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    Oman’s maiden salt refinery weighs expansion

    Barely a year since it came into operation, Duqm Salt — the Sultanate’s first integrated salt refinery — is weighing plans to expand the capacity of its manufacturing complex in Mahout in Al Wusta Governorate to cater to strong domestic demand for the commodity.
    The move, according to a key executive, follows heightened interest in locally produced industrial salt by major Oil & Gas producers and contractors in line with their In-Country Value (ICV) commitments.
    Besides supporting indigenous manufacturing initiatives, the uptake of locally produced salt will also help greatly reduce imports of a commodity that costs the exchequer an estimated $180 million in foreign exchange outflows per annum, says Majed Kanber (pictured), General Manager — Global Integrated Engineering LLC (GIE), the promoter of the Duqm Salt Factory.

    Oman’s maiden salt refinery weighs expansion
    “We are looking at expanding capacity in response to strong interest in our industrial salt from well-known oilfield companies,” said Kanber. “As the only industrial salt manufacturer in the Sultanate, we also see the potential to supply a wide range of existing and future industries, including petrochemical projects, chlorine and chloride manufacturers, water treatment, desalination plants, and so on.”

    GIE — part of the well-diversified Al Ghalbi Group of Companies — currently operates a sprawling 153-hectare solar evaporation complex at Bentoot in Mahout Wilayat where raw salt is harvested from seawater. Total capacity of these ‘salt-works’ is about 135,000 tonnes of raw salt per annum.

    Adjoining this complex is a 100,000 tonnes per annum capacity one-of-its-kind salt refinery that produces primarily two grades of industrial salt — a 99.8 per cent high purity grade that is chiefly used by oil companies for the Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) operations, and a medium grade typically used by drilling companies, among a host of other industries.

    Although in operation for nearly a year, Duqm Salt is rapidly ramping up output to its full design capacity, said the General Manager. “We hope to achieve full commercial operation by late August — early September this year, and will mark this milestone with a grand celebratory event.”

    As a price-competitive, high-quality substitute for imported industrial salt, leading Oil & Gas operators and contractors are signing up to procure their requirements from Duqm Salt, according to the executive.

    “We are now supplying Oxy for their steam operations in Mukhaizna, where high purity salt is required for steam production. Oilfield services contractor Halliburton is also close to signing an agreement for the supply of 30,000 tonnes per year to cover their needs in four locations in Oman. Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) is also interested in our product, and will begin procurement from us when their current procurement contract comes to an end in 2020.”

    Buoyed by the robust interest in its industrial salt, Duqm Salt is now mulling plans to boost capacity. The company, says Kanber, is looking to position itself as the manufacturer of a competitive, locally produced substitute for the estimated 200,000 tonnes of industrial salt presently being imported to support the needs of the Oil & Gas, petrochemicals, and other industrial sectors.

    “We have selected a new area in Mahout Wilayat for a new (greenfield) development. Depending upon how soon we get approvals, we could have the new plant in operation in two years. At the same time, we are looking at optimising output from our existing plant at Bentoot by around 30,000- 40,000 tonnes per year.”

    Industrial salt, according to the executive, is a commodity of strategic importance to Oman’s oilfield, petrochemicals and industrial sectors. Industrial salt has application in a wide variety of chemical and petrochemical plants, such as in the manufacture of chlor alkali, chlorine, soda ash, caustic soda, sodium hypochlorite, and all kinds of chlorides. It is also used as a water softener, with substantial application in the water treatment and desalination sector. So we see ourselves as playing an important role in providing a ‘Made in Oman’ alternative to the imported version.”

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