Saudi Arabia joins club of Middle East’s ‘green energy’ leaders

20/01/20

The value of solar-power projects in the MENA region is estimated at between $5 billion and $7.5 billion. By 2024, that figure is expected to approach $15 billion to $20 billion. (Shutterstock)
  • Government plans to invest up to $50bn in renewable energy projects by 2023
  • Demand for electricity in the Kingdom is forecast to rise by up to 120 GW by 2030

ABU DHABI: Saudi Arabia has become one of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s leaders in the race to use renewable energy, according to a new study.

The Solar Outlook Report 2020 was launched at the Solar Forum of the World Future Energy Summit, a highlight of this year’s Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (Jan. 11-18).
The report, prepared by Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA), the largest regional body of its kind, said Saudi Arabia and Oman have joined the UAE, Morocco and Egypt as leaders in the renewables race.
“Saudi Arabia is now in the third year of implementation of its massive target of 60 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy generation by 2030,” it said.
Martine Mamlouk, secretary-general of MESIA, said that investment in solar energy is evident across MENA countries. “Saudi Arabia has a target of almost 60 gigawatts of renewable energy, out of which 40 gigawatts are solar,” she told Arab News.
“This is in line with the Kingdom’s objective of diversification and Vision 2030. While the industry is reaching grid parity, it is great to see the deployment of new innovative technologies to increase efficiency of systems, production management and grids.”
Upcoming solar projects in the Kingdom include Madinah, Rafh, Qurayyat, Al-Faisaliah, Rabigh as well as Jeddah, Mahd Al-Dahab, Al-Rass, SAAD and Wadi Ad-Dawasir, along with Layla and PIF.
Saudi Arabia’s energy demand has been rising steadily, with consumption increasing by 60 percent in the past 10 years, according to data provided by market researchers Frost & Sullivan. Demand for electricity in 2019 reached 62.7 GW and is forecast to rise by up to 120 GW by 2030.
The value of solar-power projects in the MENA region is estimated at between $5 billion and $7.5 billion. By 2024, that figure is expected to approach $15 billion to $20 billion.
Under its Vision 2030 program, the Kingdom aims to reduce its dependency on oil revenues, diversify its energy mix and tap its renewable energy potential.

Saudi Acwa power-generating windmills that have been erected in Jbel Sendouq, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (Reuters)

After the Renewable Energy Project Development Office (REPDO) was set up within the Ministry of Energy, the goals for the Kingdom’s National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) were revised upwards in 2018, resulting in a five-year target of 27.3 GW and a 12-year target of 58.7 GW.
The Saudi government plans to invest up to $50 billion in renewable energy projects by 2023.
“At MESIA, we are excited to see solar developments in the MENA region accelerating and reaching attractive tariffs, while lowering the carbon footprint of regional economies,” Mamlouk said.
“The total investment in renewables in MENA between 2019 and 2023 is expected to be $71.4 billion, representing a 34 percent share of the total investment in the power sector, which is valued at $210 billion.”
Changes introduced by Saudi Arabia include a focus on local developers and easing of regulations for local manufacturers of solar panels.
A Local Content and Government Procurement Authority has been established to oversee and audit local content compliance.
Separately, a Renewable Energy Financing package has been launched by the Saudi Industrial Development Fund to support the growth of utility and distributed-generation sectors.
After solar photovoltaic panels were installed on the roof of a mosque in Riyadh, the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center recommended a similar move at other mosques.
Meanwhile, plans for the use of solar panels in the Saudi agro-industry have led to burgeoning interest in the technology, with several industrial facilities expected to have their own units in the not-too-distant future.
For good measure, a regulatory framework to allow exchanges with the power grid is being studied by the Electricity Co-generation Regulatory Authority.
Flexible storage solutions, such as hydrogen, will give intermittent renewable energy a greater share in the energy system, Mamlouk said. “It may enable present-day oil and gas exporters to become key renewable energy exporters tomorrow. The solar industry is thrilled and proud to participate in this profound transformation of Saudi Arabia’s energy system.”
In the past year solar tariffs have reached record levels in the MENA region, mainly due to tremendous cost declines that have brought the goal of grid parity within reach.
With installed solar electricity capacity worldwide standing at 617.9 GW, MENA governments are staying focused on energy diversification with the help of large-scale projects.
In the UAE, Dubai is targeting the completion of a 5 GW facility by 2030 at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Solar Park. Abu Dhabi has “engaged” its second-largest solar project and is considering the roll-out of more units by 2025.

INNUMBER

62.7GW – Demand for electricity in Saudi Arabia in 2019

Morocco aims to reach 52 percent contribution by renewables in its energy mix by 2030. The figures for Tunisia and Egypt are 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively, by 2022.
Oman expects solar-power plants totaling 1.5 GW to come on stream by the end of 2022. Even Iraq, with all its political troubles and administrative paralysis, has not ignored solar power in drawing up plans for its future energy mix.
“Investments in renewable energy have reached billions in all Arab countries,” Mohammed Al-Taani, secretary-general of the Arab Renewable Energy Commission, said.
“Jordan is spending more on renewable energy, and we encourage people to have more independence with renewables by generating their own electricity to reduce their bills.”


Nevertheless challenges remain when it comes to implementing projects in rural and isolated areas, according to Mustapha Taoumi, a technology expert at the EU-GCC Clean Energy Technology Network. “With regard to issues of power grid and access to the people, we have to prepare for everything and be ready to receive new technology because there are communities with little income and education,” he said.
“Then there is the challenge of implementation on the part of different actors and sectors. Social acceptance is also important as we come with new technologies and (information on) how to use them.
“We have to be innovative when it comes to financing the facilitation process. We have to be fair and democratic,” he said.
Although this is an exciting time for the region, governments will have to raise their efforts since they are still subsidizing the cost of power, Taoumi said.
“Technologies are evolving quickly, so decision-making must keep pace,” he said. “We could end up having smart meters in rural and isolated areas in two to three years.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Drive to stamp out environmental violations in Saudi Arabia

Time: 15 January, 2020

A photo taken on on January 5, 2020 show boats anchored along the Red Sea coast, in Saudi Arabia, on January 5, 2020. (AFP)
  • The northern region registered the lowest number of violations with 488 from 1,314 visits

JEDDAH: Inspection teams from the General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection (PME) discovered 8,754 environmental violations in Saudi Arabia in 2019, having carried out 21,369 inspections, it has reported.
Dr. Abdulrahman bin Sulaiman Al-Tariki, president general of the PME, revealed that Makkah had the highest number of violations, with 3,069 resulting from 4,756 visits. There were 1,799 violations from 4,573 visits in the Riyadh region; 1,070 violations from 2,427 visits in the southern region; 922 violations from 4,392 visits in the eastern region; 907 violations from 3,004 visits in Madinah; and 499 violations in Jazan from 903 visits. The northern region registered the lowest number of violations with 488 from 1,314 visits.
Al-Tariki said that the environmental inspection teams will continue to follow up on those who violate environmental standards and ensure they make the necessary fixes. “They will also impose fines and penalties on violators of the laws,” he said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Siemens, Tarshid to reduce emissions

29/12/19

Siemens is turning buildings and organizations in the Kingdom into high performing assets by maximizing efficiency, minimizing costs and reducing environmental impact.

Tarshid, the National Energy Services Company, and Siemens Saudi Arabia have signed a smart energy scheme to reduce 4,300 tons of CO2 emissions and support the National Information Center (NIC) save 28 percent on energy consumption annually. Leveraging on the Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) model to accelerate smart building performance initiatives and reduce national domestic energy usage, Siemens aims to support businesses in the Kingdom along their journey toward a more sustainable and profitable future.
Siemens is partnering with Tarshid in the implementation of a holistic building performance and sustainability solution for the NIC.
With this agreement, the company aims to serve the Kingdom’s strategic sustainability goal of achieving significant energy savings by 2030.
“With buildings now becoming an essential part of clean energy transition strategies in the Kingdom, Siemens’ energy-saving measures for its cooling, lighting and occupancy-based energy scheme ensures the best outcomes for their project value and minimizes operating expenditures within the ESPC’s 10-year payback scheme,” the company said.
Combining the expertise of Siemens’ data analytics and digital services capabilities to deliver new levels of building performance and insights, the NIC will be able to reduce their strategic and operational goals, while increasing their competitive advantage.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Siemens is working with Tarshid to support the National Information Center save 28% on energy consumption annually through an Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC).

• The project reduces 4,300 tons of CO2 emissions from the environment, equivalent to planting 21,600 trees.

Elangovan Karuppiah, CEO of Siemens Smart Infrastructure, Regional Solutions and Services, Middle East and Asia, said: “Siemens has been a trusted partner of Saudi Arabia for nearly a century. This exciting new energy efficiency project is evidence of our firm commitment to jointly build the smart infrastructure that will power the Kingdom’s smart cities and create a sustainable future for the next generation.”
Siemens has expanded its investment in Saudi Arabia by transferring its know-how in energy efficiency, as well as its regional competency centers and global know-how to enable the Kingdom to reduce its dependency on oil and cut power consumption of its critical facilities, like the NIC. Backed by a strong global network of building performance and advisory services and proven track record in energy efficiency projects, Siemens is turning buildings and organizations in the Kingdom into high-performing assets by maximizing efficiency, minimizing costs and reducing environmental impact.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Aramco leads fight against methane

22/12/19

Saudi Aramco spends a big proportion of its research and development budget on measures to counter the environmentally damaging effects of the oil and gas business. (Shutterstock

Saudi company is more efficient in both current emissions and its targets for future reduction
DUBAI: Saudi Aramco has emerged as the most effective energy company in the world at mitigating emissions of the atmospheric pollutant methane from natural gas operations, according to consulting firm Thunder Said Energy.

A research survey put Aramco, the world’s biggest listed company, at the top of a table that included all the big energy groups.

The Saudi company was about six times more efficient than US energy giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron, in both current emissions and targets for future reduction, as a proportion of its gas production.Equinor, the state energy company of environmentally conscious Norway, ranked second in the survey.

Thunder Said’s Rob West, an expert in energy economics, said that controlling methane emissions was a crucial aspect of the move to decarbonize global energy supplies, in which gas is playing an increasingly important role. Methane, a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2), is released in the gas production and transportation process.


Saudi Aramco became the world’s most valuable public company this year with a stock offering launch in December. (AP)
“Scaling up natural gas is the largest decarbonization opportunity on the planet. But this requires minimizing methane leaks. Exciting new technologies are emerging,” West said. Global gas demand will treble by 2050 as producers and consumers seek cleaner alternatives to coal and oil.

Aramco, the biggest oil exporter, has huge quantities of natural gas, which it has identified as a key area of expansion for domestic supply and export in the form of liquified natural gas. “We basically look at natural gas as an area for growth for the company,” Khalid Al-Dabbagh, Aramco’s chief financial officer, said in an investor call in the run-up to its successful IPO this year.

Aramco spends a big proportion of its research and development budget on measures to counter the environmentally damaging effects of the oil and gas business, including advanced technology to reduce pollutants in energy products.

Although most environmentalists have focused their attention on CO2 as the main contributor to global warming, and hence to damaging climate change, some experts regard methane as a far more serious threat.

There is far more CO2 in the atmosphere, but methane is up to 120 times more powerful as a warming agent and takes longer to leave Earth’s atmosphere. “Methane accounts for around 25 to 30 percent of all the warming occurring on the planet,” West said, while around a quarter comes from fossil fuel production.

“Mitigating methane emissions is becoming crucial for tackling net emissions.”

While methane leaks at all stages of the natural gas production process, almost half is emitted during the upstream phase. Sensors, drones and even satellites are being increasingly used to detect these emissions. Aramco stopped “flaring” gas years ago.

“The world will need superior methods to mitigate methane. In the developed world, this will be necessary for operators wishing to demonstrate low carbon credentials, and preserve their access to customers and capital markets,” West said. “The other way for investors to lower methane emissions may be to favor companies with low methane emissions and targets to improve.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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KSA achieves fourth-fastest emissions reductions in G20

22/12/19

The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (pictured), an independent, nonprofit institution located in Riyadh, released an analysis of the IEA data at COP25, held last week in Madrid.

Data recently released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has shown that Saudi Arabia lowered its emissions by 15 million tons (Mt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) or by 2.7 percent in 2018, giving it the fourth-fastest fall in emissions in the G20 group of countries behind Mexico, Germany and France. This is significant as it is Saudi Arabia’s first large policy-induced reduction in CO2 emissions.

The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) released an analysis of the data at the 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known as COP25, held last week in Madrid.

Dr. Nicholas Howarth, a co-author of the report, said that 74 percent of the fall was attributable to improving energy intensity and 26 percent due to a fall in the carbon intensity of the economy as the Kingdom lowered its domestic consumption of oil.

“Energy efficiency and structural reform policies are combining to lower the Kingdom’s energy intensity, lifting energy productivity. This has been the most significant driver of lower CO2 emissions in the Kingdom,” he said.

Thamir Al-Shehri, another author of the analysis, said that in 2018, Saudi Arabia’s emissions were stable or falling in all energy-consuming sectors of the economy, with transport delivering the majority of the reductions, falling by 13.25 MtCO2 or 11 percent compared with the year before. The share of natural gas in the fuel mix, which is 25 percent less carbon-intensive than oil, has also risen from 32 percent in 2015 to 38 percent in 2018.

“Energy price reforms and stronger energy efficiency standards have combined to stabilize and lower the Kingdom’s historically fast emissions growth in the last three years. What we see in the data is the first signs of the energy transition toward more sustainable use in action,” Al-Shehri said.

Co-author Dr. Alessandro Lanza said the amount of crude oil burned to produce electricity has fallen by around 10 percent each year for the last three years, diesel consumption fell by 15 percent in 2017 and 12 percent in 2018, and total oil products consumed fell by 7 percent in 2018.

“This has the dual benefit of freeing up valuable oil for higher value uses in petrochemicals and export, in addition to lowering the Kingdom’s CO2 emissions,” Dr. Lanza said. “It also shows how climate policies can be aligned with supporting economic growth and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goals.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi pursuit of ‘green Kingdom’ goal gets a boost

18/11/19

One of the goals of the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) is to build sustainable networks and unleash the entrepreneurial potential of farming communities living in the marginal environments of Egypt. (ICBA photo)

  • Agreement between agriculture ministry and Dubai’s ICBA aimed at conserving natural resources.
  • Kingdom’s biosaline agriculture research and systems stands to benefit from ICBA’s expertise.
    DUBAI: Agricultural development and environmental sustainability in Saudi Arabia will receive a boost in the coming years, thanks to a new agreement between the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in Dubai and the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.

The agreement aims to enable Saudi Arabia to achieve its goal of preservation and sustainable management of its natural resources by raising the quality of biosaline agriculture research and systems.

The ministry says that the agreement will make use of the ICBA’s expertise in capacity development besides agricultural and environmental research, especially in the fields of vegetation development, combating desertification and climate change adaptation.

“It also includes training programs for Saudi technicians and farmers,” the ministry said. “In addition, it will localize, implement and develop biosaline agriculture research and production systems for both crops and forestation, which contributes to environmental and agricultural integration.”

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, the ICBA’s director general, told Arab News: “The agreement had been in the making for about two years. That was when we were approached by the Saudi government.”

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, ICBA Director General, at the center’s Quinoa fields in Dubai. (Supplied photo)

She said: “We put forward a proposal to demonstrate how the ICBA can help the Saudi government to implement its Green Kingdom Initiative, through which the ministry is trying to restore green coverage in the country and revive old conservation practices.”

Geographical features and climatic conditions very greatly from one part of the country to the other.

In the past, experimentation with such crops as potatoes, wheat and alfalfa proved detrimental to the Kingdom’s environment and natural resources due to faster rates of groundwater withdrawal.

“The ministry wanted to put a halt to over-abstraction of water, so they went through different policies,” Elouafi said.

“They made sure, for example, that farmers stopped producing wheat because about 2,400 liters of water is consumed to produce 1 kg of wheat. It was a huge amount,” she added.

“The new strategy is to find more appropriate crops for the farming community, which is quite large in the Kingdom.”

Saudi Arabia has been trying to grow its own food on a large scale since the 1980s.

The objective of the Green Kingdom Initiative is to reduce the agricultural sector’s water demand by finding alternatives to thirsty crops.

The agreement will require the ICBA, over the next five years, to build for Saudi Arabia a new biosaline agriculture sector.

As part of this shift, cultivation of a number of crops, notably quinoa, pearl millet and sorghum, will be piloted in high-salinity regions and then scaled up.

“The crops did very well in the UAE,” Elouafi said. “We’re looking at Sabkha regions, which have very high salinity and wetlands, and are on the ministry’s environmental agenda.”

Another objective is “smart” agriculture, which will involve raising water productivity, controlling irrigation water consumption and changing farming behavior.

Elouafi said that getting farmers in the Kingdom to stop cultivating wheat took some time as they had become accustomed to heavy government subsidies. In 2015, wheat production was phased out, followed by potatoes a year later and then alfalfa.

“Farmers were provided everything to the point where they got used to a very good income and a very easy system,” she said.

“Now farmers are being asked to start producing something else, but the income won’t be the same, so it’s very important at this stage that the ministry has a plan and it’s fully understood.”

The agreement envisages preparation of proposals for ministry projects that involve plant production, drought monitoring, development of promising local crop and forestation varieties, and conservation of plant genetic resources.

“We’re also discussing capacity building because the ministry is big and has many entities. Because Saudi Arabia is a large country and has the capacity to meet some of its food requirements internally, what’s required is a better understanding of the country’s natural capabilities in terms of production of the crops it needs, like certain cereals,” Elouafi said.

“The way the authorities are going about it right now is more organized and more holistic. They’re trying to plan it properly.”

Elouafi said that having a better understanding of Saudi Arabia’s water constraints and managing the precious resource is essential.

Although almost the entire country is arid, there is rainfall in the north and along the mountain range to the west, especially in the far southwest, which receives monsoon rains in summer.

Sporadic rain may also occur elsewhere. Sometimes it is very heavy, causing serious flooding, including in Riyadh.

“They (the government) are very interested in drought management systems. The Kingdom has a long history of agriculture,” Elouafi said.

“It has large quantities of water in terms of rainfall, and certain regions have mountainous conditions, which are conducive to agriculture.”

Clearly, preservation of water resources is a priority for the Saudi government. But no less urgent is the task of conversion of green waste to improve soil quality, increase soil productivity and water retention, and reduce demand for irrigation.

The Kingdom is one of at least three Gulf Cooperation Council countries that are taking steps to develop a regulatory framework for the recycling of waste into compost.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman are respectively aiming to recycle 85 percent, 75 percent and 60 percent of their municipal solid waste over the next decade, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) entitled “Global Food Trends to 2030.”

Saudi Arabia and the UAE rank in the bottom quartile of the 34 countries covered by the EIU’s Food Sustainability Index, with low scores for nutrition and food loss and waste.

The answer, according to many farmers, policymakers and food-industry experts, is a shift toward more sustainable management of each country’s natural resources.

This article was first published in Arab News

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50k trees planted as Saudi Arabia launches forest campaign

28/10/19

The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 program has attached utmost importance to environmental protection and natural resources. (SPA)

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We’ll turn the world green, say young Saudis

27/10/19

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The Saudi team participating in the FIRST Global Challenge 2019 in Dubai. (SPA)

  • Saudis among more than 1,500 contestants from 190 countries taking part in the FIRST Global Challenge 2019 in Dubai
  • The challenge is to create robots to clean up the world’s seas by eliminating waste and pollutants

DUBAI: A young Saudi team competing in a major international robotics competition vowed on Saturday to play their part in creating a pollution-free world.

“We represent hope for the future not only for Saudi Arabia, but also humanity at large,” team leader Maysoon Humaidan told Arab News.

More than 1,500 contestants from 190 countries are taking part in the FIRST Global Challenge 2019 in Dubai, which focuses on creating robots to clean up the world’s seas by eliminating waste and pollutants.

Humaidan said the Saudi team was “strapped in” for the contest, and described the team members as “young enthusiasts for science and knowledge.” Their dream was to “motivate Saudi youth to enter the fields of science, technology and mathematics in order to find solutions to the problems and challenges facing humanity,” she said.

Team member Sulafa Al-Shehri, 14, said the robotics challenge had expanded her knowledge of technology, sustainability and environmental protection. Fadel Younes, 15, said modern technology could solve many of the world’s most pressing problems.

The team’s ambitions reflect the giant strides the Kingdom has made in involving youth in the tech sector and its applications across all walks of life.

Recently the Kingdom said it was introducing artificial intelligence and robotics applications in the Ministry of Education to improve customer service. Two years ago, Saudi Arabia granted Saudi citizenship to the robot Sophia, symbol of the Neom “smart city.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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5 million trees to be planted in Saudi Arabia by 2030

22/10/19

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture and the Saline Water Conversion Corp. signed a memorandum of understanding. (SPA)

JEDDAH: A deal has been signed to plant 5 million local wild trees in Saudi Arabia by the end of 2030 using treated renewed wastewater.
The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture and the Saline Water Conversion Corp. (SWCC) signed a memorandum of understanding to support the initiative, which is aimed at reducing the degradation of rangelands and forests, combating desertification, restoring natural habitats, raising environmental awareness and promoting adaptation to climate changes through the cultivation of local wild trees.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi tourism megaproject aims to turn the Red Sea green

Time: October 20, 2019  

The Red Sea is home to abundant species of coral and marine life, including a large number of species found nowhere else on earth. (Courtesy: Red Sea Project website)
  • Development will protect endangered hawksbill turtle, while coral research could help save the Great Barrier Reef

RIYADH: Key ecological targets are driving Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea tourism megaproject, its leader has told Arab News.

The development will not only protect the habitat of the endangered hawksbill turtle, but could also save coral reefs that are dying elsewhere in the world, said Red Sea Development Company Chief Executive John Pagano.

The project is taking shape in a 28,000 square kilometer region of lagoons, archipelagos, canyons and volcanic geology between the small towns of Al-Wajh and Umluj on the Kingdom’s west coast.

One island, Al-Waqqadi, looked like the perfect tourism destination, but was discovered to be a breeding ground for the hawksbill. “In the end, we said we’re not going to develop it. It shows you can balance development and conservation,” Pagano said.

Scientists are also working to explain why the area’s coral reef system — fourth-largest in the world —  is thriving when others around the world are endangered.

“To the extent we solve that mystery, the ambition would be to export that to the rest of the world,” Pagano said. “Can we help save the Great Barrier Reef or the Caribbean coral that has been severely damaged?”

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