An Alternative View

An alternative view —
We spoke to Dr Saif Al Sayari, head of Energy Solutions, about how the new unit of TAQA will complement existing operations with alternative and technology-driven energy initiatives

Can you explain to us the thinking that resulted in the creation of energy solutions?

Sheikh Zaki Yamani, the former OPEC president, said: “The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil.” If you relate that to TAQA, the need to explore ways to transform the production and generation of energy becomes crystal clear. We are not trying to think just one step ahead, but three steps ahead to position TAQA for the future. Exploring alternative energy sources also supports Abu Dhabi’s aims to diversify its economy.

What is the vision for energy solutions?

We have three areas of focus: alternative energy projects, technology incubation and the creation of a centre of excellence. The opportunity is there, the projects are there and the technology is there. It is now a case of integrating and making something of these components.

What is the plan for alternative energy?

Alternative energy represents a currently untapped growth opportunity for TAQA. We see two distinct investment opportunities: green energy and non-conventional oil and gas. Our initial focus for green energy will be on wind, solar and waste-to-energy in areas where we have an existing presence. We have started the wind journey in Morocco with official bids for wind farm tenders. Recently we announced our plan to develop one of the world’s largest waste-to-energy power plants in Abu Dhabi, the first of its kind in the UAE. This is scheduled to be operational by 2016. The emirate produces enough waste annually to generate up to 300MW. The second area of investment is related to oil and gas. We are focusing on opportunities to maximise the value of our natural gas holdings, particularly in North America where the price is still relatively subdued, having reached a 10-year low in the second quarter. If North American gas continues to be relatively undervalued compared to gas prices in Asia and global oil prices, this presents an opportunity to explore technologies including gas-to-liquids and liquefied natural gas. We’re still in the consulting stage, but the opportunity is certainly a rich one.

What does TAQA mean by technology incubation?

We are looking to nurture 'genius work' – new technologies with breakthrough potential. We prefer to support technologies after significant work has already been done in the post-pilot phase. Although this is early-stage investment, it is not start-up. I envisage supporting one or two new technologies a year over the coming three years.

What are the areas of focus?

Organic waste-to-fuel, solar cooling, energy storage, carbon abatement and micro gas-to-liquids: all areas that intersect with our operations and geographies. We are looking at a project to turn agricultural waste in Abu Dhabi into diesel fuel; an offshore carbon capture and storage project in the Netherlands; and the development of oil shale production in Morocco based on a technology that enables us to produce hydrocarbons from oil shale.

Can you explain why you have created a knowledge centre?

Achieving TAQA’s long-term goals requires us to be a technology-driven organisation. We want to champion knowledge-transfer to help improve competitive advantage, efficiency and sustainable growth. The centre of excellence involves creating systems to effectively leverage TAQA’s network of technical expertise and international partnerships. We will also develop global technical assurance policies and procedures to support investment decision-making and project performance.