Egypt’s phosphate revolution a boon for Aswan industrial zone

Egypt’s phosphate revolution a boon for Aswan industrial zone
Egypt is investing heavily in phosphates. (AFP)
Updated 06 May 2018

Egypt’s phosphate revolution a boon for Aswan industrial zone

Egypt’s phosphate revolution a boon for Aswan industrial zone
  • Phosphate rock producers are integrating in order to add value and meet the demands of Asian customers
  • The fertilizer sector is also growing domestically, with Egypt consuming 14.3 million tons of nitrogenous and phosphate fertilizers per year

LONDON: Cairo is upping its game in the global phosphates market by funding a new multimillion-dollar phosphate industrial zone in Aswan, as well as expanding Safaga Port on the Red Sea, a major hub for agribusiness exports to India. 

Phosphates and potash are part of a group of fertilizers that boost crop nutrition, and increase the yield from soil used to grow food. A report in Egypt Today said that since 2015, Egypt’s Industrial Development Authority had approved about 10 new projects in the field of phosphate fertilizers, with two already in production.

Phosphate rock producers are integrating in order to add value and meet the demands of Asian customers who find it more cost-efficient to buy intermediate or finished products since the price of phosphate rock has more than doubled since 2006. 

That makes it harder for Asian middlemen to make money when they sell the raw material up the supply chain. It also means more manufacturing opportunities for Egyptian phosphate producers and suppliers, the prime targets of the new phosphate industrial zone in Aswan.

The fertilizer sector is also growing domestically, with Egypt consuming 14.3 million tons of nitrogenous and phosphate fertilizers per year, according to the annual report of the Chamber of Chemical Industries (CCI), affiliated with the Federation of Egyptian Industries. Egypt could achieve self-sufficiency before too long, as well as bolster exports, the CCI said. The international phosphate landscape is changing as US production declines and American mines become depleted.

The US has recently been an importer of phosphate rock, which means a bigger role for non-US producers such as Egypt. Asian customers can buy cheaper from North Africa as it is closer, putting the US at a disadvantage, and this spurs investment in the region. Phosphate production was slowing in China, but growing strongly in places such as Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, according to a US Geological Survey report last year.  OCP Group of Morocco is the largest phosphate producer in the world. Morocco has the biggest phosphate rock reserve base in the world, accounting for about 75 percent of worldwide estimates, according to the report.


Saudi Arabia meeting water scarcity challenge with innovation

Saudi Arabia meeting water scarcity challenge with innovation
Updated 25 January 2021

Saudi Arabia meeting water scarcity challenge with innovation

Saudi Arabia meeting water scarcity challenge with innovation
  • Kingdom is third biggest consumer per capita in the world, after US and Canada

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Water Co. (NWC) this month signed a $5.36 million two-year contract with a French utilities company to reduce the amount of water lost during the Kingdom’s water production process, known as non-revenue water in the industry.

This is a positive step forward, as a report released late last year by global consultancy firm Oliver Wyman found that while water usage is rising, supply is diminishing. The study estimated that 25 percent of the world’s population lives in areas that suffer extremely high water stress, and by 2050 that portion of the population will more than double.

“With water resources becoming increasingly scarce globally, the Middle East region is addressing the critical issues, with governments increasingly adopting new strategies for balancing their scarce water resources and growing demand for fresh water,” said Bruno Sousa, a partner in the Energy Practice at Oliver Wyman. “This has led some countries in the Middle East to turn to options such as desalination and
treatment, and reuse of wast water,” he added.

Saudi Arabia is the third biggest consumer of water per capita in the world, after the US and Canada. The Kingdom has implemented a series of measures to rationalize water consumption as part of its Vision 2030 program, with the aim of reducing consumption by 24 percent in 2021 and by up to 43 percent by the end of the decade.

The Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture has developed a unified water sector reference framework that includes a comprehensive water strategy, which integrates national water sector trends, policies, legislation and practices with the main objective of addressing these key challenges and restructuring the sector. Dr. Ibrahim Aref, director of the rehabilitation of agricultural terraces initiative at the ministry, told Arab News that most of the Arabian Peninsula’s water resources comes from rainfall. Yet, rainfall in the Kingdom, especially in the center of the Arabian Peninsula, is very weak compared to any other place in the world, thus causing water scarcity.

New technology has been developed over the years to minimize the environmental impact of desalination.

Bruno Sousa

Aref pointed out that even though the Arabian Peninsula, in general, experiences dry seasons that last for two, four or up to seven years, the Kingdom has been blessed with a strong economy and therefore has been able to work on many solutions that might be unusual elsewhere in the world, such as desalination.

According to Oliver Wyman’s Sousa, desalination can be achieved through two main technologies: Thermal and electric.

He told Arab News that thermal technology consists of heating water and collecting the resulting evaporated pure water. “This is a very energy-intensive process, requiring both electricity and thermal energy to heat the water. As part of the process, electricity is also generated that can be injected into the electric grid.

“Electric consists mainly in reverse osmosis, where water is forced through membranes that remove salt ... it is also an energy-intensive process, but only requires electricity to run,” he said.

“Although thermal desalination is still used, reverse osmosis is the mainstream technology, adopted mainly because of lower costs (including with energy) and a higher rate of potable water conversion from seawater,” he added. Sousa said that new technology has been developed over the years to minimize the environmental impact of desalination. Spanish firm Acciona last year completed the construction of the Al-Khobar I desalination plant in Saudi Arabia, and since Dec. 26, it has produced 210,000 cubic meters of drinking water per day, which will supply a population of 350,000. It is one of the biggest desalination plants in Saudi Arabia in terms of capacity.

Desalination is not the only way the Kingdom is looking to address the issue of water shortages. One of the largest programs being undertaken by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture is the rehabilitation of agricultural terraces in the southwest of the Kingdom.

The project aims to increase the efficiency of water use for agricultural purposes and to rely on renewable sources that contribute to food security, rural development and increased productivity of strategic crops.