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ARA Petroleum and HELIOVIS to launch major solar-powered desalination plant in Oman

  • ARA Petroleum and HELIOVIS to launch major solar-powered desalination plant in Oman
    Credit: Pablo Gonzalez-Cebrian/SWM

About the entity

Our mission is to revolutionise the energy landscape by harnessing the power of the sun to deliver reliable, affordable, and sustainable solar thermal energy to industrial customers.

HELIOVIS and ARA Petroleum signed a commercial contract to provide the world’s first solar-thermally powered, zero emission desalination plant for the treatment of produced water. The plant will be built at the oilfield of Qarat al Milh, which is part of concession block 6, the largest exploration site in the Sultanate of Oman.

Working in partnership to deliver this showcase project, HELIOVIS and ARA Petroleum will deploy HELIOVIS’s patented and proven low-cost solar thermal technology to produce up to 140m³ of drinking water per day from highly saline produced water. Produced water refers to naturally occurring water in oil reservoirs, which is co-extracted during the production process. Typically, this water contains high levels of dissolved mineral salts and is often contaminated with hydrocarbons. It is therefore usually discharged into large evaporation ponds or pumped back under ground. At the same time, the freshwater water required for oil field operations is produced from seawater at the coast in energy intensive reverse osmosis (RO) plants and transported to the remote exploration sites by truck, leading to high cost and a heavy CO2 footprint.

HELIOVIS’s solar thermal energy will be used to power a forward osmosis (FO) water desalination plant with a direct-osmosis (DO) ZLD unit (zero liquid discharge) to transform produced water with a salinity of ca. 102,000 ppm (3 times more salt than seawater) into ca. 140 m3 of potable water per day at the oilfield, resulting in significant cost savings and CO2 emission reductions.

This showcase project will also enable technical learning and is intended to promote similar projects to help reduce CO2 emissions throughout the Gulf region

Since its formation in 2014, ARA Petroleum is a dynamic member of the E&P industry in Oman that utilizes the latest technologies to ensure the country’s hydrocarbon assets are operated optimally and the recovery of oil & gas is maximized.

HELIOVIS’s HELIOtube® technology uses recyclable inflatable tubes and mirror films to collect and concentrate sunlight and to provide clean industrial process heat in the hard-to-decarbonize mid-temperature range of 90°C to 400°C. The technology gives major cost advantages in manufacturing, shipping/logistics, installation, cleaning, maintenance, and freshwater usage compared to conventional parabolic troughs that employ bent glass mirrors. In the context of the oil & gas industry, it can be used amongst others to power refineries and gas scrubbing facilities, to generate steam for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), or to desalinate produced water as in the present case.

ARA will purchase the complete plant from HELIOVIS, who as the EPC company will integrate its own proprietary HELIOtube technology with the innovative FO and DO desalination technologies of Trevi Systems Inc. (California).

This showcase project will also enable technical learning and is intended to promote similar projects to help reduce CO2 emissions throughout the Gulf region.

Felix Tiefenbacher, CEO of HELIOVIS said, “We are looking forward to building on our success with a next generation solar thermal desalination project in Oman. This collaboration with ARA Petroleum demonstrates the scale of opportunity for our unique, low-cost technology to decarbonize industrial heat, including for oil & gas operations. We are pleased to be working with ARA Petroleum to grow Oman’s solar industry and the global market for zero emission desalination.”

Dr. Omar Al-Jaaidi , General Manager of ARA Petroleum Exploration & Production, said, “We are excited about working with HELIOVIS to enhance our environmental stewardship in Oman and strengthen ARA’s position in the lower-carbon economy. This is a strategic opportunity for us to tap into solar as a sustainable source of energy in order to minimize the carbon footprint of our operations.”

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