Saturday, 21 July 2012

Powering Ahead in the Arabian Desert.....

A View of the Plant in the Desert
Saudi Arabia is a country that is currently going through very rapid development, I have been living in Riyadh for two months and have been very taken by the amount of construction under way right across the city, and this is the case right across the Kingdom also, which is in stark contrast to Europe and the USA at the moment……
3 of the Stacks
Dr. Jim Cooper is a person I was introduced within a short time after my arrival here in the Kingdom, through a good friend of mine Paul O’Connor.  Jim has spent the past two years living in the middle of the Arabian desert about 60 mins west of Riyadh building a brand new 1.7 Gw Power Station, Dhurama Power Station....
Jim was kind enough to drive me out there on Friday last for a visit, and it is an impressive sight, after turning off the main highway, you drive along a new access road constructed as part of this project for some 20 km complete with street lighting, drainage etc. and the power plant comes into view rising out of the desert, with its seven imposing stacks.
It is a gas powered station supplied from a pipe line from the north of the country, I spent the following few hours, after some lunch, on a tour of the facility and marveled at the sheer scale of the generators and the speed at which they have mobilized, constructed and commissioned the entire facility to a point where 6 of the 7 generators were on line and fully operational during my visit.
Gas Generators
Saudi Arabia is constructing a number of these at the moment through the help of foreign investment consortia such as this one, as the energy demands in the country are increasing considerably year on year, and they are struggling to keep pace such is the pace of development of Saudi Economy, Population and new Cities.
Control Room
In the course of the afternoon, Jim talked in depth on the need for the Kingdom to look very seriously at the obvious renewable energy potential of solar power in the country, as long as they could tackle the problem of sand damage to mirrors and the many motors required , perhaps a good topic for local university research students.
I was very impressed with my visit and also with Jim’s team working and living in the desert, given the sheer scale of this project, it was a very worthwhile and informative day………..

Ramadan Kareem......

And so the holy month of Ramadan has begun here in the Kingdom, and indeed all across the muslim world, though some are a day later as the start day all depends on the sighting of the crescent moon I understand.
We set off for work this morning by taxi at our normal time of 7:30am, and found that we made it in to work in 7 mins ! as the roads were almost completely empty, we arrived into an empty office as our Saudi colleagues are observing Ramadan Hours, so we shall see them at 11am today and they will finish work at 3pm, we will continue to 6:30pm.
As a guest in the country, we must of course also respect the fast during the holy month as that is what is expected here, though it is allowed for non-muslims to privately eat something away from those fasting.
The Fast is observed from sunrise to sunset, and includes abstinence from food, water and smoking, and bear in mind that temperatures in the Kingdom have been running over 50 in the past week and it is easy to see that this is a massive physical challenge…, which understandably affects work and productivity, locals generally will sleep on later during Ramadan, sometimes on into the day.
At sunset, the fast is broken traditionally with dates, at home with family and afterwards, Iftar dinners and gatherings are held. Shopping Centres are also then open to 2am as it is at this time in the evening that locals will come out and shop, socialise and celebrate in a very Saudi way !
I was in Afghanistan last year for Ramadan in obviously different circumstances but remember my Afghan colleagues struggling to work in extremely hot conditions, and the knock-on effect on productivity, this year, I am much closer to it here in Riyadh, and can see how important this time is for Muslims…..
So four weeks of the Holy Month and I will be heading home to Ireland on the start of the EID celebrations on August 16th………….