Mar. 3, 2019
First some context. Urbanization and population growth across the Middle East has meant that today the region annually generates around 150 million tons of waste, throwing down an environmental gauntlet that certain countries, most recently Oman, have picked up to secure national energy security.
The Demanding Reality
Oman's electricity capacity had surged by an annual average growth rate of 8.3% to 6,116MW in 2017, from 2,314MW in 2004. What's more, official numbers have peak demand topping 8,960MW in 2023 on an annual average rise of 6%. The state took remedial measures in 2017, introducing Cost-Reflective Tariffs (CRT) for major commercial, state, and industrial consumers. That bracket, being time-differentiated, better indicates the real cost of supply at different periods during the year; higher during peak and summer periods, and lower in off-peak and winter.
While the above numbers clearly speak of thriving economic activity, they have required a national grid rethink to ensure sustainable future growth and energy security. The goals are impressive and fueled by strategic projects with green credentials: by 2025, Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP) envisages a battery of solar—three utility-scale solar PV projects in Ibri, Manah, and Adam—and wind-based renewable energy schemes generating 10% (2,500-3,000MW) of overall power capacity in the Sultanate by 2024, the latter of which will be Independent Power Projects (IPP). These will be rolled out over the 2018-2024 period. Meanwhile, Oman's most recent solution…
In January 2018, OPWP, the monopoly procurer of new power and water capacity, opened to tender the consultancy for Oman's pioneering waste-to-energy (WTE) project. This landmark scheme was earmarked for construction under the authority of Oman Environmental Services Holding Co (be'ah). The scheme will utilize municipal solid waste from Oman's landfills, thereby diversifying energy sources away from the exclusivity of gas-fired power plants. The WTE project has an approximate price tag of USD600-700 million and is foreseen using renewable energy to desalinate 1 million tons of seawater each year with minimal emissions. In fact, on the scale of pollution by energy source, with hydrocarbons being the worst offender, WTE is closest to solar energy, the environmental impact of which is precisely nil. This is because once the project is in operation, potentially contaminating landfills will solely contain residual inert waste, some of which might even see further recycling as building material input. The 50-MW plant's location, adjacent to a landfill in Barka in South Al Batinah Governorate, ensures scope for expansion to meet future demand.
Green and Not Picky
Feedstock for the WTE scheme will be sourced from be'ah, Oman's solid waste management utility. be'ah foresees the consumption of approximately 3,100 tons of high calorie municipal solid waste (MSW) for transformation to refuse derived fuel (RDF) to convert water into steam. Such schemes elsewhere have made use of thermal gasification, plasma gasification, and pyrolysis technologies, while Oman's scheme will utilize grate fired technology. The latter technology pioneers combustion systems that utilize solid fuels, and predominantly burns waste and biomass—comprising up to 50% of total content—and may also be implemented at small-scale coal furnaces. And given that grate firing systems are not only environmentally friendly, but also capable of firing a diversity of fuels of varying moisture content, the choice for Oman seems clear.