Al Rawabi unveils GCC's first biogas hub in Dubai

Dubai-headquartered Al Rawabi to invest $13.6 million in a biogas production plant for its Al Khawaneej farms

  
Male worker drinking coffee reviewing paperwork gas plant. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Male worker drinking coffee reviewing paperwork gas plant. Image used for illustrative purpose.

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25 June 2019
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region's first large-scale biogas project is expected to start operations in the second quarter of 2021, the CEO of Al Rawabi Dairy Company said.

Ahmed Al-Tigani told Thomson Reuters Projects that the plant would be located at the Dubai-headquartered company's dairy farm at Al Khawaneej with a herd of 13,500 cows.

The company would be investing 50 million UAE dirhams ($13.6 million) in the project, which is scheduled to commence operations by April 2021, he said on the sidelines of a press conference on Sunday.

The design, construction and commissioning contract for the project was awarded to Germany's ME-LE Biogas at a signing ceremony on Sunday with the German firm represented by its CEO Dietrich Lehmann and Al Rawabi by its Chairman Abdallah Sultan Al Owais.

Al-Tigani said the plant would process 10 tonnes of farm waste every day to produce 1.3 megawatts (MW) of power and 1.4 MW of thermal energy or heat.

"Instead of using petrol to heat the boilers in the processing plant, we will use the heat generated from the biogas, which will help reduce petrol consumption," he explained.

The Al Rawabi CEO said the biogas project would meet approximately 20 percent of the total energy requirements of its Al Khawaneej dairy farm.

He said: "We would be able to save on our electricity bills and thermal energy costs. We would also save on organic manure, and more importantly, the project would reduce odour emissions by 80 percent."

During his speech at the press conference, Al-Tigani had pointed out that the project would produce nearly 10 tonnes of organic fertilizer, extract 150 cubic metres per day of water from the manure for reuse in irrigation, save 50,000 dirhams a year on milk disposal and protect groundwater by reducing ammonia migration by 90 percent.

He told Thomson Reuters Projects that the expected return on investment for the project, over five years, is 12 percent.

"We are the first dairy company in the region to produce biogas from farm waste. We hope that other dairy companies will embrace this concept to protect the environment and produce alternative energy," he said.

Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, who was present during the press conference, told the media that the biogas project aligns with the UAE's commitment to clean energy transition and best-in-class integrated waste management practices.

He said: "One of the main topics in climate change is emissions from dairy and livestock sector. This project by Al Rawabi is going to reduce emissions from the farm, and at the same time, increase the percentage of renewable energy usage by the company after the commissioning of the project."

He said the UAE had set targets for the share of renewable energy in the country's total energy mix to seven percent by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030.

"We welcome the participation of the private sector in this effort, and this is how are going to achieve our target," he said.

Graeme Sims, Executive Director, Regulatory Supervisory Bureau (RSB) Dubai told Thomson Reuters Projects that Al Rawabi had approached the bureau a year ago to get a license for the project.

"It is interesting to see there are quite a few industrial businesses in Dubai that have identified that they access to a waste stream and are looking at ways they can profitably and economically convert that into a product or in this case, heat and electricity," he said.

Sims noted that in a biogas project, the environmental benefits are obvious, "where you get a combination of odour reduction, water extraction, fertiliser production and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from methane, which is very potent...ticks more boxes than most."

He said the biogas project itself would make a modest contribution to Dubai's overall clean energy targets, but the emirate needs all the opportunities to be seized by businesses on this front.

In 2016, the RSB had licensed Dubai's first small-scale generation project - a 3 MW biomass renewable plant - for the Union Paper Mills plant in Al Quoz.

"The Al Rawabi project serves as a good example of innovative thinking for any business or sector that has got organic waste," he added.

The event also saw the signing of an agreement between Al Rawabi and Emirates Development Bank (EDB) for financing future projects including a Total Mixed Ration (TMR) project.

The US FDA defines TMR as a feeding system for dairy cows in which the roughage and the concentrate ingredients, including the protein, mineral, vitamin, and other ingredients are all fed as one mixture.

Al-Tigani said the project, which is a separate profit centre, will supply feed to Al Rawabi and other dairy companies in the UAE.

Al Rawabi currently operates in the UAE and Oman, according to the company website.

(Reporting by Anoop Menon; Editing by Mily Chakrabarty)

(anoop.menon@refnitiv.com)


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