Kuwait rolls out $17bn utilities upgrade

11 September 2009

Electricity & Water Ministry to more than double generating and desalination capacity by 2017

Kuwait is planning to build facilities with 14,260MW of power generation capacity and 506 million gallons a day (g/d) of desalination capacity by 2017 at a cost of KD5bn ($17.4bn).

The expansion programme will more than double the country’s existing capacity of 12,779MW of power and 432 million g/d of desalinated water.

The Electricity & Water Ministry plans 11 power and seven water projects, including new plants at Shuaiba North and Shuaiba South, Al-Zour North and Al-Zour South, Subiya, Jeleiaa, Shuwaikh and Doha East.

The Shuaiba North plant will be the first scheme to begin operations. A team of Japan’s Mitsui & Company, South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering & Construction and Italy’s Fisia Italimpianti is due to bring 600MW of power on line before the end of 2009 at Shuaiba North.

This capacity will be increased by 200MW and 45 million g/d of desalination next year.

Also in 2010, Kuwait will add 560MW of capacity from steam turbines to an existing power plant at Al-Zour South and it will commission 30 million g/d of new desalination capacity at Shuwaikh in the east of the country.

“Things just go forwards and backwards in Kuwait”

Foreign contractor

In mid August, Kuwait’s Central Tenders Committee awarded a contract for the construction of a 2,000MW power plant at Subiya to a team of the US’ GE and Hyundai Engineering & Construction. The State Audit Bureau of Kuwait must now approve the contract award. However no date has yet been set for this to happen.

The GE-led team first won a contract for the project at Subiya in 2006, but pulled out before signing it. Kuwait has retendered the project several times since then and changed its scope.

If it now goes ahead as planned, the plant will start operating with a capacity of 1,320MW in 2011. The remaining 680MW of power will come on line in 2012.

Having received cabinet approval for a power and water plant at Al-Zour North in early September, the ministry is due to issue a tender for the first of the scheme’s four phases within months.

Together, the four phases will add 4,800MW of power and 280 million g/d of desalination capacity. The Electricity & Water Ministry plans to bring the four phases on line between 2011 and 2014.

A previous tender process for a 3,000MW steam plant at Al-Zour North failed when only one group bid for the project in 2006. The group included the US’ Washington Group International, South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Company, and Athens-based Consolidated Contractors International Company.

A further 1,400MW of capacity is due to come on line in 2012. Of this, 400MW will come from extra steam turbines at an existing plant at Al-Zour South and the remainder from a simple-cycle gas turbine plant at Jeleiaa. The ministry plans to bring another 1,000MW gas turbine plant on line at Shuwaikh in 2014. It will follow the Shuwaikh plant with projects at Shuaiba South and Doha East in 2017.

The project at Doha East will have 2,300MW of power capacity and 100 million g/d of desalination capacity. The Shuaiba South plant will produce 1,400MW and 51 million g/d of water.

Based on the ministry’s previous track record on power projects, such as Subiya and Al-Zour North, contractors are sceptical about its ability to deliver. “Things just go backwards and forwards in Kuwait,” says one foreign contractor based in the UAE.

The frequent project cancellations and retenders have made contractors wary. “It seems to me it is a real disaster,” says another contractor working in Kuwait.

Suhaila Marafi, director of the department of studies and research at the Electricity & Water Ministry declined to respond to the contractors’ criticisms of its performance at Subiya and Al-Zour North.

In addition to the ministry’s own power and water projects, the country is pushing ahead with separate plans to develop its first independent water and power project (IWPP).

The Partnerships Technical Bureau, the government body set up to oversee public-private partnerships, shortlisted advisers for the scheme on 8 September.

It has invited the consultants to submit proposals for how they would advise on the IWPP scheme by 27 October.

The Al-Zour IWPP will have a capacity of 1,500MW of power and 100 million g/d of water.

The project has received a good response from the market. More than 10 groups of consultants expressed interest in the scheme in late August (MEED 4:9:09).

The successful bidder will oversee the process to bring in a private developer to design, finance, build and operate the IWPP.

The Electricity & Water Ministry will buy the power and water produced by the plant.

Demand for power and water in Kuwait is growing at 8 per cent a year. The ministry estimates that demand for power will climb to 20,000MW in 2015, before peaking at 26,000MW in 2020.

It expects peak water demand to reach 621 million g/d in 2015 and 819 million g/d five years later.

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