Rising demand fuels Bahrain's investments in electricity and infrastructure

The rapid growth in Bahrain’s population presents considerable challenges for the private and state providers supplying utilities. As well as routine work to replace, refurbish and improve existing power, water and sewage networks, providers are also required to expand their networks to serve new communities that are being constructed. Even as it works to keep pace with today’s demand levels, the government is also planning ahead to meet the anticipated demands of the country in five to 10 years’ time, particularly when it comes to commissioning major infrastructure projects such as independent power plants (IPPs) and independent water and power plants (IWPPs).

Population Pressure

The most recent estimates for Bahrain’s population by the Central Informatics Organisation show that in 2014 Bahrain’s total population was 1.3m, of which 48% – or 630,744 – were Bahraini citizens. As with all countries in the Gulf, a sizeable expatriate workforce has helped to bring about the transformation of the economy. However, the national population has also grown. Figures from the Ministry of Information show the total population was 621,000 in 1999 – and this amounts to some 10,000 fewer people than the national Bahraini population alone in 2014. In that same span, the total population rose by 112%. The ministry estimates the total will reach 1.6m by 2020 and 2.13m by 2030.

The government is investing in infrastructure upgrades to ensure supply keeps up with demand. In December 2014 Abdul Hussein Ali Mirza, the minister of energy, announced plans to invest $4bn between then and 2019 towards improving the provision of water treatment and electricity.

Source Of Energy

With just over 3 GW of installed capacity, three main plants generate about three-quarters of Bahrain’s electricity. Al Hidd IPP with 1 GW came on-stream in 2006, Al Ezzel IPP with 0.95 GW began operations in 2007 and Al Dur IWPP came on-line in 2012 with 1.23 GW. The sector is governed by the Electricity and Water Authority (EWA), which manages its own smaller plants, including the 700-MW Riffa Power Station and the Sitra Power and Water Station.

According to the EWA, the peak load in August 2015 reached 3335 MW, while in 2014 it had been 3152 MW, showing a 5.8% increase in peak demand. Each year the gap between demand and supply narrows, particularly in the summer months when air conditioning use increases, as demand grows year after year. “There is spinning reserve in the system, but the government has to decide when to build the next power station to meet that rising demand,” Malcolm Wrigley, CEO of Al Dur Power and Water Company, told OBG. “The system could function effectively for two to three years. However, 2014 saw an 8% increase year-on-year, and if this were to be repeated, the government would need to commission the new plant very soon.”

Build Up

The estimated four years required to tender and commission a power plant puts pressure on the state to act quickly. Indeed, plans are under way, and the government has already set aside land for a new site, known as Al Dur 2, which will be adjacent to the Al Dur IWPP. The water intake of the Al Dur IWPP was built with Al Dur 2 in mind.

The company that runs the existing Al Dur plant, Al Dur Power and Water Company, is a standalone business created specifically to operate the facility. The firm operates the existing power and water plant on the site under a 25-year take-off agreement with a built-in fuel price mechanism. The terms of the contract mean that the firm created to build and operate Al Dur IWPP cannot bid for future projects, including Al Dur 2, though the sponsors may choose to take part. The bidding for Al Dur 2 will be open to other sector players as well.

According to the government, the initial plant at Al Dur cost $2.1bn to build. It has combined cycle blocks each comprised of two gas turbines and one steam turbine. The facility uses reverse osmosis to desalinate water and has a capacity of 48m gallons of water a day. The Al Dur 2 scheme is currently budgeted at $1.3bn and is set to add 1500 MW to the country’s electricity generation capacity.

Grid Upgrade 

Bahrain is also investing in improving its national grid, and neighbouring Kuwait is covering the $740m bill for the most significant portion of the work as part of the GCC’s $10bn aid commitment to Bahrain. The project will see the transmission network upgraded from 220 KV to 400 KV. The scheme, due to be completed by 2017, will see three 400-KV transmission sub-stations built at Hidd, Riffa and Umm Al Hassam. The project is designed to have a profound impact on the effectiveness of the electricity supply system, making it less vulnerable to power outages.

“The 400-KV backbone will create a much stronger system and that will allow the operators to dispatch electricity more on a merit-order basis, which means they can run the most efficient power plants on the grid at full capacity and only bring on the least efficient generators to meet short duration peaks,” Wrigley told OBG. “Presently the grid is over-stretched by its own fault level, which exceeds the rating of the related equipment during the summer months when most of the generation plant is operational. For this reason we understand that the grid is run bifurcated during the peak months to limit fault level, so there are two grids running side by side. This is a less stable and less economic way of running the system.”

The EWA is also spending $265m on upgrading the main distribution networks around the country to reduce power cuts, and Mirza anticipates that this work will be completed by 2016.

GCC Network

The upgrade to a 400-KV system will also make Bahrain’s grid compatible with the wider GCC network. In recent years the six Gulf states have integrated the grid across their countries so that a short-term outage in one country can be compensated for by diverting unused capacity in another country. Wrigley believes that the GCC partner states might one day use this system to market their excess power capacity to each other. “It is possible that there could be a market for power on the network rather than simply using it is an emergency response mechanism,” Wrigley told OBG. “However, there is no clear trading mechanism for this, and the link to the GCC only has 600-MW firm capacity at present. This compared to the demand in Bahrain of around 3400 MW.”

Water Works

The EWA is also investing $182m in improvements to the network supplying water to households and businesses in the kingdom. Additional ground storage tanks are being built at the authority’s main pumping station in Hidd and new pipelines are being constructed as well, with 17 km of new lines at Hidd and 22 km in the south.

Sewage Treatment

The Ministry of Works is in charge of maintaining the country’s sewerage system and is investing millions of dinars in upgrades to underground pipes, sewage treatment works and the construction of new facilities to serve new communities. CCTV surveys of the country’s sewer pipes, some of which had been laid in 1976, revealed extensive damage and wear. From November 2012 to May 2014, BD3.84m ($10.1m) was spent on 15.2 km of sewers, including repairs, replacement and re-lining of damaged pipes. Phase one of the work covered 12 areas of Arad, Hidd and Hoora. From November 2014 to April 2016, the work has been extended to more communities in a BD4.17m ($11m) contract covering 18 km of pipes.

The ministry has also completed upgrades to sewage treatment plants in Sitra and Muharraq, and the next task is to expand the treatment plant at Tubli and build a treatment plant and associated networks to serve the new settlement in the north of the country, Al Madina Al Shamaliya.

The BD100m ($263.45m) contract for the expansion of the Tubli works began in January 2014 and is to be completed in the third quarter of 2016. It will provide an additional capacity of 200,000 cu metres a day to Bahrain’s main wastewater treatment plant. In July 2015 the contract to construct a sewage treatment plant with a capacity of 40,000 cu metres and associated pipework to serve Al Madinah Al Shamaliya was awarded to a joint venture of Belhasa Projects and VA Tech Wabag of India at a value of BD50m ($131.7m).

Planned Developments

A sewage treatment plant serving 4000 new homes at Jaw is still at the planning stage, according to the Ministry of Works. In addition, a BD10m ($26.35m) plan to build a new sewage treatment works for Muharraq is also under way, with a feasibility study commissioned at a cost of BD300,000 ($790,350) on using treated effluent for crop irrigation by pumping it into an aquifer. In 2017 construction is to begin on five schemes with a combined value of roughly BD96m ($252.9m) involving the deep sewer network in Bahrain. The scheme will include a BD7.3m ($19.2m) project to connect the sewers of Manama and Muharraq; a BD26m ($68.5m) operation to link the sewerage systems of Amwaj, Dilmunia and Diyar Al Muharraq to the Muharraq sewerage network; a BD38m ($100.1m) programme to connect Hamad Town to the new expanded Tubli sewage treatment plant; a BD9.3m ($24.5m) scheme to connect South Manama to the Tubli plant; and the construction of a BD12m ($31.6m) deep sewerage system to link the communities of Jasra and Hamala to Tubli.

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The Report: Bahrain 2016

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