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SPOTLIGHT

PDO: Exploring new frontiers in sustainable energy

True to its reputation as an innovation-driven company, Petroleum Development Oman (PD) is preparing to add another first to its growing list of accomplishments in the renewable energy domain.

That list currently includes the signature Miraah project – a solar thermal energy plant which at 1GW capacity was the largest of its kind globally when it was first unveiled in 2015, and the 100 MW Amin renewable energy project – the Sultanate’s first utility-scale solar energy scheme that came into operation this year.

Also noteworthy are the company’s expansive Reed Bed project in the south of its concession, the solar car park scheme at its Mina Al Fahal headquarters, and its award-winning solar-powered ‘cat-eyes’ installed along a 650-km stretch of highway, not to mention an array of other technological innovations that have earned the country’s leading energy producer international plaudits.

Recently, the majority state-owned company announced a landmark foray into the production of ‘Green Hydrogen’, billed globally as the sustainable fuel of the future. On the anvil is a pilot project the success of which will drive the development of industrial-scale production of green hydrogen from renewable solar and wind resources found in abundance across PDO’s sprawling Block 6 license.

For PDO, the green hydrogen journey commenced this year following its participation in a ‘dialogue’ with fellow stakeholders – government, public sector, academic and industrial – in 2019, according to Dr. Zakiya Al Azri, Corporate.

Research and Development Advisor at PDO. The immediate goal is to pilot green hydrogen technologies suitable for Oman’s environmental settings and then develop commercial-scale ventures based on learnings gleaned from these initiatives, she said.

PDO’s vision for the introduction of green hydrogen as a new energy system in the Sultanate was outlined during a webinar organised by ATA Insights, a Spanish-based independent strategic communications firm focusing on renewable energy sector. Presenting on the theme, ‘PDO: New Energy Frontiers and Green Hydrogen Opportunity at a Glance’, Dr. Zakiya said the company’s pursuit of green hydrogen is an integral part of its planned transition into a fully-fledged energy company that transcends its current focus on hydrocarbons. 

Energy Development Oman (EDO), the new “daughter company” of PDO envisioned as part of this transition, will explore new business opportunities encompassing, among other areas, renewable energy resources, water management, energy efficiency, and flare gas management, says PDO’s R&D Advisor. The ultimate goal, she points out, is to support Oman’s economic diversification, foster human capital development, and harness the company’s vast repository of expertise to advance initiatives far beyond the current limits of its Block 6 license. 

As a first step in this direction, PDO has tapped Belgium-based consultancy firm Hinicio, a specialist in sustainable energy and mobility, to study the feasibility of a green hydrogen pilot, according to Dr. Zakiya. 

"PDO has an ambitious target to secure at least 30 per cent of its energy requirements from renewables by the year 2030."

The seven-month-long study will focus on two possible sites, the first centring on the solar car park at PDO’s Mina Al Fahal headquarters in the capital region. While the proposed capacity of the pilot is still under evaluation, the goal is to harness the potential of the solar car park to support mobility solutions using solar hydrogen as a fuel source to power passenger buses, car and trucks, she said.

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