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Bridging the cooling gap

by Baset Asaba on Apr 3, 2016


Lee Cox, managing director, RSS
Lee Cox, managing director, RSS

Almost fifteen years now since district cooling made its foray into the region’s temperature control marketspace, the sector has witnessed rapid expansion, attracting a wave of players, but most importantly triggering the much needed innovation to address essential gaps within the market.

Traditional district cooling providers such as Empower, Tabreed and Emicool are known to be the industry leaders in the GCC with a combined installed capacity of more than 2.2 million refrigerated tonnes (RT).

However, such large providers are not pitched to offer temporary solutions to gaps left by incidents such as a lag between project handover and connection to permanent district cooling, a situation that is increasingly giving rise to the need for temporary district cooling services.

“Whether an industrial, hotel, office, retail or housing development, such a gap can leave projects unsaleable, unrentable and unusable, especially in this region, where soaring summer temperatures can make life unbearable,” says Lee Cox, managing director of Dubai headquartered Rental Solutions & Services (RSS).

It is a sector within the cooling industry that is set to grow largely due to unforeseen delays in completion of district cooling plants or connecting them to new developments.

“It doesn’t matter the level of planning and accuracy in designing a project, delays are always bound to happen due to factors that may be beyond the developer’s control. Temporary cooling solutions help developers to avoid further delays,” says Cox.

“These services aim to make buildings habitable before a permanent cooling solution is installed, and are designed to lift the burden of managing new, under-occupied developments at a level of cooling which is cost effective and manageable.”

To achieve temporary cooling, air or water cooled chillers in modular form are connected together by an array of pipework with pumps to produce a certain amount of cooling to the quantity specified by the client.

“All major district cooling companies require cooling services during the construction and commissioning stage of their district cooling plants, or where gaps exist between viable supply and full project completion,” says Cox.

“Even during construction, there is a need for wild air cooling supply to keep ambient temperatures workable and to protect the finishing touches of the building during the interior fit out.”

RSS currently delivers, installs, operates and manages large tonnage rental cooling solutions across the GCC with its fleet of more than 35,000TR of chillers and HVAC equipment, including air handlers, pumps, valves and standalone air conditioning systems.

The company has built some of the largest temporary air-cooled plant in the Middle East providing cooling to the Crescent construction site, the Atlantis Hotel and the Lost World Theme Park at the Palm Jumeirah. The massive temporary chiller plant comprised 38 rental air-cooled chillers, producing a total capacity of 7,700 tonne refrigeration (TR) to the customer’s design conditions.

Providers of temporary cooling solutions expect the industry to sustain growth especially in the non-petroleum related businesses such as construction, heavy industries, hospitality, healthcare, maritime and logistics.

“Saudi Arabia and Qatar are currently the top markets for temporary district cooling solutions in the GCC. Most of our clients are based in the two countries,” says Cox.

The company extends similar services to utility companies that need to rent power solution packages and mobile water desalination units for their district cooling plants and power sub-stations.

Innovation


The district cooling market is forecast to grow by 18% in the next five and to be worth $29bn in 2019, according to Emicool. It is a projection that holds promise for temporary cooling providers in the region.

However, with the increased market saturation, innovation will largely determine the survival of current or newer players.

“Reliability, cost efficiency and innovative rental cooling solutions are attributes that today’s clients expect,” says Cox.

“Providers will need to work closely with clients to ensure cooling is directed where it is needed, providing appropriate temperature levels, cost savings, and with the added advantage of minimising environmental impact.”

Clients are also increasingly gravitating towards providers that offer a full suite of rental solutions to enhance service reliability, from air and water cooled chillers, generators and transformers to switchgear equipment.

“The need for energy efficient equipment is a growing demand from clients,” says Cox.

“We are researching the development of hybrid rental power generators that will significantly reduce fuel consumption, and therefore both reduce carbon footprint and bring client cost savings.”

“We have already applied variable frequency drive (VFD) pumping systems to all our chillers, which allows clients greater control over their power consumption and ultimately enabling them to cut down operational costs,” says Cox.

Beyond challenges
Although air and water cooled chillers used in temporary cooling are portable in nature, providers often find themselves having to move them across multiple locations of a development due to poor pre-planning, adding to their operational costs.

Proper planning with the client is always necessary to get upfront information on any planned landscaping or construction work to help determine a suitable location for the cooling equipment, say experts.

In fact, proper project time planning and design can altogether eliminate the need for temporary cooling solutions, according to Aslan Al Barazi, executive director of Sharjah based International Mechanical Engineering Company (IMEC).

“There are cases where consultants under design a project to meet the needs of peak summer conditions where the ambient temperatures can exceed 50 degrees C, mainly between May and September,” says Al Barazi.

“This can be a matter as simple as not specifying in the correct design wet bulb temperature of the cooling towers, like specifying 29 C or 30 C wet bulb instead of 31 C or even 32 C for projects near the Sea, which happens in many cases.”

He says that this may also be due to other factors like under estimating the building cooling load where the consultant may choose not to design to that point in order not to over size their building capacity and equipment.

But Al Barazi calls for the use ice thermal storage, which he believes can save the client a lot on the overall project life cycle cost analysis, as well as reduce the cost of the chiller plant room plot area.


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