The Business Year

Ali Masoud Al Sunaidy, Chairman of the Public Authority for Special Economic Zones and Free Zones (OPAZ)

OMAN - Green Economy

Ali Masoud Al Sunaidy

Chairman, Public Authority for Special Economic Zones and Free Zones (OPAZ)

Bio

Ali Masoud Al Sunaidy is Chairman of the Public Authority for Special Economic Zones and Free Zones (OPAZ).

“We are moving the majority of our customer services at OPAZ and SEZAD online through our portal including land allocation and will soon roll out such services for the various free zone and industrial states.”

TBY talks to Ali Masoud Al Sunaidy, Chairman of the Public Authority for Special Economic Zones and Free Zones (OPAZ), about energy diversification in Oman, hydrogen exports, and investment promotion.

What role do SEZs and free zones aim to play in Oman’s energy diversification efforts and reduce CO2 print?

Part of our planning is to address the issue of sustainability. There is a directive from His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tariq for Oman to be carbon neutral by 2050. Now, simultaneously, we have been engaged in an effort to produce renewables for the local industry. The first free zone to start producing renewables is Sohar Free Zone from a 25-MW solar project. Now, we are working on expanding the production of solar energy by allocating land within the Sohar Industrial Zone, so there will be production of solar energy in the Sohar Free Zone allowing more manufacturers to use renewable energy in line Oman Vision 2040 which declared a minimum use of renewable energy of 25% by 2040. The issue of energy sustainability is also related to the best use of water, so in all our industrial zones we are using recycled water to add more trees and create green places and minimize the use of desalinated water . In Duqm, we will plant 5,000 trees and create three small parks using treated water. Salalah and other industrial zones have similar initiatives. Another aim is to become completely paperless and this initiative has already started at our one stop shop at Duqm.

How do you asses Oman’s potential to become a global hydrogen exporter, and what is OPAZ doing in this regard?

On a bigger scale, Duqm is expected to become the biggest contributor to sustainability. We have allocated 250sqkm for solar and wind farms that will then produce green Hydrogen and green Ammonia for local use and for export and two licences have already been granted in fact one of which is at the stage of implementing an initial 300MW plant while the other is at the stage of detailed studies for a much larger capacity. We are now revisiting the master plan to create large enough new corridors throughout the Special Economic Zone at Duqm (SEZAD) that will allow the transport of electricity (electrons) into the city and vice versa pipe corridors that will allow the flexibility of transferring green hydrogen (molecules) if produced at the concession areas around Duqm to bring into industrial zone against to the Port area for local industrial consumption or for converting it into Green Ammonia then export it. The same corridors will allow the pumping of desalinated water from the beach to the sites of solar and wind farms. One area of study through some strategic partners that could potentially unlock the export of blue hydrogen is in creating a corridor from Duqm to the retired oil fields, which will allow the capture of CO2 produced in Duqm and reinject it back again into the oil fields and gas fields. This also allows for CO2 credit to future steel manufactures. We are also coordinating with other authorities and companies with relation to Sohar and Salalah. There are already discussions at the management level of the free zones and ports at Sohar and Salalah to look into every opportunity to produce some quantities of hydrogen that will be made available for future generation vessels that call at these ports. We work closely with our colleagues at the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology in such maters of coordination between ports and free zones. Also we work closely with the Ministry of Power and Minerals in relation to the certification of green energy to be supplied to manufactures in the various zones.

How are you staying ahead of the innovation curve and incorporating new technologies into your operations?

We are moving aggressively and becoming increasingly digital. Our regular meetings are online. We are moving the majority of our customer services at OPAZ and SEZAD online through our portal including land allocation and will soon roll out such services for the various free zone and industrial states. We are creating standards for digitalization and coordinating with the Ministry of Transport’s digital strategy. Every year we are expanding such digital services. We used the pandemic constructively to shift our operations online including the enabling of staff remote access security and capabilities . Our entire staff now are able to work from home if need be. We use more cloud services now and are increasingly moving toward cloud-enabled services.

How is OPAZ working to develop an encouraging investment environment that promotes the competitiveness of SEZs and free zones?

First, our special economic and free zones have various incentives including long period tax exemptions which are clearly stated and advertised. Second, all such zones are connected to a near airport and a port, including a dry port for Al Mazuna free zone. They have easy access to international lines out of the Strait of Hormuz facing the Sea of Oman and the Arabian. Third, there are connected to the gas network and 400 KV power grids with great potential to using renewable energy. We expect to have sufficient green energy in the next five years for the main exporting manufactures and ewe are making the land available in Duqm, Sohar, and Salalah. Equally important, OPAZ one stop shop allows for fast licencing including the latest agreement with the Ministry of Labour in terms of handing out work permits. OPAZ can now issue all construction related permits including its own work permits in its free zones.

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