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Industry focus: Gulf district cooling on the rise

The district cooling industry has taken off rapidly in the Middle East

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Abu Dhabi pipe factory, Districk cooling Middle East, District cooling, Gulf distrcit cooling projects, Products, Services, Utlities Middle East, Vexve. Wartsila
Abu Dhabi pipe factory, Districk cooling Middle East, District cooling, Gulf distrcit cooling projects, Products, Services, Utlities Middle East, Vexve. Wartsila
Abu Dhabi pipe factory, Districk cooling Middle East, District cooling, Gulf distrcit cooling projects, Products, Services, Utlities Middle East, Vexve. Wartsila

The district cooling industry has been growing year-on-year in the Middle East at a frantic pace. Because of this, companies supplying services and products to the industry have prospered along with it. The sector is relatively new in this region and as such, the eagerness to try new ideas is still prevalent.

While it can improve efficiency in a number of ways, the amount of water required in the process of district cooling is high. Regardless of this, the number of projects underway in the Middle East continues to grow and the technology involved in district cooling plants is evolving. UME examines how the companies supplying the district cooling industry are preparing for what looks like a bright  future.

Lal Abdul Salam, operation manager, Abu Dhabi Pipe Factory

What do you supply to the district cooling industry?

Manufacturing and installation of GRP pre-insulated pipes for chilled water external piping network in very large scale. Procurement and installation of valves, flange adaptors and other piping accessories. Design of external chilled water piping network including valve chambers design. Flushing and chemical cleaning of external chilled water piping network.

What district cooling projects have you been involved in?

Palm Jumeirah Crescent, Palm Jumeirah Trunk, Jumeirah Lake Towers, Discovery Gardens, Jumeirah Village South Circle, International City Stage-2 and 3 and Waterfront – Madinat Al Arab.

What are your company’s goals for the next 18 months?

With our vast experience in district cooling projects, we plan to attract more clients (infrastructure developers) by conveying the benefits of district cooling with use of GRP pre-insulated pipes for chilled water piping network.

We are creating more awareness among potential clients and conducting seminars on district cooling application using GRP pre-insulated piping network. These seminars clearly explain the benefits of GRP pipes over the
steel pipes.

Our ultimate goal is to convince the real estate property developers to have the district cooling application with GRP piping in their projects and to make them to realise that they can have the benefit of reduced cost of cooling by 30% and can help in reducing the carbon footprint and achieving the green technology.

How much demand are you working with for district cooling services at the moment and what’s the typical lead time?

At the moment, it is much less due to financial crisis and the credit crunch. Many ongoing projects have been suspended because of this. Other wise, we use to have full load capacity of our two manufacturing units, one in Abu Dhabi and other one in Dubai. Typical lead time for a 15 km of piping will be around one month.

Abu Dhabi Pipe Factory profile

Abu Dhabi Pipe Factory manufactures glass reinforced plastic pipes and fittings in the Gulf. It was established in 1981 and has factories in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It’s pipes have been installed in a variety of applications such as desalination plants, petrochemical plants and now district cooling plants.

Jouni Rouru, managing director, Vexve Oy

What do you supply to the district cooling industry?

Vexve Oy is a manufacturer of ball, balancing and butterfly valves and we have earned a major position during past twenty years starting in district heating networks. District cooling has started utilising the same technology and product range during the last ten years. Currently we have active projects in over 30 countries, main markets such as Scandinavian, Western and Eastern Europe, Russia and China.

What district cooling projects have you been involved in?

For district cooling Vexve is active in Finland and Sweden with projects starting in other regions as well.

Especially for the UAE market we feel confident to earn a considerable amount of opportunities through our different value proposition. Based on our studies, Vexve´s different product features will offer district cooling networks additional value over some of the current product concepts used in UAE district cooling today.

What percentage of your business is reliant on district cooling?

The share of products related to district heating and cooling technology is approximately 80% of annual sales of 25 million euros.

How much demand are you working with for district cooling services at the moment and what’s the typical lead time?

Currently we are in annual high season as in the northern hemisphere the district energy networks are being built during the spring-summer-autumn period. Vexve is genuinely customer oriented company and our operating philosophy has been geared accordingly to secure shortest possible lead times to our customers. Where co-operation is continuous the lead times are ranging between 1 and 4 weeks.

Vexve Profile

Vexve manufactures ball and butterfly valves. The company is based in Finland and produces over 300,000 welded valves each year. The firm is looking to expand into the Middle East.

Nomi Ahmad, regional director, power plants, Middle East, Wartsila

What services do you provide the district cooling industry?

Our product for the DC industry is DCAP, which stands for District Cooling and Power. DCAP is a combined chilling and power plant which uses very efficient prime movers to generate electricity, for driving compressor chillers and uses the waste heat from the power plant, to drive vapour absorption chillers to make additional chilled water.

Excess electricity can be sold by the electric utility to customers in close proximity (ie distribution level) to the plant without incurring transformer and line losses. This is not a new paradigm; many countries in cooler climates such as Europe, North America and North Asia utilise CHP for district heating. DCAP is the mirror equivalent of CHP for the Middle East where air conditioning increases electric loads up to 60% in the summer months.

What district cooling projects have you been involved in?

So far none.  We have been involved in many CHP projects globally and have three references of DCAP, two being at Madrid and Milan airports which the DCAP plants not only provide chilled and heated water for cooling and heating, but also provide reliable power for the airports. In the Middle East, the convention has been to use mechanically driven chillers running on electricity because many of the electric utilities maintain monopolistic stances on production of power.

There are also subsidies in the system, which makes it difficult to compete with the utility’s power tariffs (even though the utility’s production cost may be higher).

While we believe we have a great solution that is far more efficient, far better for the environment, far more economical for the system, I am afraid that it will take some time for the electric utilities and policy planners to look at CHP systems as a way to reduce costs and facilitate their development and implementation. 30% less power consumed, and 50% less fuel consumed are certainly substantial enough numbers, we believe, to be taken seriously.

How are you going about changing this?

By having a public debate about the issues in the electric sector and the benefits a solution such as DCAP can bring to a country. We are in discussions with electric utilities in the region but at the end of the day if the utilities have subsidies, then are they really concerned about efficiency and reducing cost?

It is a known fact that the Middle East has amongst the highest per capita power consumptions in the world – this trend clearly cannot continue, not for the carbon footprint that we are creating and not for the subsidies, which our governments are providing. We have to take this discussion to the people who are writing the bill for the subsidies. Our product and solutions can actually reduce the cost hence reduce the subsidies. So it’s a bit complicated to navigate through bureaucracies and governments but we are hopeful that DCAP will catch some traction in the near future.

What are your company’s aims in the next 18 months?

I hope that in the next 18 months we will have a couple of DCAP installations on the ground. We hope that the financial crisis, state of the economy, the green debate, and the rise of rampant urbanisation will push the leaders to start to focus on efficiency and cost savings. When the policy makers give the utilities the mandate to explore things of this nature this can happen very quickly. We can build a DCAP plant in less than 12 months; the question is how long is it going to take the utilities and policy makers before they are convinced that DCAP can reduce costs and hence the subsidies.

Wartsila Profile

Wartsila provides power solutions, and mainly focuses on the marine and energy markets. It’s product for the district cooling industry is called DCAP which uses waste heat from power plants to make more chilled water.

The firm was founded in Finland and as of 2008 it employed over 18,000 workers in total.

The company was set up in 1834 originally as a saw mill and it has made many changes since.

The firm also makes an effort to have a green ethos.

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