Oman makes headway with $430m algae farm project

Muscat: Oman hopes to make a landmark foray into the multibillion dollar global algae farming industry with a maiden investment in a mega project on the South Al Sharqiya coast with key backing from a leading British player.

UK-based SuSeWi (formerly Feed Algae), which is behind a number of algae farming projects around the world, is leading the development of a 100,000-tons per annum capacity farm in the Sultanate. With an estimated investment of around $430 million, it will rank among the largest micro algae farming projects in the world.

Given the scope of the venture and the need for approvals from a plethora of regulatory agencies, the Implementation Support and Follow-Up Unit (ISFU) – a special task force set up under the auspices of the Diwan of Royal Court – has been facilitating the approvals process to aid its speedy delivery.  ISFU’s mandate is to fast-track projects and initiatives that will help accelerate Oman’s economic diversification.

Significantly, the proposed venture will help Oman break into an industry that will be worth an estimated $45 billion in 2023, according to ISFU.  The Sultanate’s unique natural environment and climate settings are ideal for algae farming, it noted in its newly published 2019 Annual Report.

“Algae is a fast-growing plant organism with many beneficial properties. It converts sunlight, CO2, and nutrients into organic matter that can replace many commonly used oils and animal and plant proteins. It is also an effective carbon sink, water nutrient filter, and an efficient land/water source of food and fuel energy. In addition, algae has various applications in the biofuel, bioplastics, fertiliser, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and nutritional supplement industries, as well as in animal and fish feed production. Moreover, as it contains a high percentage of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Algae oil, for example, is an ideal alternative to the increasingly scarce and expensive fish oil, and in high demand in the aquaculture industry,” it explained.

A preliminary aquaculture license for the project has already been obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, says ISFU, which is also coordinating with the Ministry of Interior (MoI), Ministry of Housing (MoH) and Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA) in securing the requisite permits for the ambitious project.  A consultant has been appointed to undertake an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) study before implementation can commence in earnest.