Oman’s first salt refinery set to come into operation

MUSCAT, MAY 27 – Duqm Salt, a first of its kind project that produces industrial salt from seawater, will be officially inaugurated on July 23, 2018, in celebration of the Sultanate’s 48th Renaissance Day. Located at Bentoot in the Wilayat of Mahout in Wusta Governorate, the plant is managed by Global Integrated Engineering Company, a subsidiary of Al-Ghalbi International Engineering & Contracting LLC (Al Ghalbi), 100 per cent Omani company. In this interview, Ali bin Sulayem bin Saleh al Junaibi, (pictured) Chairman of Al Ghalbi, says the project exemplifies the Group’s commitment to In-Country Value (ICV) development, given its importance in meeting the requirements of local oilfield companies. How did the idea of a salt refinery – which is the only one of its kind in Oman – first materialise?
We did a research to identify the needs of the oil and gas sector. We found that there is a considerable reliance on industrial salt, which is used in drilling operations in oil wells in the Sultanate. It is also used in the treatment and desalination of steam water to extract oil using steam injection, especially heavy crude oil. The Sultanate imports almost one million ton per year and consumes it at the different operations. We have seen promising opportunities in this product which can be produced locally as the raw materials are available in the seas of the Sultanate. We made an in-depth study about the project and we consulted many houses of expertise. We received support and encouragement from the Ministry of Oil and Gas and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Public Authority for Mining (PAM). The Ministry of Housing played a significant role in getting the approval for allocating enough space to set up the project.
What are different processes involved in the production of raw and industrial salt?
The production of raw and industrial salt from solar energy involves the establishment of saltwater drying ponds (marine and groundwater) through which the gradual intensification of salinity in these ponds depends on the environmental and natural factors of the water evaporation.
At the final stage of evaporation, we have the raw salt. We then take this raw salt and start purifying it of impurities such as sand and using the high-tech equipment that ensures that our products meet international standards. After this we start the packaging stage.
Why did you select Al-Wusta Governorate for this project?
Al Wusta is promising economic gateway to the Sultanate, especially many projects have already started operation in Duqm and many others are on the pipeline. It was also selected for a number of environmental and geographical factors that contribute to the intensification of sea salt. The other factors include its proximity to oil fields operating in the Sultanate, which is the first consumer of our products as well as its proximity to Duqm which will facilitate the export of the product. Most importantly is that the government allocated a usufruct right for the land close to the Sea of Oman to use sea water in the production of salt.
What is the project capacity?
The project is located on an area of 1700 square metres, and its annual production is about 135,000 tons which may be increased to 200,000 tons per year. The product of the factory targets the oil and gas sector locally, which will cover about 30 per cent of the use of oil fields of this product annually. Our product is of high quality and very high purity (99.8 per cent), which means that the products meets oil companies specifications and standards.
Does the factory produce industrial salt only or are there other salt products?
The plant is designed to produce industrial salt. But we have plans for the production of other types of salt derivatives, which are included in a number of industrial and food uses, such as bromide and all kinds of soda. At the second stage, we plan to produce table salt, salts for swimming pools, salt tablets for animals and salt used for de-icing and other uses.