Rod MacGregor, president and CEO, Glass Pont highlights the company’s vision to create long-term value for Oman and its people and to accelerate the country’s plans for economic diversification
GlassPoint Solar is the leading supplier of solar to the oil and gas industry. Operating worldwide from the Middle East to California, GlassPoint’s enclosed trough technology delivers the lowest cost energy to power oilfield operations. By harnessing sunshine, instead of burning natural gas or other fuels, GlassPoint helps oil producers reduce operating expenses while significantly cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
GlassPoint established its regional headquarters in the Sultanate in early 2012. Talking about the contribution of the company to Oman’s long-term social and economic development, Rod MacGregor, president and CEO, says: “We are committed to creating long-term value for Oman and its people. Developing a strong and experienced local workforce is a core priority for GlassPoint. Continuing to source our requirements from local contractors and SMEs is also part of a joint commitment with our partners Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) to increase In-country Value (ICV).”
He furthers, “Since being awarded our flagship project Miraah in July 2015, we have more than tripled our Omani workforce, and are sourcing about 40 per cent of our project requirements from the local market. We aim to lift it to 80 per cent as we move ahead on our journey and win more projects in Oman and in the region.”
Once complete, Miraah, which will be one of the world’s largest solar plants of its kind, will produce 6,000 tonnes of steam per day using the sun’s energy, instead of using natural gas as a fuel source. Steam is required to extract heavy oil at PDO’s Amal oilfield through a technical process known as thermal enhanced oil recovery (EOR). By using solar steam, Miraah will save Oman 5.6 trillion British Thermal Units (BTUs) of natural gas each year. Such substantial amount of gas savings will definitely contribute in accelerating the country’s plans for economic diversification. The gas diverted from the oilfield will either be exported or used for higher value applications such as power generation, and feedstock to fuel other critical industries. More gas available means more new industries will be created, which in turn will generate more employment opportunities and increased activity to diversify the local economy.
The project is also expected to reduce carbon emissions by over 300,000 tonnes annually, the equivalent of taking 63,000 cars off the road, contributing to a cleaner environment.
Socially impactful initiatives
In February 2016, GlassPoint announced a strategic partnership with local corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability experts, Sustainable Square Oman. The company is working with Sustainable Square to create its social investment strategy and launch new programmes that best serve the Sultanate and the Omani people.
“Partnering with a local CSR expert allows us to identify initiatives that will bring a tangible impact on a local level, and we look forward to announcing our focus areas shortly,” explains MacGregor. “We have already initiated CSR efforts at the company-level. GlassPoint organised an active tree planting initiative for our employees in commemoration of Earth Day 2016 that took place on April 22. More then 30 team members from our Muscat office gathered in Shatti Al Qurum where we planted 50 seedlings as part of GlassPoint’s commitment to combat climate change and conserve natural resources.”
The most recent initiative was a two-month summer internship programme. The goal was to provide Omani students with firsthand experience in a global work environment and learn from GlassPoint’s team of international experts. Five university students from environmental, accounting, and a range of engineering disciplines were able to gain insight and exposure into our innovative solar Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) solution and one of the world’s largest solar plants.
MacGregor avers, “GlassPoint is committed to supporting the development of Oman’s next generation of innovators by providing unique opportunities to develop their technical and interpersonal skills. We welcome the Sultanate’s future engineers and thought leaders to the world of solar.”
Referring to the company’s contribution to SMEs and to generate in-country value, he says, “We aim to generate significant in-country value and hundreds of jobs, largely from future supply chain development and gas savings applied elsewhere. Miraah will be one the world’s largest solar plants of any kind, built right here on Oman soil. The sheer size of Miraah puts Oman on a path to be a global hub for solar energy. We are working closely with with Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and with the support of the Oman Government to develop solar energy expertise and infrastructure that can serve as the foundation for Oman’s energy future.”
At the project-level, PDO and GlasssPoint are committed to working with local contractors throughout the value chain, from construction to sourcing of local materials, he adds. For example, local contractors and local community contractors (LCC) were assigned for site preparation and construction, which is currently ahead of schedule.
GlassPoint is the first to offer a proven solar solution that meets the needs of the oil and gas industry. For the first time, solar energy can economically produce emissions-free steam needed to produce oil. “We’ve earned validation from major oil companies, like PDO and Shell, who strategically see the future of their industry lies within the convergence of conventional energy and renewables working together,” explains MacGregor. Using solar for oil production can reduce a heavy oil field’s gas consumption and carbon emissions by up to 80 per cent. Gas saved can be exported as LNG or redirected to the private sector to fuel economic growth and create jobs.
As he observes, Gas used in Omani oilfields accounts for 20 per cent of the country’s total gas consumption. Widespread use of solar energy in the oilfield, will redirect precious gas resources to the export market or fuel projects that may have been put on hold due to gas supply constraints, creating hundreds of new jobs as well as additional revenue streams. The gas saved can be used for other priorities such as electricity generation, and water desalination for instance.
Unlike solar panels that generate electricity, GlassPoint’s enclosed trough technology uses large, curved mirrors to concentrate sunlight on a boiler tube containing oilfield water. The concentrated energy boils the water to produce high-pressured steam, which is injected into an oil reservoir to heat heavy oil and boost production. GlassPoint encloses the system inside a glasshouse structure to protect the solar collectors from the wind, sand and dust common in Middle Eastern oilfields. An automated washing system cleans the glasshouse to maintain performance in the dusty desert environment and reduce operation and maintenance costs.
Asked about how the CSR efforts helps GlassPoint from a business point of view, MacGregor replies, “It’s important for our corporate social responsibility strategy to align with our vision and that of our stakeholders so we can contribute where it’s needed most. We do have a number of new CSR initiatives that we are currently devising and will be announcing soon. These initiatives are all systematically designed to extend beyond the immediate benefits of our solar oilfield projects and achieve a positive social impact on Oman and its people.” He adds, “Our long-term goal is that through leveraging partnerships we further grow our engagement with local businesses and develop the capacities of young Omanis. Our vision is for Oman to become a centre of excellence for solar in the region and to be recognised globally as an industry leader.”
MacGregor believes that CSR activities will play an integral role for GlassPoint to achieve that vision, and exudes confidence that once it is achieved its impact and rewards will be visibly felt.