POWER-GEN Middle East: Reflecting on an expanding energy mix

Traditional Arabic-style buildings reflected in the cutting edge facade of a building at Masdar City.

Photo: Kelvin Ross

POWER-GEN Middle East in Abu Dhabi put in the spotlight the region’s plans to diversify its power generation portfolio, writes Kelvin Ross

The Middle East has some unique energy challenges and opportunities.

For the Gulf countries that are abundant in oil and gas, there is an understanding that those riches are not limitless, and if they want to keep them for export then they need to diversify their domestic energy mix away from fossil fuels.

There is also a drive among some governments – most notably the United Arab Emirates – to embrace clean energy and exploit the potential of their own renewable resources, particularly solar.

At POWER-GEN Middle East in Abu Dhabi last month (October), the evolving energy mix of the region was debated in the conference rooms and on the exhibition floor.

The event opened with a speech from the UAE Minister of Energy, H.E. Eng. Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei, who highlighted his vision for how he plans to alter his nation’s power mix from fossil fuels to “eco-energies”.

He said that the UAE could expect a 9 per cent increase in electricity consumption.

Stressing that the UAE needed to minimize its use of natural gas, he said: “We need to change the stereotypes of consumption – we need to change our behaviour in power consumption.”

He said that this should be done “through using modern technologies” and added: “We need to raise awareness among our sons and daughters and be an example.”

The minister highlighted the effect that the nuclear newbuild plant Barakah would have once complete. All four units of the plant are currently being built by a consortium led by Korea Electric Power Co (KEPCO) and comprising Samsung, Hyundai, Doosan and Westinghouse, with the first unit expected online in 2017.

The minister said that, once complete, the plant would provide 5.4 GW of electricity and make up 25 per cent of the UAE’s energy mix.

He said that Barakah – combined with the growth in the UAE of solar power technologies – would “minimize our use of natural gas”.

However, he also stressed that new technologies “cannot rely on subsidies. They do not encourage energy efficiency and sustainability.”

The call for the Middle East to be at the forefront of power innovation was also stressed by Jamila Yousef Matar, director of energy management for the League of Arab States.

She told the audience: “Arab countries need to be active participants in the development of the latest technologies, not just recipients.”

Such development of new technologies is a cornerstone of the work being carried out by UAE clean energy company Masdar, and one such innovation is the development of a carbon capture project in association with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).

Details of the project were given to conference delegates by Masdar Clean Energy’s associate director Yousif Al Ali.

He said that the project is located at a factory of Emirate Steel and commercial operations are expected to begin next year.

The CO2 feed stream from the Emirates Steel plant, containing 90 per cent CO2, will be transferred to a common compression and dehydration facility at the project site in Mussafah. The feed stream will be compressed into dense phase, delivering an expected CO2 stream of over 98 per cent purity, through 50 km of the pipeline network to be injected in an onshore field, operated by Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations.

Ultimately, Masdar hopes to build a national network that captures carbon from power generation and industry and utilizes carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery instead of reinjecting natural gas into oil fields to trigger oil flow.

A key aspect of the conference sessions was a focus on project financing and the scale of investment in power generation projects around the world was put into numbers – and they were massive numbers.

Shaheen Chohan of Industrial Info Resources told delegates that global financing for power projects stands at $6.5 trillion.

He said that out of this figure, the Middle East and Africa accounted for $236 billion, comprised of 1066 projects.

“This part of the world is a very big market,” said Chohan, IIR’s vice-president of global analytics.

And he stressed that such investment was desperately needed, as the MENA region was seeing “unprecedented demand”. He said that 300 GW of new capacity was needed across the Middle East and North Africa by 2020 and the region was expected to witness 6.7 per cent demand growth per year for the next decade.

He broke down the MENA countries seeing the greatest spending over the next year or two, and top of the list by far was Saudi Arabia, with spending of $35 billion, followed by Egypt with $26 billion. Iran was third, the UAE fourth and Kuwait fifth.

However, he added that Saudi, which was “once one of the most attractive markets in renewables“, was now seeing a “deprioritization” of renewables and a pushing back of their targets, in favour of a desire to “utilize existing feedstocks, especially natural gas”.

The UAE, he said, had the greatest diversity in its energy mix, of which “at the forefront” were nuclear and solar power, while Egypt could be a “hot-spot new market. Its current infrastructure is aged, there is much debate about how much existing capacity can meet demand and it is blessed with a new gas find.”

Chohan said that a “part of the market to start paying attention to” was that of new projects with a capacity of between 1 MW and 100 MW, as there is much potential in this sector, particularly for power islands that provide energy for industrial facilities.

On the exhibition floor, Chromalloy unveiled a new joint venture it has initiated to provide the Middle East with life-cycle gas turbine engine servicing solutions.

Visitors discuss the latest technology on the exhibition floor

Credit: POWER-GEN Middle East

The US company has teamed up with Arabian Qudra – a Saudi Arabia-based service provider of electrical equipment in power and industrial plants – to form Chromalloy Arabia.

UAE Minister of Energy H.E. Eng Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei

Credit: POWER-GEN Middle East

The new venture will provide component repair, new parts, field services, system upgrades and long term service agreements, as well as monitoring and diagnostic systems.

Chromalloy President Carlo Luzzatto said: “Chromalloy Arabia leverages the innovations and advancements of two leading energy industry service providers to meet the growing demands of the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.”

He said that the new company “brings together Chromalloy’s expertise in gas turbine engine technologies with Arabian Qudra’s advancements and outstanding energy service legacy”.

Arabian Qudra’s chief operations officer Ahmed Al Bedaie said Chromalloy Arabia “is a strategic partnership delivering innovative energy and industrial sector solutions in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East”.

Chromalloy Arabia will be headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and will also have a sales office in Dubai.

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