In the desert of southern Oman, near the border with Yemen, 4 acres of glass houses catch the sun. They sit in the Amal West oilfield, operated by Petroleum Development Oman. But these glasshouses aren’t growing tomatoes, or any other crop, rather they are making steam.
When it comes to developing its oil and gas reserves Oman faces a conundrum. The small country on the southeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula has a lot of oil, but it is mostly of the heavy kind. Far from gushing up out of the sands, this oil is stubborn and needs to be coaxed out of its reservoirs. To do that, Petroleum Development Oman (60% Oman government, 34% Royal Dutch Shell ), has perfected the technique of blasting steam down into the oil reservoirs to soften and loosen up the thick crude and push it up to the surface. Heating water to make that steam for injection requires a lot of energy. They could use some of the oil they pull up to generate steam, but it’s more profitable to sell that on the world market. So instead, PDO burns natural gas. Oman still has a lot of gas, but is in the process of doubling gas prices for industrial users, and has even had to divert some of its supply away from LNG exports and into the oilfields.