Saudi Arabia to switch to more efficient power plants

Head of Saudi Electricity Co says move will save 200m barrels a year of liquid fuel
Saudi Arabia to switch to more efficient power plants
(Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)
By Reuters
Tue 18 Mar 2014 05:45 PM

Saudi Arabia will save 200 million barrels a year of liquid fuel by switching its power stations to more efficient combined cycle turbines, the head of Saudi Electricity Co (SEC) said on Tuesday in a speech reported by state media.

The report of Ziyad Alshiha's speech did not give details on when the move towards more efficient turbines would be completed, or whether that fuel saving was compared with now or 2009, when SEC started converting its power stations.

"Continuous collaboration ... has supported SEC efforts to transform most of its existing simple cycle units to combined cycle technology and also to use super critical boilers in steam power plants," he said in the report carried by Saudi Press Agency.

"SEC expects that these current and future plans, once completed, will save approximately 200 million barrels of fuel annually," he added.

The figure of 200 million barrels a year is equivalent to almost 550,000 barrels per day (bpd). A spokesman for SEC said he could not give any further details on the figures.

The world's top oil exporter annually burns a significant amount of its crude oil in electricity stations and its rising domestic power consumption has caused some analysts to warn this will eat into the amount available for export.

However, last year it reduced its summer fuel burn, when electricity demand is highest because of increased use of air conditioning, by 10 percent to 689,750 bpd, according to government data.

That figure, achieved through increased gas supplies, better efficiency and cooler weather, was down from a record high of 763,250 million bpd during summer 2012.

Saudi Arabia is by far the largest user of crude oil for power generation, with most other countries having abandoned oil-fired generation long ago in favour of gas, nuclear and renewable sources.

However, state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co (Saudi Aramco) has brought more gas fields on stream in recent years for use in power plants and the government has discussed introducing atomic and solar electricity.

Alshiha added that SEC planned to spend 622 billion riyals ($166 billion) between now and 2023, adding 40,000 megawatts of installed generating capacity and expanding transmission and distribution networks.

Saudi electricity use has risen by about 6 percent a year over the last decade, with summer peak demand more than doubling to over 48,000 megawatts in 2011 from 2002, according to the national electricity regulator.

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