Sohar Port eyes green hydrogen, large-scale solar for port industries

Sohar Port and Freezone says it is offering developers the opportunity to invest in utility scale solar farms that will generate competitively priced electricity for various industrial and petrochemical plants operating within the port.
Equally promising is the opportunity for investors to produce ‘green hydrogen’, which can be used by industries that currently depend on valuable natural gas as a source of hydrogen for their requirements.
Additionally, green hydrogen can be used as a source of calorific energy, thus supplanting electricity generated from natural gas. Either application effectively frees up natural gas, which can then be used in petrochemical and other value-add industries, thereby helping unlock further value from Oman’s hydrocarbon resources.
While large-scale solar power and green hydrogen are more long-term ambitions of the port, modest-scale versions are envisaged in the short-term to add to the port’s competitive appeal, according to Mark Geilenkirchen, CEO.
“Whenever a new company comes to the free zone, we offer them the possibility to buy solar electricity via (one of the developers), so the new investors have access to cheaper solar electricity, but also land in the free zone,” said Geilenkirchen.
Last month, Sohar Port formalised a pact with Qabas, the newly established renewable energy arm of Oman Shell, to invest in solar farms in the free zone. The first customer to benefit from this initiative is a ferrochrome plant that is already in operation in the free zone.
In addition to Qabas, a subsidiary of the State General Reserve Fund (SGRF) — the largest sovereign wealth fund of the Sultanate of Oman — is also exploring plans to invest in renewables-based capacity in Sohar Port and Free Zone.
“Qabas has been allowed to offer electricity to customers in the free zone, but we will be open to other players in the future,” said the CEO.
“Qabas is also looking at large-scale solar electricity for our companies in the port, which are large users of electricity. So we are looking at the possibility to expand our solar capacity and generate many more megawatts and gigawatts of electricity for port users.”
Among the mega industries operating within the port is a refinery and petrochemicals complex operated by OQ (formerly Oman Oil and Orpic Group), an iron ore pelletising plant belonging to Vale, and a DRI steel mill owned by Jindal Shadeed.
At the same time, Sohar Port is exploring avenues for small-scale production of hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels primarily in transportation, said Geilenkirchen.
“Initially, we are looking at hydrogen for mobility, such as vehicles, forklifts and so on. But longer-term, we are looking at the possibility of producing ‘green hydrogen’ with solar electricity probably via electrolysers, and then bring it to the port. This will reduce the consumption of natural gas in our calorific processes, which we can then use in our (petrochemical plants).”
Billed as a super-versatile energy carrier with energy density more than twice that of natural gas, green hydrogen finds application in an array of sectors, including refining and petrochemicals.
This zero-carbon fuel is expected to play a major role in decarbonizing the global economy. Green hydrogen will also be used in fuel cells for electric vehicles and numerous other applications.