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Fast Power Enables Fast Economic Growth on Oman’s Scenic Arabian Sea Coast

Over the course of millennia, wind and rain have created a natural sculpture garden of fantastically shaped rocks located not far from Oman’s central coastline on the Arabian Sea. Many of the formations are large boulders impossibly balanced on tiny rock pedestals. Others evoke the shapes of birds, human heads, loaves of bread, and mushrooms. 

The fascinating site doesn’t get too many visitors today, given that it’s located more than 500 kilometers south of Oman’s capital Muscat, in the dramatically scenic and sparsely populated Al Wusta Governorate.

However, visits to the Rock Garden in the town of Duqm are growing, in part because of what’s taking shape nearby, on a 2,000 square kilometers stretch of coastal desert.

Called the Special Economic Zone at Duqm (SEZAD), one of the Middle East and North Africa’s largest economic zones contains a wide range of services and features, including a multi-purpose port; a dry dock for ship repair; a fishing port; an international airport; a tourist district featuring 18 kilometers of coastline; a logistics district; and light, medium, and heavy industrial zones.

Located on modern maritime sea routes linking Asia, Africa, Europe, and beyond, the economic zone is quickly adding new tenants, new industrial projects, and an expanding list of manufacturing operations. This rapidly growing economic zone, which has made sustainability a key pillar, requires a reliable supply of electricity that will meet the needs of industry, residents, and tourists, but also protect the nearby natural environment.

Because of its location, Duqm has not yet been connected to the national grid. Initially, diesel-powered generators provided power to the development but in 2021, GE signed an agreement to build, own, and operate a power plant equipped with four of its TM2500 aeroderivative gas turbines to provide up to 80 megawatts (MW) of power.

GE built the plant for the Centralized Utilities Company, Marafiq, which will sell the electricity to the Rural Areas Electricity Company, Tanweer, which provides power to regional users, including SEZAD.

“With development moving quickly at SEZAD and connection to the grid several years away, the speed with which GE delivered this fast-power project was critical to our ability to serve SEZAD and ensure they continued to have access to the electricity required to facilitate their ongoing expansion and growth,” said Victor Ogg, General Manager of Project Development and Delivery for Marafiq.

In less than 200 days, GE started exporting power, helping Marafiq, Tanweer, and SEZAD transition to a lower-emission power source quickly and smoothly.

“Working with Marafiq and Tanweer, GE transported the four TM2500 gas turbines to Duqm, set up the 80 MW mobile power plant, and connected it to Tanweer’s island grid in a rapid timeframe, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and related logistics constraints,” said Ahmad Elsayed, Senior Project Manager, GE Gas Power.

Nearly as important as the speed with which the plant was installed, was the significantly positive impact on the environment. By replacing the diesel generators with cleaner-burning natural gas turbines, the facility is dramatically cutting carbon dioxide emissions by up to 90,000 tons per year. That is equivalent to taking up to 20,000 vehicles off Omani roads.

Idrees Sheikh, Project Management Director for Europe and the Middle East with GE Gas Power, added, “By supporting Marafiq in switching from diesel or other liquid-fueled power generation to gas, GE is helping to generate more sustainable electricity, while delivering reliable, flexible, and affordable power supply that is crucial to the successful expansion of the economic zone.”

The plant will be operated for a minimum of three years, until the area is connected to the main 400 kilovolts (kV) grid.

The number of visitors to the Rock Garden is sure to steadily rise, attracted to the area by many factors, including reliable access to electricity delivered by the four GE aeroderivative gas turbines, which truly embody the technology’s nickname, “power plants on wheels.”

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