“They believe that this is the best time for them to construct because all the prices are low,” is Syed Jafar Imam’s sage observation. “They” here being the private sector. As Deputy General Manager, AHI Carrier – Toshiba, MENA, he should know. That’s why Imam believes that the current situation is not as catastrophic as it appears to be, despite furrowed brows across the board. Giving a snapshot of the various projects in Qatar from an HVACR perspective, Salah Nezar, Corporate Sustainability Director at Qatar Project Management, says, “Despite the unenthusiastic economic conditions due to the serious drop in revenues from the oil and gas industry, the HVACR market in Qatar is holding itself pretty well, mainly due to the huge volume of work associated to the ongoing mega infrastructure projects.”
District Cooling could be the answer
Yasser Salah Al Jaidah, CEO of Qatar Cool, speaking of sustainable solutions, believes that District Cooling ‘zones’ in urban plans might prove effective…
“It’s no secret that today’s energy systems are facing many challenges: The steady growth of global energy demand, depletion of energy resources and increasing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, to name a few. The combined effect of these challenges deserves a more sustainable approach to energy consumption, whether in energy generation or manufacturing environments. Such sustainable solutions, of course, not only improve energy efficiency but also contribute to cost efficiency of existing energy systems.
“As such, it is imperative for governments to adopt ‘green’ technologies when it comes to energy production in the interest of minimising waste and preserving natural resources. Nonetheless, making such changes in the short run may not be as easy as it sounds, since urban planning usually takes into consideration other variables, such as population density and spatial mapping. On the long run, however, incorporating environmentally friendly technologies and energy-efficient systems, such as District Cooling networks, and zero-waste developments will set the stage for building the future cities of tomorrow, where population is expected to increase substantially, leading to increased energy demand. Furthermore, it is worth stressing on the potential negative environmental impact imposed by the creation of densely populated cities. The increased heat retention in exposed surfaces, and heat generated by activities from buildings in heavily populated areas trigger an Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect that causes temperature in its surroundings to rise. The latter can be mitigated through the use of green roofs and increased vegetation and through retrofitting buildings, with more energy-efficient utility infrastructures, such as District Cooling systems.
“Consequently, assigning District Cooling ‘zones’ in urban plans for areas with a density cut-off ratio of around 10,000 tonnes of refrigeration (TR) per square kilometre (km2) or more, can be economically feasible for the utility provider and user alike. Most importantly, though, such a design would allow for approximate savings of 40-50% in energy usage, when compared to the energy consumption of conventional air conditioning methods in densely populated areas, let alone reducing the UHI effect. To put things into perspective, District Cooling could provide around 30% of the GCC [region’s] forecast cooling needs by 2030. This would prevent the region from having to build 20 gigawatts in new electricity generating capacity, and save 200,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in fuel.”
Gathering information for Climate Control Middle East, he reveals that according to a recent report from Qatar Investment Fund, the country is projected to witness a good pace for the next five to seven years, resulting in large infrastructure projects. The list of projects, he says, includes Q-Rail (USD 40 billion in investments), Deep-Water Seaport (USD 8 billion in investments), roads (USD 20 billion investments), stadium and ancillary venues (USD 4 billion investments), among others. “In a nutshell,” says Nezar, “Qatar’s investment in infrastructure only, is expected to reach USD 150 billion. On the micro scale, the volume of the HVACR market in Qatar is estimated to be around USD 550 million per year, representing about 20% of the MEP (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing) market share.”
Nezar believes that despite some cash-flow issues currently observed by a number of small- and medium-size businesses, the growth of the HVACR market in Qatar is steady, and estimated to fluctuate between 10 and 15% until 2017.
And then there is the FIFA 2022 World Cup.
The HVAC cup – on and off the field
Though a majority of the construction work and, by extension, investments, will be around the World Cup, it will not be limited to stadium construction alone. As Qatar readies for the event, there is of course, a spill-over effect in all areas of infrastructure, from roads and transport to the hospitality sector. Underscoring this, Imam points out, “When I say infrastructure, I am talking about metro, roads, and then, of course, some of the new buildings that will be coming up.”
Ahmad Al Naser, Managing Director at Drake & Scull Engineering, adds to this: “The anticipated USD 300 billion investment in Qatar’s infrastructure will boost the HVAC segment considerably. Construction and renovation of stadiums along with Airport City, Doha Metro, Energy City and Msheireb Downtown Doha projects will drive the modern, large-scale, energy-efficient cooling solutions to help the games proceed smoothly, despite the harsh weather conditions.”
The infrastructure includes the 10,000 hotel rooms expected to take shape over the next few years as a minimum requirement for the tournament. Thus, the HVACR industry is expected to flourish within the hospitality market, too. Imam, however, warns: “But most importantly, Qatar is not going to overdo or overkill the concept. There are still talks of bringing in the cruise ships for people to stay rather than build 10,000 rooms and leave it. I think this is a very good thought process. They will build up hotels but there won’t be an overkill.”
As far as the stadiums are concerned, there are speculations as to which type of HVAC technologies will be utilised. Nezar says that- an innovative cooling technology will rely on Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) technique to define with exactitude the contours of air-flow distributions, rather than using the empirical rules of thumb. “The proposed innovative cooling system,” he says, “is expected to be driven by solar energy under various conversion approaches. The open-air solar cooling solution for stadia in Qatar will bring innovation into a few energy sectors, such as conversion and storage of energy, accessibility to energy, energy efficiency, cost, availability and reliability.” He adds that the use of clean technology in cooling solutions, in a region where electrical power demand is driven mainly by comfort cooling, will align with Qatar 2030 Vision towards a more sustainable and green society.
Other experts say that District Cooling will play a major role, especially when it comes to cooling the stadiums. “District Cooling is one of the technologies they are considering at the moment,” informs Imam. Drake & Scull International Qatar is reportedly executing the design, build and installation of a modular District Cooling plant in Lusail City, which will deliver an effective cooling of 50,000 tonnes of refrigeration (TR) by utilising multiple chiller plants, which will make it among the largest District Cooling plant installations in the region, reveals Al Naser.
Regulation and innovation
Picking up the piping
Salah Nezar, Corporate Sustainability Director, at Qatar Project Management, thinks District Cooling projects in the pipeline will energise the sector…
“The future of District Cooling in Qatar is really promising, despite the mild stagnation observed recently. The current investments related to the District Cooling industry in Qatar are estimated to be around USD 2.2 billion. However, this number will reach USD 4 billion within the coming four years, based on the size of various projects currently under construction or those in the pipeline.
“The District Cooling penetration rate in Qatar is about 10%, and it’s expected to grow at a steady pace to reach 15% within the coming six years. To illustrate the progress made during the past few years, the District Cooling industry in Qatar is no longer mentioning the Pearl Qatar cooling plant (the largest cooling plant in the world) as a reference and successful case study. Lusail City District Cooling system is becoming the new benchmark. The length of the looped reticulation is exceeding 160 kilometres, to be served by four scattered plants with a total cooling capacity of 330,000 TR.
“The design approach used for this case is different from the one used in Pearl Qatar’s centralising cooling plant. The four cooling plants are scheduled under various construction phases, depending on the city’s growth. When it comes to challenges, the discharge of the blowdown from cooling towers represents the major hurdle that the District Cooling industry is facing. Furthermore, the other challenge is the promulgation of a decree prohibiting the use of fresh water for District Cooling plants. TSE water is used as a substitute, generating serious environmental challenges related to the discharge of the water from cooling towers. This issue remains open in the absence of alternatives accepted by all stakeholders, such as Public Works Authority (Ashghal), Kahramaa and Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning & Environment. It’s also important to highlight that Qatar is the only country in the GCC [region] that has a dedicated department for District Cooling regulation with Kahramaa, and a regulation framework is expected soon.”
Another driver for the HVAC industry is regulation. Imam reminds us that Qatar is one of the highest carbon defaulters per capita in the world, and wants to make amends. “Qatar now definitely wants to set an example,” he elaborates. “They have already implemented a new regulation, where they have imposed a certain Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER). That means, starting from July this year, none of the products can come with the old EER. And going forward in the coming years, they are going to ‘up’ the energy regulations. The first wave of change has already been planted, which will be directly affecting the HVAC industry in Qatar.”
“Almost more than 4,500 companies in Qatar are not going to have their licenses renewed,” Imam points out, and adds, “The government definitely will have a strong reaction to this to make sure that things are done as per the rules.”
Imam believes that because of the new regulation, technologies like VRFs that were not wholeheartedly accepted because of the initial investment and cost, will eventually be accepted. “VRF has a very low-operating cost,” he says. “With this EER regulation coming in place, conventional equipment will become costlier, and it will make more sense to invest in VRFs. So going forward, VRF is going to gain strong momentum.”
Football and long-term goals
Al Naser says that there is reason to remain positive about the momentum of Qatar’s infrastructure development, as it is driven not just by the FIFA World Cup but also by the long-term basic infrastructure needs of Qatar’s burgeoning population. “The government is quite keen, and has been proactive in promoting the adoption of latest technologies, with a stringent quality monitoring system,” he says. “The government’s recent focus on deploying energy-efficient systems for long-term sustainability will have a major impact on the energy infrastructure in the country, reducing Qatar’s energy consumption significantly.” He predicts that smart technology is expected to make major inroads into the segment. He elaborates: “Incorporation of smart technology could enable real-time analysis of atmospheric and ambient temperature, air pressure, humidity levels, and so on, which will allow the HVAC systems to scale their cooling capacity accordingly. Automated smart technology also allows for heat signature analysis that allows cooling to be diverted to certain areas of a building that show a higher temperature – typically sun-facing surfaces – while lowering the cooling draw in areas that are cooler.”
Yasser Salah Al Jaidah, CEO of Qatar Cool, summarises by saying that incorporating environmentally friendly technologies and energy-efficient systems will help build the cities of tomorrow, where population is expected to grow, leading to an increased demand in energy.
Imam, on his part, believes that FIFA 2022 is a good opportunity for Qatar to be on the world map.
It appears that irrespective of who wins the 2022 World Cup, Qatar is set to score big.