Bahrain’s first private sector power project commenced full commercial operation in May 2007. The project, which was conducted in two phases, kept to schedule and looks set to encourage the country to open its power sector to further private investment.

Heather Johnstone, Senior Editor

In May of 2007 the Al Ezzel power plant, located in the Al Hidd Industrial Area, close to Bahrain’s capital city Manama, was inaugurated in an official ceremony in the presence of the Crown Prince and Commander-in-Chief of Bahrain’s Defence Force, HH Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa. You might think nothing too unusual there, considering the number of power projects coming on-stream to meet the explosion in demand for power in the Middle East region, but you would be wrong.


Two SGT5-2000E (V94.2) gas turbine were installed at Al Ezzel CCPP
Click here to enlarge image

What makes this power project different is that Al Ezzel is the first independent power plant to be built under the government of Bahrain’s privatization scheme, which it initiated in 2004 in response to the increasing demand for power driven by a growing population, higher standards of living and rapid economic development.

Private power project awarded

In July 2004, Bahrain’s Ministry of Finance and National Economy awarded the contract for the 950 MW Al Ezzel combined-cycle power plant to Al Ezzel Power Company (AEPC) of Bahrain on a build, own and operate basis, after an international tendering procedure that saw five bidders short-listed – a record number of bids.

AEPC is a company jointly owned by Suez Energy International of Belgium and Kuwait-based Gulf Investment Corporation, one of the largest financial institutions in the Gulf region, with ten per cent owned by The Pension Fund Commission of the Kingdom of Bahrain. The speed and efficiency of the competitive bid and award process and of the financing also won AEPC international recognition.

The power plant began commercial operation in two phases, with Phase I delivering 470 MW of generating capacity to Bahrain’s national grid in April 2006, in time to contribute a reliable supply of electricity for the hot summer months. Phase II, providing an additional 480 MW, commenced operation in May 2007, Under a 20-year power purchase agreement, which commenced 1 May 2007, the state-of-art $500 million combined-cycle power plant provides electricity to the Ministry of Electricity and Water (MEW) of Bahrain. The plant is fired with natural gas supplied by the Bahrain Petroleum Company under a long-term sales agreement.

Sole turnkey EPC contractor

Power OEM major, Siemens Power Generation (PG) was awarded the EPC contract on a turnkey basis that had an ambitious delivery target. To support the operational requirements of the plant Siemens PG selected an arrangement of four gas turbines, two steam turbines, associated generators, the plant control system and various elements of the electrical installations.

In addition, through its specialized subcontractors for this project, many of which were local Bahraini companies, it supplied civil works and main cooling water systems. This arrangement supports the final plant output of 950 MW, and the simple-cycle capability of the gas turbines supported the earlier required power output of 470 MW.

Customized plant design

The plant consists of two blocks each comprising two gas turbines and one steam turbine. Siemens PG chose to use its SGT5-2000E (V94.2) gas turbine model, which is a heavy-duty gas turbine designed for reliable, efficient and flexible operation. The main rationale for choosing this particular gas turbine was, firstly, its size meet the requirements stated in the plant specifications, and secondly, and possibly more importantly, the life-cycles cost of the SGT5-2000E made it the most economically efficient machine to use.


The 950 MW Al Ezzel power plant, Bahrain’s first IPP, began full commercial operation according to schedule
Click here to enlarge image

Siemens PG also has a long-term maintenance contract related to the Al Ezzel gas turbines, which runs from January 2005 to December 2021. Under the Long Term Maintenance Contract Siemens provides gas turbine spare parts and performs necessary repairs for the continued operation and maintenance of the turbines.

The plant was designed and constructed according to strict directives and local regulations to minimize the impact on the local population, the environment and the plant staff. Dry low nitrogen oxides (NOx) burners were specified for the gas turbines, while noise reduction techniques were included in the design in line with the overall philosophy for the Al Hidd Industrial development, and with regard to a residential housing area located close to the site. Although the plant is based on the Siemens reference power plant concept, with the benefits of a standard base design, it was adapted to meet the required load regime specified by AEPC, in particular the need to enable simple-cycle operation at an early stage while large parts of the plant were still under construction. Thus, the two blocks have been interconnected at their steam lines. This cross connection allows the plant to be operated in a highly flexible way, so that three gas turbines can run one steam turbine.

Special provisions to meet soil conditions were also incorporated in the design of the buildings and in the equipment fixings. Due to soil conditions around 8000 stone column piles (8.6 m long and 80 cm in diameter ) were installed. Finally, special attention had to be paid to the need to allow for a water intake from the western seashore, which is about 800 m away from the site.

The seawater is channelled through underground culverts underneath an existing main road and existing sensitive services to the main cooling water pump house located on the main power plant site. Four main cooling water pumps deliver the water to condensers and to the seal pit, from where the water is drained through natural gravitation along a three km long underground outfall structure to the eastern seashore.

Project keeps to schedule

In 2004, the total installed capacity in Bahrain was around 1800 MW with the peak summer demand exceeding 1500 MW. Although the production capacity was enough to meet the demand for two years, there were growing concerns that Bahrain would face a power shortage by 2006. However, with Phase I of the Al Ezzel plant beginning commercial operation that year, such a disaster was averted. Today, with Al Ezzel delivering 950 MW, Bahrain installed capacity is over 2700 MW.


View of the air intake system at the 950 MW Al Ezzel combined-cycle power plant
Click here to enlarge image

Phase I of the project was completed on schedule in late April 2006 and added 470 MW of simple-cycle gas turbine generating capacity to the national grid. AEPC chairman Shafic Ali commented at the time “The completion of Phase I in 21 months is a testimony to the close collaboration between the various ministries involved, the diligence of Siemens, our EPC contractor and the efforts of all in AEPC. This achievement vindicates the policy of the Kingdom of Bahrain of entrusting the future of power generation to independent producers.”

Dr Abdulmajeed Alawadhi, undersecretary for the Ministry of Electricity & Water, said: “The commissioning of Phase I will bring welcome additional capacity to the grid before the start of the summer months when demand for electricity increases considerably.”

The final phase of the Al Ezzel power plant as mentioned above was completed and went into commercial operation in May 2007. To date the power plant is performing well, reliably supplying power to Bahrain’s electricity grid. The availability of the gas turbines is over 99 per cent, while the two steam turbines are 88 per cent and 94 per cent, respectively.

AEPC runs the Al Ezzel as a so-called frequency response plant. In summer, the hottest time of the year, the plant is running with an output of only around 750-800 MW. This means that it has the reserve to be able to boost output in response to another plant tripping. This strategy has already saved the power grid two times after two other power plants tripped.

Looking to the future

Bahrain’s demand for power is forecast to continue to grow rapidly – an annual rate of seven per cent, with consumer demand expected to reach over 2300 MW in 2010. Bahrain’s MEW has said it is planning to invest a total of BD100 million ($265 million) over the next 12 years to maintain and service its Al Hidd power and water plants, and Bahrain is considering the privatization of its entire electricity sector. However, following the award of the Al Ezzel project movement on this has been slow in putting privatization into practice.

However, Bahrain has taken another step towards privatization as it has recently invited international companies to bid for a contract to build and run a 1200 MW power and desalination plant. The Al Dur project will produce up to 600 MW of electricity and 218 million litres (48 million gallons) a day of desalinated water by 2010, with capacity increased to a maximum of 1200 MW by the summer of 2011.

Companies such as International Power, Marubeni and Suez Energy International, which traditionally bid for independent power projects (IWPPs) in the region, are expected to submit proposals for the Al Dur IWPP. MEE