Riyadh and Cairo consider plans to connect power grids

02 May 2008
Project could provide a link between planned GCC network and Europe.

Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) and Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (EEHC) are seeking government approval for a project to connect the two countries’ power grids, following the completion of a feasibility study into the scheme.

If it goes ahead, the connection could provide a link between the planned GCC power grid and Europe.

A team of Belgium’s Tractebel Engineering and Centro Elettrotecnico Sperimentale Italiano submitted the study to the two electricity companies in late March.

“Once both governments give their blessing, we will launch two consultancy studies,” says a Riyadh-based source close to the project.

The first study will determine the scope and technical specifications of the project. It will also include surveying work to select a route for the connection.

The second study will focus on the legal and financial agreements needed for the scheme.

A tender for the year-long consultancy contracts will be issued within a month of the governments giving their approval, and an award could be made as early as September.

The feasibility study suggests a 500kV direct current link, which would connect Medina with New Cairo, via Tabuk in the northwest of Saudi Arabia. It will have a capacity of 3,000MW.

New 380kV substations would be built at Medina and Tabuk and a third, 500kV substation would be constructed on the Egyptian side of the border.

The Medina substation could also be used for Saudi Arabia’s own transmission needs. It will be connected to a substation in al-Qassim, which forms part of the country’s western power grid.

The kingdom already has plans for a substation at Tabuk to complete its internal power grid.

“It is important for Saudi Arabia because it is an area that is isolated from the national grid,” says the project source.

At a total length of 1,375 kilometres, the interconnection will run for 700km between Medina and Tabuk, and for 675km from Tabuk to New Cairo.

It will include a 25km-long sub-sea cable across the Gulf of Aqaba. “The link is very important because it is a gate to the outside world,” says the source.

Once completed, the interconnection will tie the GCC grid with North Africa and the Levant.

If problems with the planned interconnection between Libya and Tunisia are resolved, the Egypt-Saudi link will also provide a gateway to the European power grid for the GCC (MEED 29:10:07).

“This is a good start,” says the source. “If there is a missing link, at least we will have a connection with the outside.”

The scheme will allow Egypt and Saudi Arabia to share their generating reserves and exchange power. “Saudi’s peak time is between 12 noon and 4pm,” says the source. “Egypt’s is after 8pm, so there is about a five hour difference in peak times.”

At first, the link will be used to facilitate emergency power exchange and power trading during peak times. In the longer term, the plan is to extend this to include commercial trading.

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