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Monday, August 8, 2011     GET REAL

First solar plant in Middle East to enhance production at aging oil wells

ABU DHABI — Oman has launched a project to build the first solar plant in the Middle East to increase production from crude oil fields.


Petroleum Development Oman has awarded a contract to a U.S. firm to build a seven-megawatt solar plant to generate steam and increase production from aging oil wells. Under the contract, GlassPoint Solar, based in Fremont, Calif., would use solar power rather than natural gas to increase oil production to 1 million barrels per day by 2016.

"Over time, the light oil at the top of fields gets used up, so ultimately everyone will be producing heavier and heavier oil," GlassPoint chief executive officer Rod Macgregor said. "Oil producers will need steam from somewhere, so they can either burn gas, which many lack, or they can use solar energy."

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Over the last five years, Oman, one of the smaller producers in the Gulf Cooperation Council, has reversed a decline in oil output through enhanced recovery technology. The GCC sultanate intends to produce 850,000 barrels of oil per day in 2011.

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