The Sohar 2 and the Barka 3 independent power projects (IPPs) in Oman have begun commercial operation, adding 1,500MW to the sultanate’s power capacity.

Commercial production at the Sohar 2 plant, owned by the local Al-Batinah Power Company, began on 3 April. Operations at the Barka 3 plant, owned by the local Al-Suwadi Power Company, started on 4 April.

Both plants are coastal, gas-fired, combined-cycle plants with a capacity of 744MW and are structured under a build-own-operate (BOT) model. Construction work on the projects began in September 2010 and were built by a consortium that included Germany’s Siemens and South Korea’s GS Engineering & Construction.

The plants will be operated and maintained by Suez-Tractebel Operation and Maintenance, in which France’s GDF Suez holds a 70 per cent stake.

The two IPPs will add 1,500MW to the sultanate’s existing capacity of about 4,500MW. In recent years, Oman has faced the tightest power market in the Gulf, with with electricity shortages only averted by the procurement of temporary power capacity. Muscat is pushing ahead with several power projects to boost the country’s capacity and prevent any future energy crisis.

In January, Oman’s Musandam Power Company invited contractors to express interest in building a 120MW IPP in the Musandam governorate.

The 120MW power plant will be primarily fuelled by natural gas, with a back-up facility for using fuel oil. The plant’s technology will be based on reciprocating engines or gas turbines, in open or combined-cycle configuration.