New life for old oil fields? Last year Oman inaugurated a 7MW solar pilot plant that produces steam to loosen thick, stubborn oil. Petroleum Development Oman has since hailed the four acre complex of glass houses a scorching success, and the supplier GlassPoint is preparing to become the “Ikea of solar,” Forbes reports.
Built for the Amal West Oilfield in the southern tip of the country, the glass houses create a protective shell around cheap, flimsy mirrors that dangle from the roof top.
These unique solar collectors track the sun’s progress throughout the day and concentrates heat onto a series of pipes containing water.
Instead of providing the fuel for an energy-generating steam turbine, like some solar applications, steam generated is funneled into oil wells to coax the Sultanate’s main cash cow to the surface for processing and eventual export.
This is an eco-friendly alternative to producing steam with either natural gas or oil and so far the pilot facility is working at a clip.
Syham Bentouati, head of new technology implementation at PDO told Forbes in an email that “the system has already proven that it can generate steam at the right specs for oil recovery.”
Now GlassPoint has to prove that the technology will remain effective for a full year, before plans proceed for what Forbes calls a “full scale buildup of the project.”
“So far, the performance is very promising and likely to be above contractual requirement,” writes Bentouati.
No details have been released but industry insiders speculate that Oman could invest a further $1.5 billion to build a 3,000MW facility, and GlassPoint is preparing for the possibility.
Thanks to a $26 million cash infusion from Shell, which has outraged different countries in the Middle East and North Africa with “fracking plans,” the CA group has built a factory in Shenzhen to mass produce components that are so simple to assemble, the company can “keep labor costs low.”
We shudder to think about the low labor costs, and we rue the ingenious technology’s misguided application, but GlassPoint is on to something that might be used more progressively in the future.
The glass walls allow the use of cheaper, less durable components that don’t have to fight against the elements – such as the fierce sandstorms that blow through the Arabian peninsula. And less water too.
CEO of GlassPoint Rod MacGregor told Christopher Helman from Forbes that the company hopes to expand into other gulf countries as well and that the Chinese manufacturing plant will help them become “the IKEA of solar.”
Image via GlassPoint