Oct 30 2011

Oman: Plan to double capacity of sulphur bentonite project

By Conrad Prabhu MUSCAT -- Takamul Investment Company (TIC), the majority owned downstream investment arm of Oman Oil Company , plans to double the capacity of its sulphur bentonite fertilizer project at Sohar by next year.

This was disclosed at an investment conference held at Al Bustan Palace - A Ritz Carlton Hotel recently. Senior representatives of Takamul, as well as its subsidiary companies, told the forum that the fertilizer project's capacity will be doubled to 60,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) before the end of 2012.

Takamul is the majority shareholder (55 per cent) in the joint venture Sohar Sulphur Fertilizers LLC, which is developing the sulphur bentonite plant at Sohar Industrial Estate. Local Omani firm Awtad Projects and Development, which is the investment arm of Al Nahdha Group, has a 25 per cent stake in the venture. The balance is held by US firm CoreSulphur which will provide the technology and know-how for the project. The California-based company describes itself as the world's premier, full-service sulphur forming and sulphur bentonite fertilizer project operator.

Currently under construction with a modest investment of around $6 million, output from the sulphur bentonite plant can be significantly ramped up in the future, according to the Takamul representatives. The project site at Sohar is large enough to house a total of four production lines boasting a combined capacity of 120,000 tpa.

Importantly, the project will help add value to the considerable volumes of sulphur produced in the country as a byproduct of oil refining operations. Around 60,000 - 70,000 tonnes of sulphur are produced annually by the Sohar Refinery complex of Oman Oil Refineries and Petrochemical Industries ( ORPIC ). Part of this output, which is currently exported, will serve as feedstock for the sulphur bentonite project, it is learnt.

Significantly, Takamul is also mulling other ventures that will add value to ORPIC 's sulphur output. One option under consideration is the addition of magnesium to sulphur. Other projects linked to high-value sulphur based products are envisaged as well, according to the officials.

Sulphur bentonite fertilizer is a micronutrient used extensively around the world to help fortify sulphur-deficient soils. Demand for the fertilizer is growing globally, particularly in India, China and other markets of Asia. Potential markets for Oman's sulphur bentonite include Asia, India and Turkey, and potentially even the United States.

Sohar Sulphur Fertilizers LLC is due to come into operation next March.

© Oman Daily Observer 2011

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