Plants to help clean up 40mln litres of wastewater generated during oil extraction in Oman

The project will have about 350 staff working on site

Image used for illustrative purpose. water treatment plant.

Image used for illustrative purpose. water treatment plant.

Getty Images

Muscat: 40 million litres of wastewater that are brought up to the surface during the extraction of crude oil in Oman will be cleaned by plants in a new treatment facility being set up in the country.

The water will then be used to create areas where local flora and fauna can thrive. The project, which is being jointly run by Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and Suez, will also help offset the pollution caused during oil extraction by reducing the carbon footprint of the entire process.

Under the design, build, own, operate, and maintain (DBOOM) agreement, Suez will construct the facility that can purify the equivalent of 14 Olympic-sized swimming pools, which come from the Rima oilfields, some 700 km south of the capital, Muscat.

“This 20-year contract is worth €120 million (OMR55 million) in total revenues,” said Cyril Courjaret, CEO, Suez. “A series of basins will be built over a period of two years, seeded with different species of algae,” he added.

“The produced water will circulate through these basins, where it will be purified through biodegradation by microalgae and bacteria. 40,000 cubic metres, or 40mn litres will be treated every day.”

“The succession of varying wetland environments, with different flow speeds and depths of water, develop these different mechanisms for pollutant absorption and will naturally treat the produced water,” he added.

“Once cleaned, the produced water will be disposed into ponds measuring 300 hectares each, to naturally evaporate beneath the desert sun.”

Suez will be the majority partner in this project, with a stake of 51 per cent, and its local Omani partners, Merit National Investments and Al Shawamikh Oil Services will each have a 24.5 per cent stake each.

They will contribute towards constructing and operating the facility for 20 years. Depending on the quality of crude oil found in oil fields, a single barrel of oil yields between five and 10 barrels of oil that need treatment.

Now that financing has been secured, local contractors will be hired to construct the ponds and lagoons. This will require around 8,000 cubic metres of earthworks, which need 200 pieces of heavy equipment working simultaneously to finish the job in its targeted 14 months.

“The main challenge we had to face was linked to implementing the team and setting up the special purpose company that will carry out this public-private partnership contract, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought with it many travel restrictions,” said Courjaret.

“We were not able to meet PDO’s teams face to face and we had to set up the contract remotely, which was not easy.”

“We had to adapt ourselves to these new ways of working and interacting with clients through virtual meetings and these worked well, as we were able to successfully close this project with PDO,” he said.

“This project is important as it represents an alternative and sustainable method of treatment for oil and gas companies and answers to PDO’s commitment to ensuring that all its operations and activities are performed in an environmentally sustainable manner.

“It represents an ecologically sound process with the bonus of protecting local biodiversity,” added Courjaret. “This natural and environmentally friendly treatment system will avoid the disposal of hydrocarbon-polluted produced water into deep well aquifers.”

The system will also significantly reduce the oilfield’s carbon footprint with 180 tonnes of avoided carbon dioxide emissions equivalents per day, or 657,000 kilotonnes a year. It will also generate 82 GWh savings in energy per annum.

Additionally, this project will enhance biodiversity in the desert and create a habitat for wildlife species providing sustainable living conditions for flora and fauna.

The project will also have about 350 staff working on site. The companies that have a stake in the facility will directly employ 35 people during the construction phase, and 20 during the operations and maintenance phase. The remaining will be provided by subcontractors.

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