Powering Omani industry with help from the sun

Powering industry with help from the sun

Shell’s first solar project in the Middle East is helping to power a smelting company in northern Oman and cutting its carbon emissions in the process.

By Marcus George and Tamara Abdulhadi on Jan 20, 2021

On a bright January morning a couple of hours after dawn, a container ship edges out of port into the Gulf of Oman carrying 950 tonnes of ferrochrome, a key ingredient for the production of stainless steel.

It is one of several monthly shipments from Oman to the Far East to help meet the high demand for steel from construction, automotive and manufacturing industries. Ferrochrome is an alloy made from the country’s rich deposits of chromite ore.

Producing it is an energy-intensive business which generates high carbon emissions. But with the launch of a 25-megawatt solar power plant, the company involved, Al Tamman Indsil Ferrochrome (ATIFC), will be able to cut its annual carbon emissions by a quarter while increasing its production.

“We feel like pioneers. We were the first ferrochrome smelting company to be established in the region and now we are the first industrial company in Oman to combine directly with a solar facility,“ says Narayana Reddy, who heads ATIFC operations at an economic free zone on the outskirts of Sohar, northern Oman.

The Qabas solar project, launched by Oman Shell, comprises 88,000 solar panels and generates 25 MW, the equivalent of powering 10,000 homes. The aim is to assist in facilitating cost-competitive solar power to companies based in SOHAR Freezone and help them to reduce their carbon emissions.

Take a tour around the Qabas solar project

Title: Shell_Film_08

Duration: 2:35 minutes

Description:

An introduction to the Qabas solar power plant in Oman.

Shell_Film_08 Transcript

[Background music plays]

The Shell theme begins with dramatic strings.

[Audio]

A low rumble, as if travelling in an aircraft, accompanied by birdsong.

[Video footage]

Travelling aerial view of sunlight penetrating the mist over some mountains.

Narrator 

Oman is changing its energy landscape.

[Video footage]

Travelling aerial view over a harbour in Oman with the sun low over the mountains behind. A time-lapse view, rising up, of grand municipal gardens as the sun rises over the sea behind. Shots of a group of men in thobes and headscarves approaching a solar panel array on a rooftop, following alongside from the level of the panels, then ascending from directly above. A shot from behind of a field of solar panels with pylons in the background, the Sun sinking behind clouds.

Narrator

Shell has ambitions to help Oman unlock its solar potential with Sohar Solar Qabas.

[Video footage]

Ali Al-Rashidi in Shell overalls and hardhat, speaking to camera in front of rows of solar panels.

[Sound effect plays]

A low whooshing sound.

[Text displays]

Ali Al-Rashidi

Project Execution Manager

Oman Shell

Ali Al-Rashidi

This is one of Shell’s largest solar plants.

[Video footage]

A travelling aerial shot approaching Ali and a colleague walking along a track between rows of solar panels stretching into the distance. A ground-level shot moving around the bases of some of the panels. An aerial view of the entire plant, situated in an arid landscape.

Narrator

50 hectares of land housing 88,000 solar modules, equivalent to 100 soccer pitches.

[Video footage]

A panning shot across the plant, of the mountains in the distance. Shots of Ali in discussion with a colleague, walking between rows of panels. A shot of a man wearing a hardhat, sunglasses and a hi-vis gilet looking at the side of a unit beside the solar panels. A close-up shot from below of a worker in large rubber gloves and a face mask connecting two wires.

Ali Al-Rashidi

We have been on site for a year with up to 275 workers building this facility from the ground up.

[Video footage]

A time-lapse view across the plant, showing the shadows of clouds come and go.

[Sound effect plays]

A building whooshing sound.

Ali Al-Rashidi

And it’s open for business.

[Video footage]

A travelling aerial shot of the plant beginning to catch the morning sun. A panning shot around the side of one panel.

Narrator 

Oman receives some of the best solar radiation in the world.

[Video footage]

Ali speaking to camera with rows of solar panels on either side. 

Ali Al-Rashidi

The panels track the movement of the sun which ensures they operate at their maximum capacity.

[Video footage]

A time-lapse shot from the surface of a panel, of it turning throughout the day to follow the path of the Sun.

[Audio]

A thin mechanical cranking sound as the panel rotates.

[Video footage]

A time-lapse shot showing the different positions of the panels during the day. A close-up from behind a Perspex panel of a man holding a wire with metal plug on the end, up to the Perspex. A shot of his hands in big rubber gloves holding wires up to a fuse box, then close-ups of him adjusting something behind the Perspex plate, then lifting a Perspex lid on a control panel.

[Audio]

A sound of hydraulic pressure release as the lid is lifted.

[Video footage]

A close-up of a different man’s face as he works underneath the raised lid, then a shot of his insulated gloved hands opening a cover on a wall-mounted control box. Ali speaking to camera again beside the solar panels.

Ali Al-Rashidi

Generating 25 MW, equal to powering over 10,000 homes, without any CO2 emissions.

[Video footage]

A close-up of Ali’s hand holding a pen, moving it across a large diagram of the plant. An aerial shot travelling over the rows of panels, then an aerial view of the entire plant.

[Graphic displays]

Overlaid on the aerial view, a white symbol representing solar panels under the Sun appears at the far end of the plant. A white line extends from the end of the plant towards a factory symbol further away. “3.5km” is displayed in large yellow text alongside the line. An animated line of faint, translucent white bars and squares drifts down across the image, as if approaching through the sky.

Narrator

The plant is directly connected underground to the first customer 3.5 kilometres away.

[Video footage]

Various shots of a factory, approaching from above and from under a tree. A view of a tall metal chimney at the end of a street between two large metal structures. A travelling waist-heigh shot along an elevated walkway towards a person in a hardhat holding a clipboard.

Narrator

A world leader in ferrochrome production.

[Video footage]

A shot of a bank of electrical controls in a room. A man in protective eyewear and a hi-vis gilet operating controls at a desk. A close-up over his shoulder of a computer screen displaying technical operations. A shot from behind of a vehicle approaching a furnace in a darkened warehouse. A close-up of molten metal cascading downwards into three successive crucibles.

[Audio]

Roaring sounds of the furnace.

[Video footage]

A view from inside the dark warehouse of the sun shining through a large open doorway as two workers exit through it.

Narrator

A power-intensive process with electric arc furnaces operating at 2,800 degrees Celsius.

[Video footage]

Shots of Mr Reddy wearing a hard hat, sunglasses and hi-vis gilet, standing in front of the factory, speaking to camera.

[Sound effect plays]

A low whooshing sound.

[Text displays]

Udmula Narayana Reddy

Operations Manager

Al Tamman Indsil Ferrochrome

Mr Reddy

During Summer, we used to reduce production as the summer tariff was too expensive.

[Sound effect plays]

A rhythmic digital beeping.

[Video footage]

A waist-level panning shot from inside a control room of an employee inspecting something inside a locker door on a bank of electrical controls. A view over an employee’s shoulder of schematics he is holding, and moving a pen over. A time-lapse view over the solar panels of the Sun rising as the panels adjust to follow its path.

Narrator

Drawing power from Qabas solar plant means production can increase in the summer, with a reliable output all year round.

[Video footage]

A view from behind of Fahad Al Essai looking across the solar plant. An aerial view of an industrial area.

[Audio]

A few seconds of birdsong.

[Video footage]

Shots of Fahad speaking to camera several metres above the solar plant.

[Sound effect plays]

A low whooshing sound.

[Text displays]

Fahad Al-Issani

Senior Investor Services Officer

SOHAR Port and Free Zone

Fahad Al Essai

There are various businesses operating within the Sohar Freezone, and mainly powered by gas-fired power generation. We hope this project will encourage other businesses to start the transition to Solar power.

[Video footage]

An aerial view of a large industrial area. Time-lapse shots of the solar panels adjusting to track the Sun.

[Sound effect plays]

Mechanical thuds and clicks as the panels adjust.

[Video footage]

Shots of an employee wearing hard hat, eyewear and hi-vis gilet using a laptop in front of a bank of electrical switches.

Narrator

The Qabas project is the beginning, to transition Sohar Freezone into using cleaner energy.

[Video footage]

An aerial view over the plant with the sun low over the horizon. A bird’s-eye view directly above the rows of solar panels, rotating and zooming in.

Narrator

Contributing to Oman’s sustainable energy landscape. Let’s make the future together.

[Video footage]

A shot across the surface of rows of solar panels, reflecting the evening sun, panning down onto the surface of one panel, then fading to black.

[Sound effect plays]

A low whooshing sound.

[Graphic displays]

The Qabas logo.

[Background music plays]

The Shell jingle on piano.

[Graphic displays]

The Shell pecten.

[Text displays]

© Shell International Limited 2021

ATIFC became Oman Shell’s first customer after seeing an opportunity to reduce its annual cost of electricity per unit, lock in long-term electricity pricing and operate more efficiently.

“In the hottest months of the year we could only produce 50% of our normal capacity because of the electricity costs which are a lot more expensive in the summer peak,” says Reddy. ”But now we have solar power from Qabas we can continue full production throughout the year.”

Maximum sunshine

While reducing its average annual carbon emissions by 25%, the company will be able to increase annual production by 5% without spending more on energy.

The solar modules span 50 hectares within the free zone and track the movement of the sun to ensure maximum energy generation. The solar plant’s control system ensures that the ferrochrome production facility benefits from a seamless balance between electricity imported from the grid and power generated by Qabas. 

ATIFC has received solar power since October 2020, when the plant first went online.

Fuelled by an abundance of low-cost oil and gas, Gulf countries have high carbon emissions per capita and face a rapid growth in demand for energy. Carbon emissions in Oman increased from 25 million tonnes in the year 2000 to 83 million tonnes in 2018.

Oman aims to generate 30% of its national electricity demand from renewable sources by 2030.
Oman aims to generate 30% of its national electricity demand from renewable sources by 2030.

To counter rising emissions, Oman aims to generate 30% of its national electricity demand from renewable sources by 2030. There is no shortage of sunshine in Oman all year round and several large-scale solar plants are in development which could add up to 4,000 MW of solar power capacity by 2024.

The government has encouraged the public and private sectors to develop clean energy plans to contribute to the national goal and Sohar Port and Freezone was determined to play a role.

“There are various businesses operating here and they are mostly powered by using gas-fired power generation,“ says Fahad Al Issai, a senior customer service officer at SOHAR Freezone. “We hope the project will encourage other businesses to make the transition to solar power.”

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