Interview: Sayyid Azzan bin Kais Tarik Al Said

In what ways can nano-diamond technology boost Omani industry and manufacturing?

SAYYID AZZAN BIN KAIS TARIK AL SAID: Until recently Oman did not have the capacity to perform metal strengthening, a process that is especially important in this part of the world due to the corrosion caused by the local climate. This is an issue of particular importance in key sectors such as oil and gas. Metals that needed strengthening had to be sent abroad for this process to be completed, and, as such, this was identified as an area of opportunity for investment in downstream applications for nano diamonds. Nano-diamond coatings are cost effective, efficient and more environmentally friendly than the existing processes available across the GCC.

The region spends almost $100bn a year to prevent metal corrosion. The durability of metal and the key components used in advanced equipment in various areas of the economy can last up to 25 years in different climates, while these same parts last between three and five years in Oman due to their long-term exposure to heat, wind and sand. Considering this context – and since the sultanate is at the forefront of the nano-diamond coating market for metals in the GCC – Oman has an opportunity in the wider region. This technology is expected to enhance Oman’s industrial capabilities and create a new export category.

How would you assess Oman’s progress in adopting advanced technologies in industry?

AL SAID: The low global oil prices seen at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic led many countries to be as innovative as possible to become more efficient and productive with their resources. In Oman, we have seen a desire to adopt new technologies, whether in the oil and gas sector’s downstream segment, power generation, water treatment facilities or manufacturing plants. That being said, there is room to accelerate the adoption of these technologies. Oman is in a transformational period with a more flexible business mentality.

Which sectors offer the most potential for the application of nano-diamond coating?

AL SAID: The oil and gas sector presents the most immediate opportunities for the use of this kind of technology, as do other industrial components in any sector that is affected by limited durability. There is a particular piece of equipment in the oil and gas sector that accounts for over 90% of an oil well’s downtime. Downtime is a costly issue for companies in this industry, as the average cost of one hour of downtime is around $250,000. Taking into account the fact that there are about 6000 active wells across Oman, these lost hours can start to add up for companies.

Another sector in which we see potential for the application of nano-diamond coating is defence. Certain equipment in this sector needs to be sent outside of Oman for servicing and maintenance, so this technology could add value to the country’s industrial capabilities, while simultaneously strengthening its national security. Similarly, we are seeing opportunities for nano-diamond coating in Oman’s revitalised marine sector, as well as in construction, which continues to be an important contributor to the local economy.

To what extent is the local human capital able to capitalise on technological advancements and enhance the capabilities of the industrial sector?

AL SAID: Oman is a leader in producing workers with science, technology, engineering and math qualifications in the region, as evidenced by the expertise of local engineers in the sultanate’s oil and gas industry. This being said, Oman is creating a new industry to develop its metal-coating capabilities, so we must continue to focus on improving local technical expertise via training programmes. We also need to focus on the transfer of knowledge across the value chain, including in logistics, installation and maintenance. This is particularly important when scaling up operations in order to improve not only the product, but the service provided.