Green startup to raise funds via NFT to clear plastics off the oceans

‘Oceans and Us’ aims is to raise awareness and funds to build a boat that cleans the oceans. (AFP)
‘Oceans and Us’ aims is to raise awareness and funds to build a boat that cleans the oceans. (AFP)
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Updated 29 May 2022

Green startup to raise funds via NFT to clear plastics off the oceans

‘Oceans and Us’ aims is to raise awareness and funds to build a boat that cleans the oceans. (AFP)
  • Sustainability is an ecosystem, and NFTs work as a gateway, says founder of Oceans and Us

DUBAI: For many companies, sustainability is a corporate social responsibility initiative on the fringes; for Oceans and Us, a Dubai-based startup initiated by serial entrepreneur Joel Michael, it is the core area of focus.

But the future health of our planet is not the only forward-thinking aspect of this green startup. Oceans and Us is planning to raise funds by selling 10,000 generative non-fungible tokens and launching a new cryptocurrency.
NFT is a digital asset representing internet collectibles like art, music and games and has an authentic certificate created by blockchain technology that underlies cryptocurrency.
Partnering with NFT artist Vesa Kivinen, also popularly known as VESA in crypto art circles, Oceans and Us plans to raise $1.2 million in funding to clean up oceans worldwide.

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Partnering with NFT artist Vesa Kivinen, also popularly known as VESA in crypto art circles, Oceans and Us plans to raise $1.2 million in funding to clean up oceans worldwide.

VESA is an established digital artist who has built up a track record and a following over the last decade.
“He is a very passionate artist in the climate change space and does a lot of work with marine corals, and the idea for this (partnership) is to essentially bring together the community and bring art as a means of communication,” explained Joel Michael, the founder of Oceans and Us, in an exclusive interview with Arab News.




Joel Michael, founder of Oceans and Us

“Buying an NFT enables people to invest and participate in a hands-on way.”

Sustainability
The idea is to allow those who purchase an NFT to enjoy the added benefits. Oceans and Us plans to partner with 100 brands across the UAE and the Middle East with a sustainable product or solution. Whoever buys or owns an NFT would have discounts or benefits with these companies.
“Sustainability is an ecosystem, and NFTs work as a gateway,” said Michael. “The idea is for all of this to sit on the blockchain that is transparent so every single dollar invested can be seen clearly where it goes.”
Oceans and Us has progressed in talks with the team behind the Qatar World Cup. It is also in advanced talks on a partnership with top UAE-based retailer Landmark Group, particularly by aligning with a sustainable clothing effort on behalf of its leading fashion brand, Splash.
The startup is also associating with coffee brands that already have an eye toward green practices, from coffee cups to procurement of beans to offer NFT owners discounts. He is also speaking to solar home solutions companies and sustainable fashion brands.
In addition, the green startup plans to launch its token as a way to raise funds by crowdsourcing. The aim is to raise awareness and funds to build a boat that cleans the oceans.
The startup is working closely with Marakeb Technologies to design an autonomous, self-driven boat powered by AI that will clear plastic from rivers and oceans.
Marakeb Technologies is incorporated in Sharjah and is 30 percent owned by the Abu Dhabi government. The boat’s inaugural journey is scheduled in July 2022.
“Marakeb has a skillset to produce boats for the government that can put out fires in UAE waters if that happens. We are working with them to design a fully autonomous boat that can do what it needs with no human on it, so no lives are risked on a boat,” said Michael.
“We want to encourage people to help us come up with different solutions including a way we can run the entire operation using wind, solar or kinetic energy. The biggest thing we want to solve is transporting plastic we collect back to land so it can be repurposed.”

Fresh off the boat
The next goal of this initiative is to raise funds for a cash prize as part of the Global Innovation Challenge, an eight-month program that includes events, workshops, and collaborations with incubators and universities to submit designs for a boat.
The competition begins in August 2022, and winners will be announced after 60 days. The aim is to officially launch the boat in time for COP 28 in 2023 in Dubai.
“The Middle East is driving so much in the climate change space, and we are seeing a positive impact in the strongest ways,” said Michael, who has worked in the sustainability space for over a decade. “In the past decade, Europe was the leader, but now everything is aligned with the Middle East.”
Sustainability is high on the agenda across the Gulf region. Late last year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched the Middle East Green Initiative to raise $10.4 billion for an investment fund and clean energy projects to reduce carbon emissions.
Michael added the positive impact of COP 27 hosted in Egypt, followed by COP 28 planned soon in Dubai.
“Because the government supports these initiatives, we are seeing things come together in private markets,” he said. “We have seen tremendous support from the UAE and think it’s the epicenter of sustainability in the region.”
Michael is the regional head of The Green Tech Alliance, a group of 350 CEOs committed to greener practices. The entrepreneur has spent the last 10 years working in the startup and venture capital space, focusing on sustainability.
“No one company can make a change. We are not looking to compete with ocean cleanup companies or be a market leader. Our messaging from innovation challenge to the token is to help organize investments and donations into the right places. We look at ourselves as nothing more than a network orchestrator,” he said.
With a team of 10 working remotely worldwide, Oceans and Us is hard at work to design the autonomous boat in time for its maiden voyage this summer.


Oil prices up 2 percent on supply outages

Oil prices up 2 percent on supply outages
Updated 01 July 2022

Oil prices up 2 percent on supply outages

Oil prices up 2 percent on supply outages

LONDON: Oil prices rose about 2 percent on Friday, recouping most of the previous session’s declines, as supply outages in Libya and expected shutdowns in Norway outweighed expectations that an economic slowdown could dent demand, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures were up $2.20, or 2 percent, at $111.23 a barrel by 1348 GMT, having dropped to $108.03 a barrel earlier in the session.

WTI crude futures gained $2.25, or 2.1 percent, to $108.01 a barrel, after retreating to $104.56 a barrel earlier.

Both contracts fell around 3 percent on Thursday, ending the month lower for the first time since November.

We “still see risks to prices as skewed to the upside on tight inventories, limited spare capacity and muted non-OPEC+ supply response,” Barclays said in a note.

Libya’s National Oil Corporation declared force majeure on Thursday at the Es Sider and Ras Lanuf ports as well as the El Feel oilfield. Force majeure is still in effect at the ports of Brega and Zueitina, NOC said.

Production has seen a sharp decline, with daily exports ranging between 365,000 and 409,000 bpd, a decrease of 865,000 bpd compared to production in “normal circumstances,” NOC said.

Elsewhere, 74 Norwegian offshore oil workers at Equinor’s Gudrun, Oseberg South and Oseberg East platforms will go on strike from July 5, the Lederne trade union said on Thursday, likely halting about 4 percent of Norway’s oil production.

Ecuador’s government and indigenous groups’ leaders on Thursday reached an agreement to end more than two weeks of protests which had led to the shut-in of more than half of the country’s pre-crisis 500,000 bpd oil output.

On Thursday, the OPEC+ group of producers, including Russia, agreed to stick to its output strategy after two days of meetings. However, the producer club avoided discussing policy from September onwards.

Previously, OPEC+ decided to increase output each month by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August, up from a previous plan to add 432,000 bpd per month.

US President Joe Biden will make a three-stop trip to the Middle East in mid-July that includes a visit to Saudi Arabia, pushing energy policy into the spotlight as the United States and other countries face soaring fuel prices that are driving up inflation.

Biden said on Thursday he would not directly press Saudi Arabia to increase oil output to curb soaring prices when he sees the Saudi king and crown prince during a visit this month.

A Reuters survey found that OPEC pumped 28.52 million bpd in June, down 100,000 bpd from May’s revised total.

Oil prices are expected to stay above $100 a barrel this year as Europe and other regions struggle to wean themselves off Russian supply, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday, though economic risks could slow the climb.

India introduced export duties on gasoil, gasoline and jet fuel on Friday to help maintain domestic supplies, while also imposing a windfall tax on oil producers who have benefited from higher global crude oil prices. 


Russia seizes control of partly foreign-owned energy project

Russia seizes control of partly foreign-owned energy project
Updated 01 July 2022

Russia seizes control of partly foreign-owned energy project

Russia seizes control of partly foreign-owned energy project

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin has handed full control over a major oil and natural gas project partly owned by Shell and two Japanese companies to a newly created Russian firm, a bold move amid spiraling tensions with the West over Moscow’s military action in Ukraine, according to Associated Press.

Putin’s decree late Thursday orders the creation of a new company that would take over ownership of Sakhalin Energy Investment Co., which is nearly 50 percent controlled by British energy giant Shell and Japan-based Mitsui and Mitsubishi.

Putin’s order named “threats to Russia’s national interests and its economic security” as the reason for the move at Sakhalin-2, one of the world’s largest export-oriented oil and natural gas projects.

The presidential order gives the foreign firms a month to decide if they want to retain the same shares in the new company.

Russian state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom had a controlling stake in Sakhalin-2, the country’s first offshore gas project that accounts for about 4 percent of the world’s market for liquefied natural gas, or LNG. Japan, South Korea and China are the main customers for the project’s oil and LNG exports.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that there is no reason to expect a shutdown of supplies following Putin’s order.

Shell held a 27.5 percent stake in the project. After the start of the Russian military action in Ukraine, Shell announced its decision to pull out of all of its Russian investments, a move that it said has cost at least $5 billion. The company also holds 50 percent stakes in two other joint ventures with Gazprom to develop oil fields.

Shell said Friday that it’s studying Putin’s order, which has thrown its investment in the joint venture into doubt.

“As a shareholder, Shell has always acted in the best interests of Sakhalin-2 and in accordance with all applicable legal requirements,” the company said in a statement. “We are aware of the decree and are assessing its implications.”

Seiji Kihara, deputy chief secretary of the Japanese cabinet, said the government was aware of Putin’s decree and was reviewing its impact. Japan-based Mitsui owns 12.5 percent of the project, and Mitsubishi holds 10 percent.

Kihara emphasized that the project should not be undermined because it “is pertinent to Japan’s energy security,” adding that “anything that harms our resource rights is unacceptable.”

“We are scrutinizing Russia’s intentions and the background behind this,” he told reporters Friday at a twice-daily news briefing. “We are looking into the details, and for future steps, I don’t have any prediction for you at this point.”

Asked during a conference call with reporters if Putin’s move with Sakhalin-2 could herald a similar action against other joint ventures involving foreign shareholders, Peskov said, “There can’t be any general rule here.”

He added that “each case will be considered separately.”

Sakhalin-2 includes three offshore platforms, an onshore processing facility, 300 kilometers of offshore pipelines, 1,600 kilometers of onshore pipelines, an oil export terminal and an LNG plant.
 

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Riyadh no longer one of the 100 most expensive cities for expats: Mercer

Riyadh no longer one of the 100 most expensive cities for expats: Mercer
Updated 01 July 2022

Riyadh no longer one of the 100 most expensive cities for expats: Mercer

Riyadh no longer one of the 100 most expensive cities for expats: Mercer

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, has dropped 72 places in a ranking of the world’s most expensive cities for expats as it tumbled out of the top 100, according to a report issued by Mercer.

Riyadh was positioned at 103 in Mercer's Cost of Living Index 2022, falling from 29 in the previous year’s list. 

Commenting on Riyadh’s fall, Khaled Al-Mobayed, CEO of Menassat Reality Co., a Riyadh-based real estate developer, said: “The results came in contrary to the expectations, due to the pandemic’s ongoing consequences and the rising cost of logistics and supply chain.”

“Being out of the 100 top expensive cities is a good sign despite the challenges that the economy has gone through,” he added.

UAE's Dubai took over Lebanon's capital, Beirut, as the most expensive city among Arab countries in the region, ranking 31.

Despite being placed third in 2021, Beirut was not even on this year’s list of 227 cities due to the country’s economic turmoil.

The city’s fall reflects the severe drop in value of the Lebanese pound, according to Lebanese economic analyst Bassel Al-Khatib, who pointed out the minimum wage is now worth $20, while it was $450 before the economic crisis gripping the country. 

“Lebanon is extremely expensive to those who get paid in Lebanese pounds yet very cheap for those who get pain in US dollars,” he told Arab News, adding: “Lebanon was expensive for both citizens and foreigners, and with the currency dropping 95 percent and the dollar reaching record levels, the situation changed.”

“Everything has become expensive but not for foreigners who have dollars. All services by the government such as water, electricity fees, or internet are still the same but food prices skyrocketed,” he added.

Abu Dhabi was the second highest Arab city from the region, ranked at 61, while Jeddah came in at 111 this year compared to 94 in 2021.

Jordan's capital Amman ranked 115, followed by Bahrain's Manama at 117, Oman's Muscat at 119 and Kuwait city at 131.

Egypt's capital, Cairo, was placed at 154 while Rabat, Algiers and Tunis came as the least expensive in the region, ranking 162, 218 and 220 respectively.

Hong Kong topped the list as the most expensive city in the world in 2022, moving from second rank last year and taking the top spot from Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat.

Switzerland’s Zurikh and Geneva followed as second and third most expensive cities, replacing Hong Kong and Beirut respectively.

Turkey’s capital, Ankara, came in as the least expensive city, ranking 227, taking the spot from Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek.


France eyes ‘good investment opportunities’ in Saudi Arabia: Official

France eyes ‘good investment opportunities’ in Saudi Arabia: Official
Updated 01 July 2022

France eyes ‘good investment opportunities’ in Saudi Arabia: Official

France eyes ‘good investment opportunities’ in Saudi Arabia: Official

RIYADH: France is intensifying efforts to take advantage of Saudi investment opportunities in all sectors, mostly energy, technology, water and other industrial services, the country's Ambassador in Saudi Arabia said.

Saudi Arabia is an attractive region and a suitable environment for investments in all its vital sectors, Ludovic Pouille told a press conference.

The French government and the private sector are working to expand the number of companies operating in the Kingdom, which currently stands at about 135, Aleqtisadiah reported citing Pouille.

The aim is to gain large investment spaces, and to benefit from the reforms and economic developments undertaken by Saudi Arabia, which constitute a good opportunity for French companies, he said. 

The French ambassador said France will take the model of agreements between the Al-Ula Authority and his country’s institutions in the fields of infrastructure and culture, as a starting point for expanding the map of investments in the future.


New Saudi smart city AlNama to be zero-carbon

New Saudi smart city AlNama to be zero-carbon
Updated 01 July 2022

New Saudi smart city AlNama to be zero-carbon

New Saudi smart city AlNama to be zero-carbon

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s new AlNama smart city will be a zero-carbon community, according to the company charged with designing the development.

The hospitality hub, located on a 10 sq. km area in Riyadh, will create 10,000 jobs in various sectors, including green-tech industries to create a ‘green circular economy’, Construction Week reported. 

The project is planned to provide 11,000 residential units and an eventual population of 44,000 people.

ALNAMA will be designed by Dubai's URB, and the firm’s CEO Baharash Bagherian said: “AlNama aims to be the next generation of self-sufficient city, producing all the city’s renewable energy needs, as well as the resident’s caloric food intake on site.

“Biosaline agriculture, productive gardens, wadis, and carbon-rich habitats are key features of the development’s innovative and resilient landscape design.

“The city was planned through the design of its landscape, rather than its buildings. This creates an urbanism that is more socially inclusive, more economically valuable, and more sensitive to the environment.”

AlNama will consist of eco-friendly glamping lodges, eco resorts and a nature conservation center to promote ecotourism, while an autism village, wellness center and clinics within the medical hub will help promote medical tourism.

The green-tech hub will provide an innovative ecosystem for urban-tech companies related to food, energy, water, waste, mobility, and building materials