Young Saudi converts date palm trees waste into coal, firewood

Updated 22 July 2013

Young Saudi converts date palm trees waste into coal, firewood

A young Saudi has successfully implemented a plan to convert remnants of date palm trees into firewood and coal, optimizing the use of the fruit through an environmentally friendly initiative.
Muqbil Al-Khalaf, CEO and founder of the project, was recently awarded the prize for the Industrial Innovation Award, receiving SR500,000 from Tawfiq Al-Rabia, minister of commerce and industry, for his innovative project.
The project was sponsored and funded by the Badir Program for technology incubators at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).
The event was organized by the Saudi Industrial Property Authority (Modon), which aims to promote the local industrial sector and encourage Saudi innovators to convert their ideas into promising industrial projects.
Al-Khalaf graduated from King Fahad University for Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) and entered the labor market as a banker. He later engaged in the wholesale clothing business in Riyadh and Dubai. He entered the market when the stock market was booming but incurred heavy losses, which prompted him to shift to the date palm business.
Al-Khalaf said he noted that date palm waste was thrown away or burned in farms. He wanted to find a way to re-use this colossal waste. He said he was inspired by an article written by a Malaysian scientist regarding the Malaysian experience in transforming natural waste to paper.
In 2011, he began establishing the plant with the intent of converting date palm remnants. The following year, he began setting up the plant in Zulfi, which became the first plant of its kind in the Kingdom and the Middle East.
He finally obtained funding from the Kafala Program, which promised to cover 30 percent of the cost with an interest rate of 13 percent, after being turned down for funding by the Agricultural Development Fund (ADF). He had also consulted the Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF), but was told that they only fund projects worth more than SR8 million.
Al-Khalaf said he initially faced challenges when the Chinese company that he had initially hired to work on the project left without completing the project. He has since received a $100,000 compensation package.
The experimental operation of the plant began in December 2012 and has so far produced 60 tons of firewood and 40 tons of charcoal, using 190 tons of date palm tree remnants. The products were sold at competitive prices, Al-Khalaf said.
He said the plant is operating at only 15 percent design capacity and projected to reach about a 40-percent production capacity with the approach of winter. Upon reaching its maximum capacity, the plant will require 12,000 tons of date tree waste to produce 3,500 tons of firewood and coal per year, he said. There are 600,000 date palm trees in the Zulfi area alone, which is sufficient to feed the plant with its required raw material throughout the year, he said.


Fahad Al-Azzam, assistant deputy minister for empowerment at the Saudi Ministry of Health

Updated 14 August 2020

Fahad Al-Azzam, assistant deputy minister for empowerment at the Saudi Ministry of Health

Fahad Al-Azzam has been the assistant deputy minister for empowerment at the Ministry of Health since September 2019.
He has also been the general manager for enterprise at the ministry’s project management office since July 2016, where he developed and implemented a standard set of project management processes and models, and built the framework and updated it to account for developments and best practices.
It was announced on Monday that Al-Azzam’s role as assistant deputy minister for empowerment has been extended for another year.
Al-Azzam obtained a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran, in 2007. He studied abroad in the US, obtaining a master’s degree in engineering and technology management from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 2014.
Prior to his current position, Al-Azzam worked as a cooperative trainee at the Saudi Electricity Co. between May and October 2006.
At the Advanced Electronics Co., he worked as an assistant field service engineer between July 2007 and May 2009, and technical support and field service engineer between May 2009 and December 2010.
At the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, he worked as senior electrical engineer at their radiation safety department between January 2011 and February 2015.
He developed a safety program for exporting and importing electronics devices to and from Saudi Arabia and worked at controlling the risk resulting from the use of radiation-emitting devices. He also worked there as a project manager at their project management office between February 2015 and July 2016.