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Oman takes steps to harness geothermal potential

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Seeking to diversify its portfolio of renewable energy resources, presently dominated by solar and wind, the Sultanate of Oman has launched a new effort to assess and eventually unlock the potential of its geothermal resources.

Global technology company SLB (formerly known as Schlumberger) announced on Wednesday that it has been roped in by Oman’s Ministry and Energy and Minerals to chalk out a national strategy to develop the potential of the country’s geothermal resources. Also collaborating in this endeavour is Oman Investment Authority (OIA), the integrated sovereign wealth fund of the Sultanate of Oman.

Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source sustained by the immense heat generated within the Earth’s core. This thermal energy convects upwards and is stored in rocks and fluids found in relatively shallow depths in the Earth’s crust. A number of countries, notably the United States, Mexico, China, the Philippines, and Sweden, among others, have successfully tapped their geothermal resources for various applications, including electricity generation.

According to SLB, an international company with a presence in over 100 countries, this week’s announcement follows the completion of a comprehensive project to evaluate data from more than 7,000 oil, gas and water wells distributed across the length and breadth of Oman.

The objective of that exercise, the Paris-headquartered technology giant noted, was to map “sweet spots for geothermal prospects” in the country. Over a three-month period, SLB experts also assessed surface, subsurface and well data from the Oman Oil & Gas Data Repository (OGDR), the country’s national data repository.

A press statement from SLB quoted Eng Salim bin Nasser al Aufi, Minister of Energy and Minerals, as saying: “This collaboration between the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Oman Investment Authority and SLB is in line with Oman’s efforts to decarbonise the energy sector, achieve its Net-Zero goal, and implement Oman Vision 2040. Building on existing country data and infrastructure, this collaboration will create opportunities by utilising the latest technologies in the field of geothermal exploration and ramp up activities in Oman’s clean energy stream. We are glad to work with SLB given the extensive global experience in this field.”

Gavin Rennick, President of SLB’s New Energy Business, stated: “Geothermal is one of the world’s most promising clean energy resources, and it has a crucial role to play in reaching net-zero targets. Using digital technology solutions to assess geothermal resource potential can accelerate prospectivity analysis and, ultimate, the delivery and performance of geothermal installations. We are excited to work with the Ministry of Energy and Minerals and the Oman Investment Authority to explore decarbonisation pathways for Oman.”

Importantly, the Geothermal National Strategy will help address calls by researchers and energy experts stressing the need for intensive studies to assess Oman’s geothermal energy potential.

A recent research by Sultan Qaboos University noted that Oman hosts at least a handful of geothermal reservoirs – described as mainly low (70 – 90 degree C) and medium (100 – 174 degree C) enthalpy type reservoirs – that have not been suitably explored.

According to SLB, a multidisciplinary geothermal consulting team from the company had deployed a proprietary Artificial Intelligence (AI) solution to process the massive volume of data from the Oman Oil & Gas Data Repository (OGDR) to help deliver a comprehensive assessment of Oman’s geothermal potential. In the next phase of its collaboration with Omani authorities, the company plans to include assessment of the economic feasibility of the development of potential geothermal resources in Oman.

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