commissioning.
Pre-qualification for two of the upcoming wind farms, with capacities of 150 MW and 200 MW, are expected to start in late 2019, with the plants due for commissioning in 2023.
Meanwhile, the sultanate announced in August 2018 that it would be developing the country’s first wind farm, worth an estimated $54.7m. The turbines for the RE project are supplied by France’s GE Renewable Energy, and construction of the facility will be carried out by Spain’s TSK.
The 50-MW wind-powered facility is located at Harweel in the southern governorate of Dhofar, and is jointly owned by Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy firm Masdar and Oman’s Rural Areas Electricity Company, with commissioning due in early 2019. An extension of 150 MW of installed capacity is expected to become operational in 2023.
The Harweel wind farm deploys high-tech solutions to the challenges of a desert environment. Extreme heat and sandstorms characterise the area where the farm is located, with both posing a danger to electronic and mechanical systems. To accommodate such an environment, the facility features an adapted version of GE’s standard turbine, which is capable of working in temperatures ranging from 35°C to 55°C.
OPWP is also assisting the Public Authority for Electricity and Water (PAEW) in the Wind Resources Atlas study, the second phase of which began in February 2018. The phase comprises a wind resource assessment programme that will help determine available resources at specific locations more accurately. Key to this evaluation stage will be wind masts, which can reach heights of 80 metres, and generate information on wind speed, availability, direction and other related indicators.
Additionally, PAEW is monitoring the development of alternative technologies to expand the range of generational and storage options in the future.
In October 2018 PAEW issued two tenders for consultancy services to develop IPP projects that assess the potential of converting waste to energy. These innovative projects are aimed at both diversifying energy sources and reducing pressure on existing landfill capacity. The waste-to-energy facility is expected to treat around 2200 tonnes of municipal solid waste from the Muscat and South Al Batinah catchment areas per day.
Heat generated from incinerated waste will be used to boil water, creating steam to drive a turbine and produce electricity. The generated electricity will in turn be used to power a thermal desalination plant, which is expected to produce approximately 75m cu metres of potable water each year for the sultanate’s inhabitants, helping to reduce Oman’s dependence on gas for the production of water.
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