Energy investment is taking off in the Middle East. Bernadette Ballantyne reports.
Traditional oil or gas burning power plants have been the engines of growth for the Gulf. Any excess heat they produce is redirected into thermal desalination creating a partnership between power and water known as cogeneration.
But looking to the future things are changing, giving engineers new problems to solve and designs to create. Abu Dhabi’s move to nuclear power marks a historic step for the Gulf as it seeks to diversify away from fossil fuels. But moving into the new technology is not going to be easy.
Tried and tested
The licensing process itself can be time consuming, but in a bid to accelerate construction client Emirates Nuclear Energy Company (ENEC) is opting for a tried and tested design. Korean developer Kepco is set to install four AP1400 pressurised water reactors, and all four are set to be up and running by 2020, with the first online by 2017.
Despite the ambitious programme, progress has been good. In December 2010 ENEC applied for a construction license for the first two units to the UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, and in July 2011 it opened the procurement competition for 15-year fuel supply contracts.
Other states such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait are also exploring nuclear power and all acknowledge that finding enough nuclear engineers is going to be a major challenge.
One of the biggest problems for engineers in the energy sector lies to the north of the region in Iraq. Electricity supply is at least 30% behind peak demand and without massive investment this is set to get much worse. In December 2010 consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff published a masterplan saying that £55.5bn must be invested across the Iraqi network by 2030.
One of the biggest problems for engineers in the energy sector lies to the north of the region in Iraq where electricity supply is at least 30% behind peak demand
To set out the requirements Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) visited every site in the country. “We travelled from Mosul down to Basra and inspected every one of the major power plants, assessed its condition and expected life and then determined the retirement age of the plant,” explains PB country manager Jeff Larkin. The consultant, working closely with the Ministry of Electricity, then took account of the power generation projects that had already been approved by government in order to establish how the transmission system must be upgraded. “Everything on the committed list was deemed to be completed by 2015. We then looked at transmission requirements to determine what needed to be done to transfer all of that into the grid. Right now the system can only support around 8,000MW,” says Larkin. In 2010 demand peaked at 11,939MW.
Although the masterplan clearly outlines the challenge in terms of required capacity and finance, there are still other challenges for Iraq to overcome if it is going to modernise its electricity sector and keep up with demand.
Financing the projects is perhaps the biggest. The government is depending on the participation of the private sector, but investment will be difficult to obtain.