Oman’s OQ Group weighs blue ammonia production from Omifco plant

Promising prospects: State-owned energy conglomerate explores potential for harnessing tidal and offshore wind resources CONRAD PRABHU MUSCAT: OQ, the global integrated energy group of the Sultanate of Oman, says it is exploring the possibility of upgrading the Sur plant of partly-owned Oman-India Fertilizer Company (Omifco) to produce low-carbon blue ammonia in place of conventional ammonia associated with planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

The move is part of an array of initiatives currently being weighed – or under development – by the state-owned energy conglomerate in support of the nation’s energy transition strategy.

Omifco, a joint venture between OQ Group (50 per cent) and a pair of Indian public sector farming cooperatives (50 per cent), operates a two-train 5,000 tonnes/day urea plant alongside a pair of 3,500 tonnes/day capacity ammonia units. While the urea output was until recently shipped to India under a now-concluded long-term offtake agreement, the ammonia has been marketed internationally.

According to a high-level official of OQ, a new study jointly commissioned with Omifco seeks to achieve a partial decarbonization of ammonia output from the plant. Conventional ammonia – also known as ‘brown ammonia’ – comes with a sizable CO2 footprint as a byproduct of the production process. By capturing and storing the CO2, conventional ammonia can be upgraded into blue ammonia – a commodity sought by a growing number of ‘green’ industries globally.

“We have signed with Omifco a study to basically explore converting its plant hopefully into something close to what we call as Blue Ammonia,” said Ghalib al Maamari, Vice President - Low Carbon Molecules, OQ.

Addressing the Green Hydrogen Summit Oman (GHSO) held in Muscat recently, Al Maamari said the initiative is in line with OQ’s broader strategy to support the decarbonization of Oman’s economy and the achievement of its Net Zero objectives.

“We in OQ are already engaged in four large scale (green hydrogen and ammonia) projects,” he noted. “Once they are developed across all of the phases, the investment level for all of the four projects is going to be in excess of $40 billion. And with that, these projects can actually generate in excess of 30 gigawatts of energy, which wills almost triple the size of the electricity grid capacity today. So it's very ambitious, but also doable!” Aside from solar and wind-based green hydrogen and green ammonia schemes, OQ is also exploring the potential to harness other renewable resources, the Vice President for Low Carbon Molecules stated.

“There is also huge potential from our assessment for tidal and offshore wind prospects that we are looking into as we speak. We are also exploring other low carbon molecules, whether it's blue ammonia or blue hydrogen or any other forms of fuels.

Further, as you know, we signed a few days ago a number of MoUs with international companies to explore these opportunities. We have signed with Maersk and Sumitomo to study the potential of setting in Oman a bunkering hub for e-fuels,” he added.
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