Oman to launch first bio-refinery in Gulf region

By Xinhua

Abu Dhabi : An Omani company is set to launch the first bio-refinery in the Gulf region, which will produce ethanol mainly from date palms for use in motor vehicles as a substitute for petrol and diesel, local newspaper Khaleej Times reported Friday.

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Oman Green Energy Company (OGEC) will invest US$28.65 million to build a bio-refinery imported from Brazil in Sohar, a city 240 km north-west of Omani capital Muscat, according to the report.

The plant, expected to be ready by end-2007 or early 2008, will have an initial capacity of 900,000 tonnes a year, which will be doubled within two years.

The plant is expected to turn in a profit of US$225 million in its very first year of operation, Mohammed Saif Al Harthy, CEO of OGEC was quoted as saying.

"The uniqueness of the project is that cellulose, which will be converted into ethanol, would be extracted from the date palms without cutting a single tree," Al Harthy said.

Eighty percent of the output will be exported to Europe, China and India where the demand for alternative fuels is surging as it is in the United States, Canada and Brazil. The rest will be consumed in Oman and other Gulf countries where the trend was just catching up.

OGEC also plans to set up a string of bio-fuel filling stations in Oman and aims to cut carbon monoxide emission by up to 20 percent by 2020, Al Harthy added.