Mark Geilenkirchen, the CEO of Sohar Port and Freezone, signed the collaborative agreement with Chris Breeze, Shell's country chairman for Oman, at a ceremony held by Laetitia van Asch, the ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Sultanate of Oman.
The deal foresees the use of 600 hectares of land at the port and free zone site for the construction of an undisclosed amount of PV capacity. Shell will use the area to develop various solar plants, with capacities ranging from 10 MW to 40 MW. The Anglo-Dutch oil and gas major will build its first 25 MW PV plant at a carbon ferrochrome smelter facility owned by Al Tamman Indsil Ferrochrome LLC.
“We have a robust relationship with Sohar Port and Freezone, especially with our recent facility expansion this year,” said Anindya Das, CFO of Al Tamman Indsil Ferrochrome. “The creation of the new solar plant will further reinforce our commitment towards utilizing eco-friendly methods to carry out all our activities. We look forward to be a part of similar innovative solutions in the future that will benefit not only Sohar and the surrounding community, but the Sultanate as a whole.”
Breeze explained that the project frees up quantities of gas, which had been utilized for power generation at Sohar, for better commercial use cases. It has been noted previously that some of the Gulf countries have been at least partly motivated to move into solar PV to minimize their self-consumption of fossil fuels, which remain profitable exports.
The Sohar authorities are currently transforming a 4,500-hectare section of the free zone into a “green free zone”. The addition of solar PV capacity will help to accelerate this goal. “We hope that the changes we are implementing today will encourage current clients and future investors to adopt cleaner technologies and sustainable practices tomorrow,” Geilenkirchen said.
Oman joined the solar development race last year when it announced plans to install 4 GW by 2030, as well as an additional 500 MW solar park. The latter project was recently awarded to a consortium led by Saudi ACWA Power, in cooperation with two Kuwaiti partners. According to Reuters, ACWA and its partners — Gulf Investment Corp. and Alternative Energy Projects Co. — landed the contract to develop the project at Ibri, 300 km west of Muscat.
The Sultanate also plans to add 159 MW of PV-diesel hybrid plants across the country, in regions that have not been connected to the power grid yet. Oman’s Rural Areas Electricity Company (Tanweer) plans to build the project in cooperation with independent power producers at 11 different sites. The sites include Masrooq, close to the Saudi Arabian border, and Oman's exclave territory of Madha, which is enclaved by the United Arab Emirates. The list also includes Mazeira Island, which will host the largest project, consisting of 15.6 MW of solar and 56 MW of diesel generation capacity.
Shell also recently opened a 27 MW solar project at its Moerdijk chemical plant in the Netherlands.
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