HOT|COOL NO.2/2016 - "District cooling in the Middle East"


By Muhammad Ali, Design Manager, District Cooling, Marafeq Qatar

Air-conditioning is predominantly provided in almost all types of buildings; residential, commercial, institutional and mixed- use developments. Different air-conditioning technologies are successfully adopted in GCC, including: • Water-cooled central plant • Air-cooled central plant • Variable refrigerant flow • Ducted split and packaged units • Split units and window air conditioners A local consultant in Dubai, United Arab Emirates made a survey of different types of technologymarket share and these are as follows:

Air-conditioning is an essential commodity to survive in the blistering heat of Middle East where the basic climate is hot and dry with coastal air laden with humidity. Sweltering temperatures and heat waves cause extreme combination of heat and humidity. The highest recorded heat index in the region is 178 o F (81 o C) in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia on July 8, 2003.

Within the Middle East are 6 Arab states of the Persian Gulf including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), and United Arab Emirates (UAE), also called GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries. Improved economic development and the influx of expatriates, combined with government vision to diversify the economy, supported accelerated developments in real estate market in GCC. UAE hosting the Expo 2020 and Qatar hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup is a further boost towards the enhancement of transportation networks and primary infrastructures which are valuable add-on to real estate market. The Global Competitiveness Index 2015- 2016 Rankings by the World Economic Forum ranked Qatar at number 14 on list of the world’s fastest growing economies followed by UAE at number 17. Other GCC countries are also ranked high on this list. The non-oil private sector like tourism, food & beverages and automotive industry shows strong growth, fueled by domestic, regional demands. In the real estate market, state-of the art construction and Smart City Developments created the need for sustainable, economical and smart cooling technologies for new developments.

District cooling reportedly started in 1960 in GCC, but its development was not substantial because of limited real estate development market. With the real estate boom starting in 1990, district cooling plants started appearing in different countries of GCC as an ideal, high efficient, economical and eco-friendly alternative to conventional cooling technologies. Today, total installed capacity of district cooling systems in GCC is above 4 million refrigeration tons, which is accounting approximately 32% of total worldwide capacity. United Arab Emirates (UAE) experienced the widest application of the technology in GCC, accounting above 60% market share, followed by Saudi Arabia above 20% and Qatar above 7%. In UAE alone, district cooling installed capacity is above 2.6 million tons of refrigeration (approximately 8000 MW) and the technology is continuously progressing with current penetration of 20%. The largest district cooling plants in the world are built in GCC with largest single plant of 130,000 TR at the Pearl Qatar and largest district cooling system in one single development at Lusail City, Qatar where the total market requirement is above 550,000 TR, provided with a distribution network of 170 km chilled water piping.


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