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Oman closer to solar goal with new Sohar factory

Executives at the foundation-stone ceremony for United Solar Polysilicon's factory in Sohar Oman News Agency
Executives at the foundation-stone ceremony for United Solar Polysilicon's factory in Sohar

United Solar Polysilicon has started work on a $1.3 billion polysilicon factory in Oman’s Sohar Port and Freezone, believed to be the first of its kind in the Middle East.

Polysilicon, a high-purity form of silicon, is a key raw material in the production of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.

Operations at the 160,000-square-metre Sohar factory are due to start next year, with an annual production target of 100,000 metric tons annually.

“We are steadfast in our national efforts to enhance investment opportunities in the industrial sector and other areas promoting economic diversification,” said Ibtisam Ahmed Al Farooji, Oman’s undersecretary of the ministry of commerce, industry and investment promotion.

“Our aim is to attract investors to these opportunities, providing comprehensive support to transform these prospects into tangible projects.”

The global polysilicon market is estimated to be worth $14 billion and is expected to reach $27 billion by 2029, according to Mordor Intelligence.

The factory forms a key part of Oman’s Vision 2040 to promote green hydrogen production and reduce the cost of solar panels across the sultanate.

Oman is targeting a roughly 40 percent contribution from renewables to its electricity requirements by 2040 as it looks to wean its economy off a reliance on hydrocarbons and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Part of that includes plans to build a hydrogen-centric economy by 2040, with an annual production of green and blue hydrogen of approximately 30GW by the end of the next decade.

Polysilicon is also a vital part of the manufacturing process of semiconductors.

In January, United Solar Polysilicon signed a $58 million deal with Chinese solar material processing equipment manufacturer Shuangliang Eco-Energy System to supply production equipment for the polysilicon plant.

The hydrogen rainbow

  • Green hydrogen is produced on a carbon-neutral basis through water electrolysis. 
  • Turquoise hydrogen is created when natural gas is broken down into hydrogen and solid carbon with the help of methane pyrolysis.
  • Blue hydrogen is generated from the steam reduction of natural gas. 
  • Grey hydrogen is obtained by steam reforming fossil fuels such as natural gas or coal. 
  • Sometimes other colours are ascribed to hydrogen, based on how it is produced. For red, pink and violet hydrogen, the electrolysers are driven by nuclear power. 
  • Yellow hydrogen is hydrogen produced from a mixture of renewable energies and fossil fuels. 
  • White hydrogen is a waste product of other chemical processes, while the use of coal as a fuel produces brown hydrogen.

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