TECH

World's Largest Solar Plant To Be Used For Extracting Oil

09/07/2015 16:54 BST | Updated 09/07/2015 17:00 BST

Oman, one of the Middle East's biggest oil producers is building the world's largest solar plant.

Before you get excited, you should know that the point of this renewable energy venture is to extract more crude oil from the ground.

The £300 million ($600 million) facility will be built in South Oman, covering a large field with curved mirrors that will aim to harness the sun's energy using a technique called enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

oman solar plant

What this effectively does is use solar energy to turn water in a boiler tube into steam, which is then injected into the ground to reduce the viscosity of the oil underground therefore, making it easier to extract.

The project, called Miraah --which translates into mirror in Arabic -- will be built by Petroleum Development Oman and Californian based firm GlassPoint and should be completed by 2017.

Previously, Oman has relied on using natural gas to tap into its hard to reach wells of oil. According to Petroleum Development Oman's managing director, the solar plant will now free up the use of natural gas.

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Raoul Restucci told the Wall Street Journal, that the solar plant is a long term solution that will allow Oman to use its natural gas resources for domestics and export purposes.

Rod MacGregor, president of GlassPoint told Bloomberg: “The oil and gas industry is the next major market for solar energy,”

Once the plant is fully functional, it will produce 6,000 tonnes of solar generated steam every day, using 36 self-cleaning glass modules designed to cope with the regular onslaught of dust and wind storms that Oman faces.

Bloomberg estimate that the solar plant will dramatically reduce Oman's carbon emission by 300,000 metric tons annually -- the same as taking 60,000 cars off the road.

While we probably wouldn't go so far as to say that the means, in this case the solar energy, justifies the end -- this unusual marriage between renewable and non-renewable energy is definitely a step in the right direction.