Monday, June 25, 2007

Oman: Biofuels from Date Palms


Tapping green alternative

By Sunil K. Vaidya, Bureau Chief
Published: June 23, 2007, 00:05

Muscat: If a Sohar-based Omani entrepreneur has his way, then by 2010
the sultanate could become the first Arab country to produce an
economically viable alternative to petrol.

Mohammad Bin Saif Al Harthy and his family are successfully using
ethanol produced from biomass for the last 18 months to run their cars
in Sohar.

"Our experiment of using ethanol in our cars has been successful. We
have had no problems so far," enthused Al Harthy in an interview with
Gulf News.

The production of fuel ethanol from renewable resources as an
economically viable alternative to gasoline is currently the subject of
much research.

Brazil experiment

And, countries like Brazil already have widespread use of ethanol,
produced from biomass, as an alternative fuel for automobiles.

"The bio-fuel is doing well in Brazil and in some states of the US and
we want to be the first Arab countries to start using fuel produced from
date palms," said Al Harthy, adding that they would not be cutting trees
to produce bio-fuel.

"Our method is different and doesn't affect the date crop or
environment," he revealed. He said they would be extracting cellulose
biomass from around 80,000 date palms.

"We do have date palms in large number in the country and our strategic
plans is to grow more then 10 millions trees, within next 10 years in
the area and we have a good support from the authority," he said, adding
that date palm trees don't consume much water and easily grow in the

He confessed that production of ethanol from date palm tree has never
been tried out. "Our experiment, however, has been successful," he stressed.

Producing biofuel

Now, Al Harthy has also got a licence to set up a bio-refinery in Sohar,
the northern town in Oman that has become a hub of petrochemical industries.

"Our aim is not only to produce biofuel at the refinery in Sohar but
also to set up around 100 biofuel stations around the country by 2010,"
he said. They intend to produce 900,000 metric tonnes of ethanol per year.

For that Al Harthy and his partners at the Oman Green Energy Company are
also hoping to raise 55 million Omani riyals (Dh524.67 million) capital
from investing European countries.

Talking about the experiment of running his own car on biofuel, Al
Harthy said: "All small cars can run on biofuel without any problems and
it is much cheaper compared to conventional petrol and also helpful for
our environment," he said.

Al Harthy also said that the prime target would be automobile users but
they would also supply ethanol to power stations such the one being
planned in Dubai.

He claimed that Oman would be the first country in the world neither to
cut trees nor to use waste, chip wood to extract cellulose ethanol.

"We plan to use the enzyme that we have developed to extract the
bio-mass from palm trees," he said, admitting that they are also seeking
collaborations with some of the laboratories in the West.

After 2010, Oman may have cars running on bio-fuel with emissions from
automobiles posing lesser threat to the environment.

Production by 2010

* An Omani entrepreneur plans to start producing biofuel and
marketing the same by 2010 through biofuel stations across the country.
* The biofuel refinery, to be set up in Sohar, will have a capacity
of 4.8 million tonnes within four years, the first two years the
capacity will be 900,000 million tonnes annually.
* Ethanol, used as biofuel, is produced by fermentation of glucose,
to be derived from date palm in Oman, by yeast.
* The biofuel project is expected to create more jobs for Omanis,
employing over 3,500 Omanis in the first five years.

Check for earlier Pacific Biofuel posts:


Lamya said...

great insentive Mr. Al-HArthi,

wish you all the best in your future plans,
Do you have any intention to work on second generation biofuls?
maybe utilise waste materail such as Algae?

Ahmed Taha said...

Great pioneering work Mr Alharithi. You could also utilize the date palm seeds for production of biodiesel.. A million trees will produce half a million ton of dates annually. This will give you roughly an extra of about 4 thousand tons of biodiesel annually plus the valuabe petrochemical glycerine , thus paying more dividends to palm tree economic productivity.
Good luck
Dr ahmed taha,university of bahrain,sakhair,Bahrain