Qatar operates a modern and technically proficient power transmission and distribution network. The system benefits from a compact country service area of only 11,570 sq km and modern infrastructure, much of it installed over the last 10 years as total generation capacity grew by over 140%.

Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (Kahramaa) serves as sole system owner and operator for transmission and distribution in the country. The state-owned corporation functions independently on a commercial basis, managing sector strategy and acting as a single buyer for transmission projects. With Qatar’s population expanding at a faster rate than those of its Gulf neighbours, and significant infrastructure coming on-line – including rail, port and energy facilities – a reliable supply of power is critical to support continued growth. This requires substantial investment in modern transmission and distribution infrastructure.

In the second quarter of 2016 Kahramaa was operating 490 distributing transformers and 301 distribution plants across the country. A total of 298 new electricity distribution stations were set up in the second quarter of the year, and 297 km of underground cables were laid to support the medium-voltage network. This followed a deployment of over 2000 km of low and medium-voltage cable in 2015 that connected new substations to infrastructure-oriented projects – including the Doha New Port Project and Doha rail and metro projects – as part of the second stage of the phase 11 expansion and development of the electricity network.

Expanding Potential

New projects in transmission are executed in line with requirements under the existing Qatar Power Transmission System Expansion Programme (QPTSEP). Kahramaa has invested heavily in the programme since 2005, funding dozens of engineering, procurement and construction substation packages, cabling contracts, overhead line packages and consulting contracts with international engineering companies. Work on the programme is ongoing as of October 2017, with phase 12 coming on-line in the third quarter of 2015 and projected to be completed by the end of 2017 at a cost of $1.7bn.

Global technology company Siemens held the largest share of work on phase 12, winning a $520m contract to design, engineer, supply, install and commission 14 new turnkey substations in 400-KV, 132-KV, 66-KV and 11-KV levels, including switchgear, transformers, control and protection equipment, and the extension of four existing substations. In May 2017 Siemens was also awarded an $863m contract to provide 35 additional turnkey super and primary substations for phase 13 of the project, which was launched in the third quarter of 2016 and is scheduled to be completed by end-2018.

Energy For Infrastructure

The new substations are located in and around Doha and are required to supply power for ongoing infrastructure development projects, such as schools, hospitals and residential complexes for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Projects include the newly built 400-KV Bul Hemmaid substation that will be used to transmit electricity from the Facility D independent water and power project into Qatar’s power grid. Construction of the 400-KV super substation Al Sakhamah – which will feed power to various surrounding areas, including the Lusail Light Railway Transportation System – is also part of the contract. Since the QPTSEP’s inception in 2005, Siemens has installed more than 110 substations and approximately 1400 km of high-voltage cable across the country.

ABB Group, a Swedish-Swiss multinational, has also played a significant role in designing, supplying and installing turnkey substations, as well as in advanced control, protection and telecommunication systems in earlier phases of the QPTSEP. ABB installs compact gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) solutions that control, protect and isolate electrical equipment to boost the reliability of power supply. The GIS installations also allow for a 70% smaller substation footprint reduction when compared to conventional air-insulated MAINTENANCE: In parallel with phase 13, the Electricity Transmission Department of Kahramaa launched a three-year mega-project in March 2017 to improve system reliability and manage the health of electricity transmission equipment. The project is aimed at supporting the energy security objectives of the Qatar National Vision (QNV) 2030 by reducing failure rates, optimising repair or replace decisions, reducing outages and extending asset life based on rigorous condition monitoring. The initiative builds on the experience of Kahramaa’s existing comprehensive condition monitoring programme, aimed at enhancing reliability and preventing outages during times of peak electricity consumption.

The scale of the mega-project, which prioritises assessment of more than 11,000 electricity distribution substations in the 11-KV electricity distribution network, is considered a first of its kind in the GCC region given the volume of assets assessed.

The project is ongoing, with the expectation that the asset health model employed will ensure Kahramaa receives early warning of malfunctions in its system, process restrictions and degradation of equipment. By 2015 Kahramaa had completed condition monitoring for 69% of its network, including more than 7750 substations and 45,000 assets. Of those assets assessed, 97% were determined to be in good or very good condition. Corrective and prioritised actions were performed on assets that were defective or deficient to avoid failures and disrupted service. The project was reported to have helped in reducing faults in the substation assets by 50%.

Getting Smart

A similar focus on efficiency and reliability is also driving sustained investment aimed at replacing outdated analogue equipment with modern digital technology. To this end, the country launched a smart meter deployment programme in 2015 looking to replace all analogue meters in and around Doha by 2016. “So far we have completed the installation of over 15,000 smart meters, as part of our smart grid initiative. And now we are going to do it in a big scale to cover the whole country,” Essa bin Hilal Al Kuwari, president of Kahramaa, reported to international media in November 2016.

Government efforts are ongoing to substitute digital smart meters for all faulty analogue meters. Meanwhile, all old functional meters in buildings are expected to be replaced with smart counterparts in phases over the next several years.

However, smart metering makes up only a very small component of the investment required to support government objectives for an integrated smart grid distribution system. The ultimate objective for Kahramaa is to enable computer-based remote control and automation in electricity transmission for better demand management and improved reliability. To do this, the country is investing heavily in smart grid infrastructure, including smart meters, distribution automation and smart city technology.

The Smart Grid Centre extension in Qatar, launched by Texas A&M University in late 2014, supports efficiency and reliability objectives in the transmission and distribution of electricity by functioning as a research hub that directs and coordinates the development and innovation needed for smart grid promotion and implementation.

Kahramaa has also worked with multinational electric utility Iberdrola to assess Kahramaa’s network and to study the opportunity to apply smart grid infrastructure. The new system is based on remote control technology that improves the quality of supply, promotes energy efficiency and facilitates the integration of renewable energy.

Recent contracts awarded include a 2016 tender won by GE Energy Connections’ Grid Solutions to provide advanced protection and automation systems for seven 11-KV and 66-KV substations powering the $45bn Lusail City real estate development, one of the host venues for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Looking Ahead

To cope with growth in demand, and to better meet preparedness objectives for the tournament and QNV 2030, the government is investing heavily in upgrading and improving its transmission and distribution networks. Already considered a regional innovator in the sector, these investments have positioned the country ahead of the curve in the adoption of new technology.

The ambitious fifth phase of the QPTSEP is progressing on schedule, and system maintenance programmes are succeeding in improving network reliability and preventing outages during times of peak electricity consumption.

With the country moving towards adoption of smart grid technology, the future looks bright for electricity transmission and distribution in Qatar.