Muscat - The Sultanate’s first salt refinery is currently under construction at Ras Bantoot near Duqm on Oman’s Wusta coast.
Well-known oil and gas services Al Ghalbi International Engineering & Contracting LLC (GIE) is investing in excess of RO 10 million in the establishment of a 135,000 metric tonnes (MT) per annum capacity plant.
Conceived in line with the government’s In-Country Value (ICV) strategy, the project will go a long way in meeting the domestic demand for industrial salt — which is currently sourced entirely via imports.
“This is the first large-scale salt processing and refining plant, which apart from its mammoth size, will also has a substantial eco-friendly energy component,” said Project Coordinator Tariq Farooq. “The sun’s energy will be harnessed to concentrate seawater into crystals of raw salt, which will then be processed and refined to produce 99.8 per cent pure salt.”
Aside from cooking purposes, salt has wide application in the Sultanate, most notably in the Oil & Gas and industrial sectors. As industrial salt, it is used in the production of drilling mud, and also finds application in steam injection, water softening, soap manufacturing, and so on.
“As an import-substitution project, GIE’s salt refinery will help meet around 25 per cent of national salt demand, which is estimated at 500,000 MT per annum.
Currently all of this demand is met through imports from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and so on.
However, when our project comes on stream by around the third quarter of this year, we will be able to provide high-quality industrial and edible salt to the local market,” the Project Engineer said.
Construction work is already under way on a sprawling 1.6 sq kilometre site along the sea at Bantoot, not far from Mahout.
The centrepiece is a network of massive rectangular ponds, which will be flooded with seawater. Gradual evaporation of the water content leaves behind raw salt that is then transferred to the adjoining refinery where dissolved impurities such as calcium chloride, magnesium sulphate, and other minerals, are removed.
Equipment for the refinery has been procured from an Italian technology provider, said Tariq, adding that the purified salt will be marketed as a ‘Made in Oman’ brand.
The potential for exports as an ingredient in the textile dyeing, leather-making, soap manufacturing, and de-icing applications, will be explored as well, he noted.
Launched in 1997 as a Local Community Contractor (LLC) with a focus on oilfield services in Petroleum Development Oman’s (PDO) operations in Block 6, Al Ghalbi has since evolved into a well-diversified corporation with interests spanning pipeline engineering services, EPC and fabrication, industrial chemicals, ICT, media, tourism and catering.