In a real case of strange bedfellows, one of the largest solar plants in the world is being built in Oman to boil water for use in oil production rather than to generate electricity. The plant, dubbed Miraah and created by Glasspoint for Petroleum Development Oman, will eventually produce the equivalent of 1 GW of power and will replace a less energy efficient natural gas method currently in use.
The Miraah project will feature rows of curved mirrors that will be focused on a boiler tube containing water. Unlike conventional concentrated solar plants that use heat to produce steam to drive a turbine and generate electricity, the steam created by the Mirraah plant will be used in nearby oil fields to loosen heavy oil so it can be more easily pumped to the surface.
Since much of the easily extracted oil has already been pumped, companies are resorting to more complex and expensive processes called Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) to access the more difficult to extract heavier oil that now makes up the majority of the world’s remaining oil reserves.
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