Coal comfort: An unexpected source is fuelling the drive for diversification in the energy mix

The primary fuel mix in the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy includes one new ingredient that may at first sight seem to contradict the emirate’s increasingly green credentials – coal. In October 2015 Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) announced the preferred bidders for the Hassyan clean coal generation facility, the first phase of which will have a generation capacity of 2400 MW. The plant will be the first coal-fired power station of its kind in the Middle East.

Clean Coal 

The winning consortium included China’s Harbin Electric International and ACWA Power of Saudi Arabia, the same company that is building phase two of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. The project is being built as an independent power plant on a build-own-operate basis and involves a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA). DEWA will take a 51% stake in the project company, with ACWA and Harbin owning 49%. The new plant is to be built at Saih Shuaib on Dubai’s border with Abu Dhabi, and the project will also include an integrated trans-shipment coal- and dry-handling facility.

Hassyan will be operated and maintained by ACWA and Harbin in partnership with France’s Alstom Power and NRG Energy of the US. The coal-handling and trans-shipment facilities will be managed by Louis Dreyfus, a major European specialist company. France’s EDF Trading, one of the world’s largest coal traders, will manage the coal supply to the plant. By 2030 clean coal will account for 7% of the energy mix.

Announcing the decision on the preferred bidder, DEWA’s managing director and CEO, Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, said, “The Hassyan clean coal power plant will use the best available technologies and the highest global standards in this field. It will use ultra-supercritical (USC) technology to reduce any negative impact on the environment.” He added that flue gas emission targets for the power station would be more stringent that those imposed in both EU and International Finance Corporation guidelines.

The USC technology is being fitted by Alstom. It consists of a boiler and steam turbine generator with a dual fuel capability able to use either sub-bituminous coal or natural gas. It will also use environmental control systems such as electrostatic precipitators and seawater flue gas desulphurisation systems to keep emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides at half the level permitted in the EU, making it one of the cleanest coal power stations in the world. In order to meet Dubai’s strict requirements the plant will also be carbon dioxide-capture ready. Alstom said that its technology also allows the plant to run at higher steam pressure and temperature than regular coal-fired plants, which increases efficiency and reduces stack emissions. The plant will produce enough electricity to power 250,000 homes in Dubai.

Cheap Fuel

Although the power station will be capable of using gas as a back-up feedstock, the 25-year PPA was agreed based on the price of coal in May 2015. The levelised cost of electricity is $0.04501 per KWh. Go Yu, chairman and president of Harbin Electric International, said that the clean coal project marked a milestone in Dubai’s pursuit of a power market based on clean fuels, and that he looked forward to working with DEWA over the course of the contract and continuing Harbin’s long association with Dubai’s power sector. The project will be the first phase of the Hassyan coal plant. It will consist of two 1200-MW units, which will become operational 12 months apart, in March 2020 and March 2021.

Energy Mix

DEWA has said that it is planning to launch two additional projects that will bring the total capacity of clean coal to 3600 MW by 2030. By that time clean coal will account for 7% of the energy mix, with another 7% coming from nuclear power imported from Abu Dhabi’s 5600-MW Barakah Nuclear Power Plant complex. A further 15% is due to be supplied by solar energy, with the contribution of gas falling from 100% in 2013 to 71% in 2030.