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Standby market blossoms in desert sun

Thu, 11/15/2012 - 17:10 -- Ruth Williams

Middle East Electricity

Rival exhibition organisers Pennwell chose to hold its competing event Powergen Middle East at an identical time 250 miles across the Arabian/Persian Gulf in Qatar, but they could only boast 2 800 visitors in three days in comparison to Middle East Electricity’s 15 000 over three days. Judging by the jostling for space in the Dubai International Exhibition Centre, the clash of the shows had negligible negative impact on the Middle East Electricity turn-out.

Comparing Powergen Middle East with Middle East Electricity is not quite comparing apples with apples, as the former tends to concentrate on utility-scale power plants, typically 500 MW-plus combined-cycle gas turbine units. Middle East Electricity’s stock in trade is diesel engines and gensets and there was no shortage of interest in this sector.

Perkins has a busy show

1-6aAs we report in the News section, UK manufacturer Perkins launched three new diesel engine ranges at this year’s show. First up was the six cylinder, 9.3litre range 1600 series engine, which offers outputs up to 300kVA (240 kWe) prime power and 330kVA (264 kWe) standby power at 1 500rpm in an effort to plug a gap in its line-up between its 1300 and 2000 series ranges. The Peterborough-based firm said it intends to release a 350kVA (280kWe) standby version later in 2012.

Perkins also introduced a new range of its 400 series engines at Middle East Electricity 2012, targeted at lesser and non-regulated countries. In total four new engines were launched: the 403A-11G1 offers 9.2kVA prime power at 1 500 rpm, the 403-15G1 is rated at 13.2kVA prime power, slightly less than its G2 counterpart, while the larger displacement 404A-22G1 completes the line up with 20.3kVA prime power.

A third new engine was on display as Perkins launched the 1106A-70TAG, the latest addition to its 1100 series platform. The 1106A range hits all the main power nodes from 135 to 200kVA prime power and up to 220 kVA for standby power and are switchable to 50/60Hz, making them ideal for the rental business, claims the UK firm.

As Perkins attempts to drag the Middle East genset experience kicking and screaming into the 21st century, it also used the show to announce that it has appointed Power Systems Gulf (PSG) as its regional distributor for the Arabian/Persian Gulf with responsibility for Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen. PSG, which is part of Kanoo, will be based in Dubai, and will look after regional distribution strategy, the commercial operation and management of the Perkins engines distribution sales development and product support capability across the Gulf region.

On a day-to-day basis the business is tasked with providing consistent service and customer experience across the region in line with the Perkins brand, no small task when the UK firm estimates that 80% of the genset exhibitors present at Middle East Electricity 2012 work with their products in some capacity. The tie-up incorporates Perkins engine sales, brand and product marketing, training, parts inventory optimisation and technical support through their branch offices in the various territories in a bold effort to maintain consistent service at each location.

Perkins says the new set-up aims to ensure stocks of genuine Perkins parts are on the shelves at each distributor branch. PSG will also handle Perkins engine sales and application/installation appraisals for OEMs, which it says will open up new opportunities for OEMs in terms of engine stocking, local credit, extended service contracts and the potential for ‘Perkins Diesel Power’ branding of their products.

A Perkins-certified regional training centre is also planned to be opened by PSG at its Jebel Ali premises in Dubai, which seeks to cater to the training needs of OEMs, OEM dealers, their customers and other end-users of Perkins engines in the market. 

Redesigned FG Wilson range

1-19The show offered many in the industry a first glimpse at FG Wilson’s redesigned range of diesel gensets. The Northern Irish firm said interest was particularly noticeable in its new 455 to 750kVA range, which features an innovative fuel tank design that incorporates a reinforced sloped top plate for liquid run off, acting as a catchment area for potential liquid spills and leaks, and a sloped bottom plate and notched drain plug allows for controlled drainage of the fuel tank. 

Also new is what FG Wilson is calling a ‘common sense mounting arrangement’ for the entire range which, it says, provides all customer fuel connection and drainage points on the right hand side as standard. Being in the Middle East, interest was also high in the redesigned enclosed set range, the key features of which mostly focus on sealing the engine off from the harsh environment.

For example, all roof joints are now reinforced with lap joints utilising butyl rubber seals, providing protection against water ingress in extreme conditions, while the radiator is accessed via a flush mounted rain cap with compression seal, which also guards against water ingress.

1-18aNext up was Atlas Copco, which demonstrated the toughness of its new HardHat-design QAX range of portable generators by attempting to smash them with a sledgehammer. With a canopy constructed of linear medium density polyethylene (LMDP), the QAX30 30kVA portable generator on display lived up to its reputation, despite a constant stream of bashings from competing generator set manufacturers invited to let rip. The QAX30 stood strong, with not so much as a graze for all its punishment, as far as I could tell.

Show floor round-up

Indian company Greaves is an admittedly small player in the engine market in the Middle East, with barely a 2% market share, but being over 150 years old and a manufacturer of over 500 000 single cylinder diesel engines back home, it is an interesting player. Its operations in the GCC region started less than 4 years ago, but it is active in the key markets of UAE, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The company launched a new 5.25kVa, 11 horsepower engine intended for retail and construction applications derived from technology by German diesel engine manufacturer Deutz. Greaves sees larger engines of greater than 25kVa for telecoms applications as a hot growth segment, and given its clout, volume and lower-cost positioning, they are a firm to keep an eye on. 

GWB International used the exhibition to launch in the UAE and Middle East its Cooper brand of silent generating sets, which are made in India and use engines designed in collaboration with the UK’s Ricardo. The Pune-based firm says its diesel engines are 15-20% cheaper than similar gensets made with Perkins or Cummins engines. 

DaleDale Power Solutions were on show to launch its Secure series of gensets in the Middle East. The UK firm said its 646kVa to 1581kVa Secure range is particularly suited to the Middle East market, as its key features are what it claims to be an extremely robust design coupled with the ability to run efficiently at ambient temperatures of up to 55ºC. 

There were more Chinese exhibitors than ever before at Middle East Electricity. Genset suppliers and OEMs who use established engine brands will often talk of Chinese engines as verboten, but this could change. One Middle East-based genset OEM told me that they will not even hold discussions with Chinese engine makers due to their reputation for short product life times, but with tempting taster deals and improving technology the temptation is getting ever harder to resist.

As a journalist, attempting to strike up conversation with Chinese firms can often be like pulling teeth, but Kipor was keen to promote its 1.3MVa genset in a fashion more suited to a globalised, media-savvy world. Kipor is China’s largest manufacturer of gensets in the range of 1-20kVa, but it wants to expand its range to at least 2MVa.

While the 2MVa gensets are still on the drawing board, it has been marketing its 16/18/20 cylinder 1360kVa gensets since 2011, and it is targeting Iraq as an important market in the Middle East; it is also in negotiations with potential customers in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Centrax supplies only gas turbine gensets and in that respect it was a fish out of water displaying its wares at Middle East Electricity. Last year it undertook a collaboration with Bahrain-based shipbuilder Arab Shipbuilding & Repair Yard (ASRY) to develop floating power barges, which will provide 125MW of power via two 62.5MW Centrax-packaged Rolls-Royce Trent 60 gas turbine gensets wherever they are needed.

Critical Power understands that there has been particularly strong interest for the power barge in Nigeria, and two barges could be sold to a customer in the Niger Delta region in the next few months. There has also been interest from potential customers in the Philippines and South America.

Centrax also recently announced a tie-up with German gas turbine maker Siemens. Under the agreement both the Siemens SGT-300 and SGT-400 gas turbines will be packaged at the Centrax UK plant in Newton Abbot and it looks to have paid swift dividends with an order for a 12MW SGT-400 package to French energy services firm Cofely, which utilise the cogeneration gensets for a district heating application close to the Palace of Versailles.

Turkish genset manufacturer Teksan has bought land in a free economic zone 150 km from its existing facility in Istanbul, but was tightlipped over whether either a second factory or a move to the new location is on the cards. Borri is testing a new online double conversion UPS system with a capacity of 60-100kVa, with the system expected on the market within six months.

Technical seminars – Could do better

1-20New at Middle East Electricity 2012 were a series of technical seminars. Recognising that the conference element of Middle East Electricity is severely lacking, event organiser Informa is trying to introduce a more academic aspect of Middle East Electricity. 

While the seminars were ‘sold out’, albeit at a modest capacity of 30 seats, in truth they were little more than sales pitches. This is one of the drawbacks of a show in a part of the world where bling is king. Too often these technical seminars are essentially advertising, and it can be a frustrating waste of time, as well as a bit of an insult to the attendees’ collective intelligence.

Informa must be applauded for trying to increase the scope of an already enormous event, but the technical seminars have a long way to go if they want to pull in additional visitors who want to know more about the technology on show.

Another new edition this year was the Middle East Electricity Awards. Around a thousand attended the gala-buffet-dinner-plus-gongs do. Dubai has lost a great deal of face to their benefactors Abu Dhabi since the Great Credit Crunch of 2008. Few were surprised when the top prize, Project of the Year, went to the Abu Dhabi Municipality and Ruud Lighting Arabia for their joint collaboration on the Salaam Street Tunnel Project, for which 5 016 LED bulbs were installed along the 2.6km Salaam Street Tunnel in Dubai to replace existing high pressure sodium (HPS) lights.