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A world leading solar plant to be used to produce oil

Initially, we noted on the ever-increasing consequences of global warming and why we should embrace the use of clean energy. Solar energy is  normally used as an alternative to oil. In one strange bedfellow, one of the largest solar plants will be used to boil water to be used in oil production rather than generating electricity. The plant knows as Mirrah has been designed by Glasspoint for petroleum development in Oman. Once the setting up of the plant is complete, it will produce 1 GW of power.

Mirrah will feature rows of curved mirrors that will concentrate sunlight to generate 6,000 tons of solar steam each day. The mirrors will be focused on a boiler tube containing water converting it into steam. Steam generated by solar plants is used to produce electricity but in this case, it will be utilized in the nearby oil field to loosen heavy oil so that it can easily be pumped to the surface.

When dealing with heavy oil after the easy extraction of soft oil, companies are forced to resort to more complicated and expensive process referred to as Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). This method helps them access the more difficult oil that makes up the majority of the world’s remaining oil reserves.

The leading EOR method is called steam flooding. In this process, steam is injected into an oil reserve to heat the oil and reduce its viscosity. The result is oil that can easily be pumped to the surface. One tricky aspect of the process is that it requires large amounts of natural gas to produce steam, increasing the demand for this energy source. According to Glasspoint, it can take an equivalent of one barrel to produce every five.

Mirrah plant will have the primary benefit of replacing the less efficient and more environmentally impactful natural gas method. The Plant will also save 5.6 trillion British Thermal Units (BTUs) of natural gas each year, which is approximately the amount of gas it takes to provide residential electricity to over 209,000 people in Oman.

The plant is expected to reduce gas consumption at the field by about 80%. Mirrah will reduce CO2 emissions by about 300,000 tons annually. The carbon saving is equivalent to taking 63,000 cars off the road.

Mirrah is expected to be completed in 2017 and will cover more than 3 SQ Km at a cost of US$600 million. It will have 36 self-cleaning glass house modules, enclosing the solar mirrors to protect them from weather elements and dust.

This video is a short documetary on the plant.

Featured image: gizmag

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