Oil and gas companies in Oman go green to protect environment

Oman Wednesday 19/January/2022 21:45 PM
By: Times News Service

Muscat: Oil and gas companies in Oman are increasingly adding green practices into their operations, to help sustain the environments in which they operate over the long-term.

While some choose to recycle the water brought up to the surface during oil extraction by building wetlands that help local species of animals and birds thrive while reducing desertification, others are setting up facilities that produce far fewer pollutants during the process of oil refining.

Among the industry pioneers in environmental sustainability are Petroleum Development Oman, which set up the Al Nimr Water Treatment Project to treat 760,000 barrels of water that is part of the oil extraction process at the Nimr oilfields in the deserts of southern Oman.

“This natural treatment system consists of a passive oil-water separator, 380 hectares of surface flow wetlands and 300 hectares of evaporation ponds and has been instrumental in reducing the amount of hydrocarbon-polluted produced water being disposed to the deep well aquifers,” said PDO in a statement.

“The NWTP, being a gravity flow system, uses minimal fossil fuel for its operation and therefore results in an enormous saving in energy consumption compared to the conventional, energy-intensive disposal method of pumping the water more than 1.5 km below ground into deep aquifers under high pressure,” it added.

PDO planted more than 1.2 million seedlings to create the wetland which has become a desert habitat for close to 100 species of birds, including flamingos, sand martins, cuckoos, wagtails, barn swallows, red-necked phalaropes, and black-crowned sparrow larks, as well as insects, small reptiles and fish. The reeds themselves form a wetland covering around 2.4 million square metres of previously arid desert. They are irrigated by water that is a by-product of oil production activities in Nimr.

The project has treated about a billion barrels of produced water, and recovered more than half a million barrels of oil since operations began in 2010. The Nimr project has received multiple awards, including the Large Energy Project award at the Emirates Energy Awards that were held in Dubai, along with PDOs partner Bauer Nimr LLC.

The team has also won the Best MENA Oil & Gas HSE Project at ADIPEC 2012, GCC and National Winner in the Sustainability Category at the MEED Quality Awards for Projects 2012, and the Global Water Award in 2011.

A similar project is being set up by French company Suez, in collaboration with two Omani oil and gas firms: Al Shawamikh Oil Services and Merit National Investment. The contract to Suez was also awarded by PDO, and involves the company setting up a wetland system to treat, on a daily basis, 40 million litres of water produced from oilfields in Rima, also located in the south of Oman.

“A series of basins will be built over a period of two years, seeded with different species of algae,” said Cyril Courjaret, Suez CEO for Africa, Middle East, Near East, and Central Asia. “The produced water will circulate through these basins and become purified by biological actions, which consist of biodegradation by microalgae and bacteria.

“The succession of varying wetland environments, with different flow speeds and depths of water, develops these different mechanisms for pollutant absorption and will naturally treat the produced water,” he added. “Once cleaned, the produced water will be disposed into 300-hectare ponds to be naturally evaporated beneath the Omani desert sun.”

Both local Omani companies have a 24.5 percent stake in the Rima treatment project, with Suez holding the remaining 51 percent. The joint venture between the three companies will continue over a 20-year period.

“Many current practices involve disposing of water by drilling wells deep into the surface for this purpose, however, these are not environmentally friendly,” said Al Shawamikh CEO Dr Aflah Al Hadhrami. “However, this project for purifying water and diverting it towards environmentally friendly uses does not use any methods that are harmful for our environment.

“Furthermore, additional green energy is used to power our facilities,” he added. “This will reduce the contamination of groundwater resources, and there is an option to purify water of this project which will be used for farming and agricultural purposes. We will also continue to expand and participate in similar projects in future.”

Meanwhile, a new petroleum refining plant being built in Duqm by Canada Business Holdings (CBH) will generate 99 percent less sulphur than the levels currently accepted by the oil and gas industry. Sulphur dioxide and other compounds can affect both people’s health and the environment. At high concentrations, sulphur pollutants can harm trees and plants by damaging foliage, decreasing growth, and even contribute to acid rain, which can harm sensitive ecosystems.

The refinery marks CBH’s first foray into Oman, and Moses Solomon, who serves as the company’s chairman and CEO, says the availability of transportation fuel produced through environmentally sustainable methods will automatically create demand for it.

“We shall build and they will come,” he said, speaking to Times of Oman. “The technology owned and applied by us makes the green and clean refinery, by definition, a natural destination of choice for the fuel oil global consumers.

“The refinery will produce the finest and best products made by the most advanced technology worldwide,” added Solomon.

“Our technology is not a copy from elsewhere, and we are proud to establish the refinery in Oman. We hope it becomes a landmark for Duqm.”

Solomon expects the green petroleum plant to move Oman closer towards compliance with clean fuel production. Efforts to construct fuel extraction facilities that have minimal impact on the environment, he added, come under the United Nations’ efforts to reduce waste resulting from human and industrial activities.

Efforts to set up the refinery are also backed by a public-private partnership in the country. Once established in Oman, Canada Business Holdings also hopes to launch a technology partnership programme with other refineries in the Middle East.
Solomon added: “CBH will agree only to strategic partnerships that will provide the project with long-term success and stability. We are committed to the Sultanate of Oman’s interests.”