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Nov 03 2009

Oman to get 3rd cement plant

MUSCAT — A new cement plant is under construction in the Governorate of Buraimi, enhancing security of supply of a strategic commodity vital to Oman’s ongoing infrastructure modernisation and economic development. Al Madina Cement Company LLC the Sultanate’s third cement project after Oman Cement in Muscat Governorate and Raysut Cement in Dhofar Governorate is coming up in the Wadi Saa area of Buraimi Governorate. Promoted by Al Buraimi Group, the project boasts a production capacity of around 2,500 metric tonnes per day of cement. Further expansions are envisioned in future phases of the plant’s development, a company official said.

“Plant construction commenced in March this year with completion slated for around April 2010. We hope to bring it into commercial production sometime thereafter after allowing for a commissioning period. Technology for the project is based on the single stream pre-heater dry cement process. Our goal is to supply not only the Buraimi area, where cement supply shortfalls are common, but also the entire Oman market,” the official told the Observer. Yesterday, Oman National Engineering and Investment Company announced that it had won a contract to build a main electrical substation for the cement plant at a cost of RO 815,000.

Significantly, the new cement plant will help augment domestic cement production capacity in a market that continues to enjoy around 10-12 per cent growth in annual cement demand despite the global economic slowdown. It will also go a long way in quelling market concerns about supply shortfalls of the kind that sparked a major crisis a year ago. Runaway cement demand fuelled by an investment boom in real estate and tourism projects, coupled with a massive state-funded infrastructure development programme, had triggered a major cement supply crunch early last year.

The government responded by cracking down on price manipulators and hoarders, setting limits on retail cement prices, and enacting steps to facilitate cement imports. Those measures, coupled with the global financial crisis and economic slowdown, have since helped to stabilise the market. In 2008, total domestic demand for cement was estimated at 4.5 million tonnes, with Oman Cement and Raysut Cement – the country’s two principal producers – accounting for around 3.5 million tonnes of this volume. The remainder was met through imports.

Both companies have undergone major expansions in recent years to help keep pace with demand. Oman Cement , which produced 2 million tonnes of cement last year, is also in the process of ramping up clinker capacity from 4,000 tonnes per day (TPD) to 8,000 TPD. The new clinker plant, being built by China National Building Materials Equipment Corporation (CNBMEC) at a cost of $162 million, will be operational in the first quarter of 2010. Another project to expand the grinding capacity of the company’s cement mills by 3,000 metric tonnes per day was completed last year.

Raysut Cement , which underwent a major capacity expansion three years ago, is now the largest cement producer in the Sultanate with a capacity of 2.4 million tonnes per annum of clinker and 2.7 million tonnes per annum of cement. Duqm, which is tipped to host a major petrochemical and industrial hub planned around a port and dry dock complex, is also seen as a possible location for a new cement plant in the future.

By Conrad Prabhu

© Oman Daily Observer 2009

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