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Saudi Electricity is going supercritical, but are oil fired power plants really a long term solution for the Kingdom?

Saudi Electricity is going supercritical, but are oil fired power plants really a long term solution for the Kingdom?

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) has received an order for 4 sets of a 700 megawatt (MW) class supercritical pressure steam turbine and generator, plus supercritical boiler components, to be installed at a large-scale, heavy oil-fired power generation plant that will be built by Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), a state-owned power company in Saudi Arabia.

The 2,800 MW class power plant, which is to be the first heavy oil-fired supercritical power generation plant in Saudi Arabia, will be built at a site south of Jeddah, a city on the country’s western coast facing the Red Sea.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producing country, has for the first time chosen to adopt a supercritical pressure power generation system capable of efficiently using heavy oil, in order to meet the country’s increasing electricity demand. MHI has an abundant track record in deliveries of supercritical steam turbines and boilers.

MHI received the order from Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. (HHI), the EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contractor of the power plant. MHI is slated to complete deliveries of the products on order between September 2014 and March 2015. Mitsubishi Electric Company will supply the generators.

SEC is a state-owned company established in 2000 through the merger of more than 10 power generation companies, mainly regional electricity companies, into one entity. SEC is the only Saudi Arabian company to integrally handle power generation, transmission and distribution. HHI is a comprehensive heavy machinery manufacturer in Korea engaged in shipbuilding and the manufacture of various equipment and machinery, including plant equipment, power generation systems, heavy machinery and construction machinery.

Supercritical pressure heavy oil-fired power generation provides higher generation efficiency than subcritical pressure generation and is capable of reducing heavy oil consumption relative to power output, which results in lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Going forward MHI will continue to conduct aggressive marketing activities for high-efficiency and environmentally friendly supercritical and ultra-supercritical pressure power generation systems in Japan and abroad – including in Saudi Arabia, where the need for heavy oil-fired supercritical pressure power generation is increasing.

And whilst it is positive to see Saudi Electricity investing into high efficiency supercritical power plants, the questions still remain as to the long term viability of these power plants and the unpredictable nature of the Kingdoms actual available oil resources.

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