Interview: Richard Menezes
Given Ras Al Khaimah’s energy mix, how can concerns about industrial utilities be addressed?
RICHARD MENEZES: The present energy mix in RAK consists of natural gas, which is supplied by RAK Gas through its sourcing from fields it owns and operates in the UAE, as well as supplies from Bukha in Oman and from Dolphin Energy of Qatar. RAK is presently developing its own fields in the emirate and is also considering setting up a liquefied natural gas terminal in the next 18-24 months, as an alternative to meet rising demand. There are also talks ongoing for direct regional supplies to be delivered directly into RAK, thus improving supply security and lowering costs at the same time.
Today’s power supply mix comes from Utico, Al Ghail Power, and the Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA). FEWA is in talks to take over Al Ghail’s distribution responsibilities. Utico has invested and installed 120 MW of gas-powered capacity in RAK and 31m imperial gallons per day of water, and is investing $200m in a new 22m-gallon desalination facility with Spain’s ACS, which should be operational by 2017. Additionally, Utico has received an environmental permit from the RAK Environment Protection and Development Authority to set up a 270-MW clean coal power plant.
What renewable sources should RAK consider?
MENEZES: RAK’s natural landscape can easily lend itself to solar power and pumped hydro storage projects. Although solar power requires significant land area as a primary input, the landscape provides opportunities to lower pumping costs for transmission and increase capacity.
The opportunities that RAK provides, based on its location for connectivity and the support of liberal policies, enables cost saving measures for producing energy at peak times, storing energy through water and pumping it – including using a reverse operating turbine and/or producing power on an as-needed basis. Energy can be stored in more than the conventional molten salt/concrete medium, but through other mediums or through the storage of water, thus providing pumped water at the cheapest time of the day and also economising its transmission and availability.
RAK also has other opportunities, particularly in waste-to-energy, and landfill gas development and utilisation. Tidal energy locations and opportunities have also been identified in RAK, which can commercially produce power. These, supported by co-generation, are good investment opportunities.
Clean coal power with carbon capture mechanisms becomes a green technological method through reusing carbon dioxide for replacing commercially available CO that requires longer transportation carbon footprints to it, or CO duced using natural gas combustion. It provides many other spin-offs, leading to a much-reduced carbon footprint. In many ways, renewable energy is about a commitment not just to reusing, but also to conserving at the same time. RAK provides opportunities for technology leaders and investors to combine renewable energy with energy-saving systems in a profitable market. The government has found a balance, being pro-environment and pro-development at the same time. A common misconception is that people think these two policies are mutually exclusive, but they are not.
Is carbon capture technology for coal economically viable? What is its future in RAK?
MENEZES: Considering the evolution of renewable energy technologies and their costs, coal by itself will be more of a support baseload power fuel source. Its propagation will be limited, but it will thrive due to a lower fuel cost baseload power supply source, until a critical mix has been achieved.