Counting Carbon footprints

By Lakshmi Kothaneth — MUSCAT: Jan. 8 – Solar power, using reeds to purify water extracted with oil, a cup that can grow a plant and a paper recycling project were some of the projects that were on display on the Omani Environment Day at Petroleum Development Oman (PDO). The objective was obvious: how to reduce the carbon footprint. The event was presided over by Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs Mohammed bin Salim al Toobi. “PDO has many environmental projects and they are doing very well. The signing of agreements between PDO and the Ministry of Education as well as with Riyada assures us there are more to come,” said Al Toobi.

PDO’s solar thermal facility helps produce steam for enhanced oil recovery to extract heavy oil. The use of solar energy in oil industry looks promising, said His Highness Sayyid Tareq bin Shabib al Said. “I am encouraged to see PDO taking initiative on solar, which is greatly needed. We need to catch up with the world on solar energy production. There is a lot to be done,” said HH Sayyid Tariq. “We need to be reminded that every bowl of oil saved by generating energy from solar is a barrel we can sell rather than consume at a subsidised rate. Every barrel produced through alternative energy is money in the treasury’s pocket.”

Other projects included Nimr wetlands, solar car park project and solar-powered cat’s eye (road markers). Nimr water treatment project treats brackish water produced from oilfields using four wetland terraces of reed bed managed by “gravity feed”. Evaporation ponds help in salt recovery and are reused for drilling operations in the oilfields. This helps save money instead of investing in expensive deep disposal wells. Recycling paper is turning out to be a successful venture for the Omani Women Association in Seeb. “We began six months ago. Twenty women are working on the project. We sell recycled paper to PDO and the ministries. We collect paper from ministries, offices and houses,” said Amal al Hinai.

They produce recycled paper as well as products such as boxes, photo frames, notebooks, greeting cards, files and bags. Then, there is NAF, a student company from Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) that produces cups that can grow plants. Karak tea continues to gain popularity, so why not encourage more people to grow plants? “The first part of the project is the companies have an opportunity to brand the cup. People tend to read what is on their cups. Once you drink tea or coffee, do not throw away the cup. A seed is embedded at the bottom of the cup. Bury it and irrigate, and you will see a seedling in two weeks’ time and the plant is ready,” said Hafedh al Harthi, general director of the student company.

“By using the cup, you will not only grow a plant, but also teach children how to protect environment.” There is yet another choice before every individual: to reduce the carbon footprint by using biodegradable or reusable bags. “The Environment Society of Oman’s initial campaign against plastic bags, which received private sector funding, was to raise awareness and demonstrate that it is possible for us not to have plastic bags. We hope to get the private sector back in another campaign and eventually hope for a policy to be in place. It is a process and needs all bodies on board,” said HH Sayyid Tariq.