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Amal Oil Field, Oman

Miraah: Solar Enhanced Oil Recovery Steam Plant

Solar Steam Thermal Enhanced Oil Recovery

The Sultanate of Oman, which is actively developing its extensive heavy oil reserves, traditionally uses natural gas to create steam that feeds directly into its existing thermal enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations. However, thermal EOR projects require a massive long‑term thermal energy supply to heat reservoirs for oil production—and concerns about future natural gas supply, carbon dioxide emissions, and costs led Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), the sultanate’s largest oil and gas producer, to investigate concentrating solar power (CSP) technology to sustain its long‑term EOR plans.

Parsons (as TJ Cross Engineers, Inc.) worked with GlassPoint Solar, the leader in solar EOR, to spearhead PDO’s first solar EOR steam plant using enclosed trough technology in Oman’s Amal oil field in 2012. We performed the conceptual engineering, front-end engineering, and detailed design for the solar steam pilot, which uses concentrating sunlight to produce an average of 50 tons of steam a day.

Since the solar pilot exceeded PDO’s requirements for steam delivery and system reliability, Parsons continues to work with GlassPoint to deploy its solar steam generators while building Miraah, projected to be one of the largest solar plants in the world. Parsons will provide the front‑end engineering for the initial construction phases of the 1,021‑megawatt solar thermal facility, which will encompass more than 740 acres at the Amal oil field once complete. A solar strategy, as at Miraah, is ideal because of the region’s high cost of natural gas, solar’s reduced carbon footprint, and Oman’s ample supply of sunlight. A solar EOR system can provide an economically viable and environmentally sustainable long‑term solution while conserving valuable natural gas resources for other PDO initiatives.

Technology

PDO and Parsons share a passion for inventive processes and unique solutions, so it’s no surprise that the technologies being used at Miraah are highly innovative. In fact, the enclosed trough method represents a cutting-edge approach to the design and construction of CSP technology. Unlike solar power towers that generate electricity by using an array of flat, movable mirrors to focus sunlight on an elevated collector containing liquid sodium or molten salts, the enclosed trough system uses large, curved mirrors within a glasshouse to focus sunlight on a boiler tube containing water. The concentrated energy boils the water to produce high‑quality steam, which is then fed into the oil field’s steam distribution network to extract heavy and viscous oil. Additional features and benefits from using the enclosed trough system at Miraah include:

  • The system will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 300,000 tons per year.
  • Parabolic mirrors made of lightweight aluminum result in material and cost savings.
  • The direct steam system eliminates additional costs and risks found in traditional CSP systems, such as heat exchangers and flammable heat transfer oils.
  • Carbon‑steel boiler receiver tubes maximize absorption of solar energy and minimize losses from emission of infrared radiation.
  • Tubular glass shields decrease heat losses from convection.
  • A separator and a remixing process control steam quality, and any excess liquid is recycled back into the insulated water supply tank.

The glasshouses provide structural support and isolate the solar collector mirrors from wind, moisture, and other harsh environmental conditions. Each glasshouse will be fitted with an automated roof washing system that can clean the entire roof at night while the collectors are offline. About 90% of wash water can be returned into the gutter system and recycled for other uses. Dust infiltration from the area’s rampant dust storms is minimized by positive pressure produced by an air‑handling unit, which provides filtered, dry air throughout the glasshouses.

The Future

Parsons is pleased to be engaged in the front-end engineering of Miraah, which is being built in modular blocks that will be completed and commissioned in succession. Steam from the first module is expected in 2017.
Once complete, Miraah will deliver the largest peak energy output of any solar plant in the world, using 36 glasshouses to generate an average of 6,000 tons of solar steam daily and saving 5.6 trillion BTU of natural gas per year. That energy saving can directly benefit the region—for example, it is enough to provide residential electricity for more than 200,000 people. Moreover, Miraah can boost productivity and economic growth for the local community by creating new opportunities in supply chain development, manufacturing capability, and employment and training. Plans to localize the supply chain are under development, including establishing a manufacturing factory in Oman.

With 65+ years of experience in the energy and chemicals field, Parsons is a leader in heavy oil production systems, water reuse plant design, engineering, procurement, construction turnkey solutions, sustaining capital projects, and modular systems delivery. Our oil production expertise in the Middle East Africa region dates back to 1952, and our work in Oman includes design and construction supervision of the Haya Water A’Seeb wastewater management project (2006‑2013) and the Muscat Expressway project (2001‑2012).