With Oman setting much store by its heavy oil reserves to sustain crude production over the long term, this week’s World Heavy Oil Congress & Exhibition promises to provide strong new impetus to ongoing efforts by various stakeholders to harness this valuable resource more cost-efficiently, according to a key official of the Ministry of Oil & Gas. Dr Saleh Ali al Anboori, Director-General of Planning & Studies, said the three-day forum, which opens at the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre tomorrow, has the potential to galvanise the quest for new technologies and solutions necessary to develop, produce, transport and refine Oman’s heavy oil resources more affordably that it currently is.
“The World Heavy Oil Congress, which Oman is hosting for the first time, will shine a spotlight on a full spectrum of topics across the heavy oil value chain — from development and production of this resource to transportation and refining as well,” Dr Al Anboori said. “Given this comprehensive and broad-based focus, we urge everyone with an interest in heavy oil — from the upstream players themselves, to the contractors and service providers, technology vendors, R&D institutions and scholars — to make the most of this event.”
The official, who will co-chair the opening session tomorrow, said the forum titled ‘Transforming the Heavy Oil Value Chain’, has immensely beneficial implications for a country like Oman which depends on heavy oil to achieve its crude production targets in the future.
“The era of easy oil is on the wane, with heavy oil — which is relatively expensive complex to produce — now accounting for 10-15 per cent of our daily output. Heavy oil’s share is projected to rise in the future, and we need to be suitably equipped for the challenges in store,” Dr Al Anboori stressed.
The Director-General hastened to clarify however that Oman is well ahead of most hydrocarbon producers in the region on the heavy oil resource development front. “In some technological respects, Oman is a pioneer of sorts, given its excellent experience in the deployment of thermal, chemical, miscible gas and other enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technologies in harnessing our heavy oil reserves. Mukhaizna and Amal are examples of our success on this score.”
The key challenge for Oman’s energy sector is to sustain heavy oil production cost-competitively, according to the official. “Given the current fiscal and economic constraints, the onus is on us to find cheaper ways of bringing heavy oil to the surface. We need to come up with ways to drive down capital costs through a combination of technology, innovation, R&D and knowledge sharing. This week’s conference provides us with an excellent platform to advance these goals.”
Producing heavy oil — which is extremely viscous — is also energy-intensive and thus a key contributory factor in the relatively high cost of heavy oil production, the official points out. Exploring sustainable alternatives is thus imperative, says the official, noting in this regard the successful use of solar
technology in place of pricey natural gas as a fuel source in heavy oil production.
The use of steam to heat heavy oil reservoirs, while popular in many parts of the world including Oman, also has a downside. It contributes to the generation of
large quantities of produced water along with heavy oil — a byproduct that must be either recycled or disposed of in sustainable ways, says Dr Al Anboori.
Importantly, the forum will also focus on the refining and downstream potential of heavy oil — segments of the value chain that are equally complex and expensive to deal with. Transporting, refining and processing heavy oil, as well as options for dealing with waste residues, will be addressed during the conference.
Sharing their expertise in heavy oil development in the Sultanate are executives from Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), Occidental of Oman and GlassPoint Solar — all three of which are currently on the frontlines of the Sultanate’s heavy oil-based hydrocarbon quest. They will be joined by experts from prominent upstream energy firms, technology developers, and energy think-tanks who will share their perspectives on the outlook for heavy oil development and processing in the coming decades.
According to the World Petroleum Congress, around a third of the world’s heavy oil resources are located in Venezuela and Canada, followed by the Middle East, United States and Russia. Heavy oil, along with extra-heavy oil, oil sands and bitumen, accounts for 70 per cent of the world’s oil resources. The share of heavy oil alone is about 15 per cent.