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|11 September, 2018

GE eyes role in Oman’s clean coal power ambitions

Oman's fuel diversification policy envisions up to 3,000 MW coal based capacity to be developed by 2030.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Steam rises from the stakes of the coal-fired Jim Bridger Power Plant supplied by the neighboring Jim Bridger mine that is owned by energy firm PacifiCorp and the Idaho Power Company, outside Point of the Rocks, Wyoming March 14, 2014. West Virginia mined 120 million tons (109 metric tons) of coal in 2012, second to Wyoming, or about 12 percent of total U.S. production. Kentucky was third with about 9 percent of output, according to the National Mining Association. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Image used for illustrative purpose. Steam rises from the stakes of the coal-fired Jim Bridger Power Plant supplied by the neighboring Jim Bridger mine that is owned by energy firm PacifiCorp and the Idaho Power Company, outside Point of the Rocks, Wyoming March 14, 2014. West Virginia mined 120 million tons (109 metric tons) of coal in 2012, second to Wyoming, or about 12 percent of total U.S. production. Kentucky was third with about 9 percent of output, according to the National Mining Association. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Global energy conglomerate GE Power says it is keen to offer its market-leading Ultra Super-Critical clean coal technology to help the Sultanate take its maiden plunge into coal-based power generation as part of its diversification away from predominantly gas-based generation.

Leading international developers and technology providers are in contention for a contract award to build Omans first coal-based Independent Power Project (IPP) a 1,300 MW scheme planned at the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Duqm on the Sultanates southeast coast.

The Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP), the sole procurer of new capacity under the Sector Law, is currently evaluating prequalification documents submitted by interested firms vying for a licence to build the ambitious development. The Duqm Clean Coal IPP is expected to provide 600 MW by 2024 and 1,200 MW at full power in 2025, assuming timely approvals. The plant will provide essential power supply to the developing Duqm industrial hub, and export surplus capacity to the countrys main grid.

OPWP has stressed that the Duqm Clean Coal IPP will meet the most current international standards for environmental quality and emissions control. Final regulatory approval is anticipated in the coming weeks, paving the way for a Request for Proposals (RfP) to be issued before the end of this year.

GE Power, which is the technology provider for the Gulf regions first coal power project the 2,400 MW Hassyan plant currently under execution at Saih Shuaib in Dubai says it is eager to support Omans power generation goals based on clean coal as a fuel resource.

The Sultanate, says a key GE Power executive, is expected to opt for coal power technologies that offer exceptional efficiency while also limiting harmful emissions. We havent seen the specs yet, but from the standpoint of the projects requirements and environmental footprint, OPWP will play an important role in the choice of technology because its a balance that bidders have to find to optimise the tariff as much as possible, while at the same time, comply with the specs, according to Dr Sacha Parneix, Commercial General Manager for GE Steam Power Systems covering the Middle East, North Africa & Turkey (MENAT) region.

Dr Parneix believes that Oman is expected to apply very stringent emissions requirements as a key project prerequisite. Lets see how stringent they are and the technology will automatically adapt. But looking at the competition that was active on the Hassyan Clean Coal Project in Dubai, its very likely that efficiency and low emission tech will be applied in Oman as well, he stated.

Speaking to the Observer, Dr Parneix said GE Powers Ultra-Supercritical (USC) technology enables the power plant to run at a higher steam temperature and pressure than traditional coal-fired plants, thereby improving the plant efficiency and decreasing stack-emissions.

From an environmental point of view, we are making power generation based on coal cleaner to a point where it is equivalent to gas-based power generation. And from a global point of view, we are looking to make it much more efficient with a lower carbon footprint that the average coal fleet installed around the world, mainly in North America, Europe and China.

GE Power sees emissions standards being set by the new Hassyan Clean Coal Project in Dubai the first phase of which will commence operations in 2020 as surpassing guidelines already set by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), European Union (EU) and the World Bank. Right now, the Dubai project is setting new standards, which are much lower they may be called Dubai Standards perhaps, he remarked.

Dr Parneix also sees countries like Oman among others in the wider region making a long-term commitment to coal-based power generation as part of their efforts to achieve a diverse energy mix.

Its the scheme of things in countries in the Gulf; When you get into a power project regardless of the fuel, its always a long-term commitment from the country. This is ruled into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) that the private investor will sign together with the government to have some guarantee that the power output will be purchased by the government. Thats valid for all technologies gas, wind, coal, and so on at least thats how the grid system works in the GCC.

Asked if countries embracing coal would have to necessarily make a larger commitment to coal power generation to benefit from, say, economies of scale, Dr Parneix stated: Not necessarily! This is a project specific commitment it doesnt have to be an enormous commitment beyond (what is planned). As a fuel resource, coal is available in all continents with an abundance of supply. You dont have to link your project with one specific source market and thereby risk constraints in terms of long-term commitments. Thats not needed at all. There is enough competition today to make sure you have enough access to coal affordably and reliably.

Oman's fuel diversification policy envisions up to 3,000 MW coal based capacity to be developed by 2030.

[Next: Why coal power generation makes sense for relatively gas-rich countries like Oman: Part 2]

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Conrad Prabhu

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