Following the successful tender of the Barka and Sohar independent power projects (IPPs) with France’s GDF Suez named preferred bidder for both projects, attention has now turned to Oman’s upcoming pipeline.

According to figures compiled by Oman Power and Water (OPWP), peak power demand is expected to grow from 3,424MW 2009 to 6,043 MW by 2016, an average increase of around 8.5 per cent or 374MW per year.

This increase in demand is being driven by a rising population, major increase in demand from new industrial projects concentrated in particular around the Sohar Industrial Port and an increase in demand from new tourism-related developments.

While sizeable, the projected demand increase is not overwhelming. However, Oman has only a marginal buffer between supply and demand. The current operating portfolio provides around 3,726MW capacity. When compared against the peak demand figure for 2009, the potential for a shortfall is clear.

Oman has immediate power needs. OPWP awarded a contract for roughly 115MW of temporary power generation for the main interconnected system in January this year and another contract for 50MW of temporary power generation in Salalah in February.

OPWP also appointed consultants to assist in a review of options for temporary generation options to meet summer 2011 demands in February this year and is currently reviewing the first phase report prepared by the consultants. 

While addressing the country’s immediate electricity needs, the long-term power generation capacity growing programme should be kept on track. The Barka 3 and Sohar 2 IPPs will go some way towards achieving this but further projects will need to move forward.

A proposed independent water and power project (IWPP) at Duqm has been shelved since March this year while the ongoing review of the country’s fuel diversity continues. Likewise, another IWPP at Ghubra is now being considered for retendering as a water-only project.

Oman has since indicated that it is moving forward with plans to build a new IWPP at Sur. Such progress will be crucial if the sultanate is to install power capacity to meet demand.