OMAN - Energy & Mining
Managing Director, Bauer Nimr LLC
Ulrich Emmer is the Managing Director of BAUER Nimr LLC in Muscat/Oman which designed, constructed and operates the world’s largest constructed wetland for produced water. He studied civil engineering at the Technical University of Munich and holds an University diploma. He started his career 1994 in Germany with Bauer Spezialtiefbau in the construction sector and made his way quickly onto an international stage. He spent most of his professional career in the Middle East, overseeing construction projects, advancing from a Project Manager up to executive level for various daughter companies of The Bauer Group. He also worked on construction projects in Bangladesh, the Philippines and Africa in senior positions. He decided for a change in 2019 and joined the environmental sector as the Managing Director of Bauer Nimr, fascinated by the sustainable approach the wetland takes, bearing the potential of being a major contribution to protect the environment.
Bauer is the leading environmental turnkey solutions provider in Oman. How has the company evolved since its establishment?
Bauer Nimr was established in 2009 as a small entity that later grew, in line with different phases of its operations. The starting point was the Nimr wetland which we operate. We did the design, construction and currently operate it, and after competing the concession period in 2044 we will transfer it to our partner PDO. In 2010, we successfully put the first phase of produced water treatment into operation, with a capacity of 45,000cbm a day. The second phase was commissioned in 2012, which increased the treatment capacity to 115,000cbm, and in 2019, we entered into Phase 3 with a total of 175,000cbm a day. This enabled Bauer Nimr to have a treatment volume equal to a city with a population of about 800,000. Being a nature-based solution, the water containing hydrocarbons is treated in a biological way with plants, algae and bacteria. It is a ‘0-discharge system’ based on gravity flow, and therefore extremely sustainable. In addition, proper waste management became part of our portfolio in 2016 as an important contribution to Oman’s sustainability. We have recently completed a long-term contract for waste management in Khazzan. Further, we also carry out soil remediation to treat contaminated soil by microorganisms that break down the hydrocarbons. After a certain period, the soil can be re-used or dumped into borrow pits or landfills. NORM treatment is also a part of our products for the oil & gas industry; NORM is naturally occurring radioactive material that comes from drilling operations. Despite of extremely low radiation levels, it has to be treated and properly disposed. Notwithstanding of providing these services mainly to oil and gas, most of our products can also be used by other sectors such as hospitality, tourism etc.
In which ways do you contribute to the development of ICV?
With regards to ICV, about 80% of our staff in Nimr is Omani. It was always our target to employ as many Omanis as possible on the project. We have reached 80% now and have a relatively small number of expats working there. Most of the Omanis have been with us since the beginning of the project in 2010. We are proud to see them developing in their roles. In addition, we also provide training programs to our workforce. For example, we are working together with OPAL, which offers training programs for workers in the oil and gas industry. Another point is that we are prioritizing local suppliers for construction and maintenance work. We also use locally available materials as much as possible.
What steps is Bauer taking to integrate sustainable practices and environmental excellence into its business strategy?
At Bauer Nimr, sustainability starts with small things, as we have banned, for example, the use of one way plastic water bottles in our office. On a bigger scale, we are aiming to reduce the carbon footprint wherever possible. Nimr is a perfect example of this. We reduce the power consumption by avoiding re-injection of produced water into the reservoir. Also, the reuse of the water is an important topic, and we are discussing ways to reuse the treated water with PDO for irrigation or agricultural projects. Furthermore, we have done studies relating to fish farming or biosaline agriculture projects. The water reuse can be expanded when ‘green’ desalination is done. Solar panels can be used for power generation, which feeds power to the desalination process. After that, the water can be used for date palm plantations or growing fodder for cattle, as an example. Consequently, this opens new possibilities by creating employment opportunities for LCC’s at remote areas. The biomass we are creating in Nimr can be used for biogas production or fertilizer through composting. On the principle of a circular economy, everything originating from the wetland shall be reused. It is not an easy task, but that is the vision we are working on.
Environmental excellence is a nice term, but it’s also difficult to measure. What Bauer Nimr is currently working on, is a biodiversity study for Nimr as it resembles a kind of biotope. Building a wetland in the middle of a desert, creates a new eco-system on the basis of reeds which is now utilized by different species of plants, birds, fish, and other animals there. However, there is no baseline data yet, so we have no way of seeing if we are improving, stagnating or even deteriorate. The intention of the study is to establish the biodiversity value and come up with a biodiversity management plan for the future. Everyone is focusing on greenhouse emissions and becoming net zero by 2050. However, there are other topics to focus on as well, such as biodiversity and water management, especially in countries facing water shortages. Ultimately, I believe we need to change our mindset with regards to monetary profits if we want to reduce the causes of climate changes and achieve sustainability. We need to understand that not only monetary profits are desirable but also immaterial achievements like biodiversity or saving nature are an investment which will pay out for future generations only, even if it creates costs at present.
What are the main goals for Bauer this coming year?
Our first priority is to develop and build more wetlands. The target is to be awarded with another wetland in the region, not necessarily in Oman only but in the GCC. As a second goal, we are expanding the business of the ReedBox, which is our highly mobile, nature based sewage treatment system. The ReedBox is not only limited to oil and gas clients, there are many other applications. The ReedBox can be used as a small sewage treatment plant for hotels, schools, camping sites etc. The treated water can then even be used for irrigation purposes or dust control.
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