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 Procurement Company (OPWP), peak demand is expected to grow from 3,424MW 2009 to 6,043MW by 2016, an average increase of about 8.5 per cent or 374MW a  year. The increase in demand is being driven by a rising population, demand from new industrial projects concentrated around the Sohar Industrial Port, and 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 and another contract for 50MW of temporary power generation in Salalah in February. OPWP also appointed consultants to review temporary generation options for the peak summer season in 2011.

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

A proposed independent water and power project (IWPP) at Duqm has been shelved since March. Another IWPP at Ghubra is now being considered for retendering as a water-only project. However, Oman has indicated it is moving forward a new IWPP at Sur. Progress will be crucial if the sultanate is to install power capacity to meet demand.