Energy and Power Engineering, 2013, 5, 109-128 Published Online January 2013 (
Prime Energy Challenges for Operating
Power Plants in the GCC
Mohamed Darwish, Rabi Mohtar
Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, Qatar Foundation, Doha, Qatar
Received September 2, 2012; revised October 5, 2012; accepted October 20, 2012
There is a false notion of existing available, abundant, and long lasting fuel energy in the Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC) Countries; with continual income return from its exports. This is not true as the sustainability of this income is
questionable. Energy problems started to appear, and can be intensified in coming years due to continuous growth of
energy demands and consumptions. The demands already consume all produced Natural Gas (NG) in all GCC, except
Qatar; and the NG is the needed fuel for Electric Power (EP) production. These countries have to import NG to run their
EP plants. Fuel oil production can be locally consumed within two to three decades if the current rate of consumed en-
ergy prevails. The returns from selling the oil and n atural gas are the main income to most of the GCC. While NG and
oil can be used in EP plants, NG is cheaper, cleaner, and has less negative effects on the environment than fuel oil.
Moreover, oil has much better usage than being burned in steam generators of steam power plants or combustion
chambers of gas turbines. Introducing renewable energy or nuclear energy may be a necessity for the GCC to keep the
flow of their main income from exporting oil. This paper reviews the GCC productions and consumptions of the prime
energy (fuel oil and NG) and their role in electric power production. The paper shows that, NG should be the only fossil
fuel used to run the power plants in the GCC. It also shows that the all GCC except Qatar, have to import NG. They
should diversify the prime energy used in power plants; and consider alternative energy such as nuclear and renewable
energy, (solar and wind ) energy.
Keywords: Gulf Co-Operation Council (GCC); Electric Power; Natural Gas; Crude Oil; Renewable Energy; Gas
Turbine Combined Cycle; Integrated Solar Combined Cycle; Oil and Natural Gas Reserves
1. Introduction
The Arab Gulf Co-operation Countries (GCC) includes
Qatar, Saudi Arabia (SA), United Arab Emirates (UAE),
Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman. They have about 57% of
world petroleum oil reserves and 28% of world Natural
Gas (NG) reserves, [1].
The GCC are the main producers and suppliers of oil
and NG to the world, see Figures 1-5, [1,2], and Table 1 ,
[3]. The returns from exporting oil and NG represent the
primary income to most of the GCC. For example, SA is
the world’s largest producer and exporter of total petro-
leum liquids in 2010, and the world’s second largest crude
oil producer behind Russia. SA’s economy depends
heavily on crude oil. In 2010, SA oil export revenues have
accounted for 80% - 90% of total revenues and more than
40% of gross domestic product (GDP). Kuwait Petroleum
export revenues account for half of the GDP, 95% of
total export earning, and 95% of government revenues in
2010. Although Bahrain has a minor role in o il production ,
its economy depends heavily on hydrocarbon exports,
mostly refined products, which account for 70% of the
government revenues. Qatar’s oil and gas sectors ac-
counted for over half of its GDP in 2010. Qatar is who lly
dependent on oil and NG for all of its primary energy
demands. In 2009, the NG consumption in some of the
GCC was very high. For example, SA consumed 68.3
billion cubic meters BCM (2.3% of total worldwide
consumption), and UAE consumed 39.6 BCM (1.3% of
world consumption). Also, SA has the highest crude oil
consumption per capita in the world. Its crude oil con-
sumption in 2009 was 2.376 Million (M) barrels per day
(Mbbl/d) or 0.3778 M ton/d. For 25 M population, this
gives 33.7 bbl per year per capita (bbl/, or 5.36
The plentiful reserves and high productions of prime
energy (i.e. NG and fuel oil) give the notion of existing
available, abundant, and long lasting fuel energy in GCC;
with continual income of its export. This is not true; and
the sustainability of this in come is questionable.
[4] pointed that there are major challenges that neces-
itate significant changes in the GCC energy policy such
opyright © 2013 SciRes. EPE
Figure 1. Share of Organization of Arab Petro leum Exp orting Countries (OAPEC) in world fu el oil proven r eserve perc entage
2009 [1].
Figure 2. Share of OAPEC in world natural gas proven reserve percentage, 2009 [1].
Figure 3. Proven fuel oil reserve by country in Middle East as in Jan. 2011 [2].
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Figure 4. Natural gas reserve by country, Jan. 1, 2011 [2].
Figure 5. OPEC crude oil production by country, [2].
as the rising consumption of petroleum products, the wa-
ter shortages and desertification, and the climate change.
The UAE, is already on the verge of NG crisis; by
2015-2016. The NG production in the UAE is predicted
to increase significantly, by an estimated 14.4 BCM/y
when several non-associated fields start producing. But
this increase will be accompanied by a significant in-
crease in gas demands over the same period. In spite of
the gas allocation issues, the UAE’s state-owned compa-
nies are pressing ahead with diversification into petro-
chemicals, building additional plants that demand large
quantities of gas [5].
2. NG Fuel Shortage in GCC
Although the GCC has huge NG resources (about 28% of
the world), there is a serious shortage in the needed NG
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Table 1. NG produced by some Arab countries and other
and their rank worldwide, in BCM in 2009, [3].
Rank Country Production (BCM)
1 United States 593.400
2 Russia 546.8
5 Iran 116.3
7 Algeria 86.500
10 Saudi Arabia 77.1
11 Qatar 76.98
14 Egypt 62.7
18 United Arab Emirates 50.24
28 Oman 24
33 Libya 15.9
37 Kuwait 12.7
38 Bahrain 12.64
47 Syria 6.04
58 Iraq 1.88
93 Yemen 0.455
to run their Power Plants (PP), due to continually rising
EP consumption. The subject was recently raised in few
publications, (e.g. [6-8]). The NG demand is much more
than the region’s gas exploration and production, and NG
have to be imported, [6]. [6] mentioned that although the
GCC began in 1977 exporting gas as the UAE built the
region’s first Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) liquefaction
terminal and began sending LNG to Japan; the GCC be-
gan importing gas, as Kuwait received its first LNG
cargo from Russia at its fast-track LNG receiving termi-
nal at Mina Al-Ahmadi Gas Port (MAAGP). Other GCC,
with the exception of Qatar, are considering importing
NG to meet rapidly rising demands. Construction of Ku-
wait’s MAAGP commenced in January 2008, and in
April 2008 the Emirate of Dubai, UAE appointed Shell
Company as advisor for building a fast-track LNG re-
ceiving terminal and expects to receive its first gas in
2010. The growing shortage in gas is due to, [6]: in-
creasing power consumption and the high share of gas in
power generation; depleting oil fields and the gas use for
oil recovery enhancement, increasing economic emphasis
on the steel, aluminum, and petrochemicals sectors; gas
exploration and production challenges; and long-term gas
export commitments limit local supply.
The gas supply outlook for the GCC remains bleak.
Even if the prolonged recession slows down the gas de-
mand increase, the gas shortage is expected to increase
from about 19 BCM in 2009 to about 31 BM in 2015 in
the GCC. If the growth returns to historical levels, the
shortage is expected to in crease to more than 50 BCM in
2015, see Figures 6(a) and (b).
[7] indicated that it seems counterintuitive that the
GCC need to import gas (including from outside the re-
gion). The reasons for this need include the fact that pro-
duction has not kept pace with demand for gas in the
region, but also relate to the development of the gas in-
dustry in the Middle East. Another reason is much of the
gas in the Middle East is sour or tight gas. This is par-
ticularly the case in SA, the U AE and Oman. Recovery of
such gas is time-consuming, technologically difficult and
expensive. Sing mentioned that importing gas or LNG is
the most economically and environmentally sound solu-
tion to the GCC’s problem, especially for the power sector
Figure 6. (a) Forec ast NG demand in GCC with and withou t
slow economic growth (recession), [6]; (b) NG shortage in
GCC with and without slow economic growth (recession),
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[8]. Importing gas or LNG will enable GCC countries to
continu e their econ omic di vers if ic at io n e ff o rt s u si n g local
gas as well as allow them to continue to export crude oil,
sending value-added refined products to foreign markets
instead of burning them as fuel for their own power needs.
[9], and [10] urge the use of renewable energy as alterna-
tives to NG.
energy economy: industrialization, urbanization and mo-
torization. These trends are associated with increasing,
Quantities of energy consumption.
Efficiency of energy use, in production and consump-
Diversificatio n of sources of energy.
Saudi Arabia’s place in the world oil market is threat-
ened by unrestrained domestic fuel consumption. In an
economy dominated by fossil fuels, current patterns of
energy demand are not only wasting valuable resources
and causing excessive pollution, but also rendering the
country vulnerable to economic and social crises. Glada
and Stevens identified the insufficiency of the current
political approaches, and the need for change emerges.
The authors highlight as a dominating measure for the
consolidation of consumption and the avoidance of a
possible crisis, the increase in the fuel’s price [11].
Demand for clean and convenient energy at the point
of use.
According to US Energy Information Administration
(EIA) predicts that 50% increase in power generation in
the GCC from 2010 to 2030; and more than 90 percent of
this incremental will be fulfilled by gas, significantly
increasing the GCC power sector’s reliance on gas, see
Figure 7(a).
The GCC energy problems started and are expected to
be intensified in near future due to high and continuous
growth in energy demands and consumptions, especially
in electric power (EP) generation. Most of EP plants are
using either gas turbines (GT) or GT Combined Cycle
(GTCC) with steam turbines as shown in Figure 7(a) for
the whole GCC, and in Figure 7(b) for the case of SA as
3. Escalation of Energy Consumption in
Powerful long run trends continue to shape the modern
Figure 7. (a) Projection of fuel used for the power generation in the GCC, [6]; (b) Electric Power capacity by steam, gas tur-
ines, and gas turbines combined cycle, [13]. b
example. These PP are mainly using Gas Turbines (GT)
and GTCC with recommended NG as fuel, as shown in
Figure 7(b).
One of the main reasons of high consumption is the
politically motivated low prices for both electricity and
fuel. Other reasons include the high fuel consumptions
by systems used for desalting seawater, which is main
potable water resource in most GCC. The full production
of the GCC petroleum products can be locally consumed
within two to three decades if the current rate of fuel
consumption pre va ils.
In stark contrast to energy, water is an extremely
scarce resource in the GCC, which is one of the world’s
most arid regions. With only limited groundwater re-
sources, and amid growing signs that groundwater is be-
ing depleted by over-use, the GCC is facing potential
water shortages.
The GCC economies account for more than 40% of the
world’s water desalination capacity, and much of that
capacity is energy-intensive. To meet demand, govern-
ments continue to build new desalination plants. Since
these plants run on fossil fuels, efforts to boost the supply
of energy, diversify fuel sources and improve energy
efficiency will have a strong impact on the provision of
Most of the GCC’s desalination plants use thermal
sources, mainly natural gas. There is a significant and
ongoing investment in dual-purpose co-generation plants,
which produce both electricity and desalinated water
through a comb ined th ermodynamic cycle, which is more
efficient than separate production processes. These are
encouraging initiatives, but there is still a lot of room for
further energy s a vings in the desali na tion pro c e ss [14].
Escalation in EP consumptions in some of the GCC is
illustrated by a few examples from the GCC.
In SA, the EP consumption increased from 163,151
GWh to 193,472 GWh during 2006 to 2009, or 6% an-
nual increase. The daily DW production increased from
1070 MIGD to 1013 MIGD MW during 2006 to 2009,
almost steady. The EP generated plants installed capacity
increased from 35,88 5 to 51 ,19 5 MW from 20 06 to 2009.
The peak load increased from 31,240 to 39,900 MW
from 2006 to 2009, or 9% annual increase, [15]. In 2007,
the EP plants consumed 45.76 M ton equivalent fuel.
This consists of 20.5 M metric ton equivalent of NG
(22.78 BCM), 9.288 M ton Diesel oil, 7.566 M ton crude
oil, and 6.233 M ton heavy fuel oil. The increases in NG
and oil consumptions in EP plants are given in Figure 8.
In 2010, the oil production in SA was 10.21 Mbbl/d;
consisting of 8.4 Mbbl/d of crude oil, and 1.8 Mbbl/d of
NG liquids (NGLs). Out of the 10.2 Mbbl/d, 7.3 Mbbl/d
were exported, and 2.65 Mbbl/d were consumed. The
2009 consumption was 50% more than that of 2000 . The
consumption growth was due to strong economic and
industrial growth and subsidized prices, [17]. The trend
of oil consumption increase is shown in Figure 9.
According to Saudi Aramco forecasts, NG demand in
SA is expected to be more than doubled to 14.5 trillion
(T) cubic feet per day (TCF/d) by 2030, up from an esti-
mated demand of 7.1 TCF/d in 2007. Saudi Arabia’s en-
ergy consumption pattern is unsustainable. The country
currently consumes over one-quarter of its total oil pro-
duction—some 2.8 million barrels a day. This means that
on a “business as usual” trajectory it would become a net
oil importer in 2038 (see Figure 10). No one is suggest-
ing this is the most likely outcome but the possibility
does signal the urgency of the need for change. More oil
reserves may be discovered and production raised, popu-
lation growth may decline and new policies and technol-
ogy may change consumption patterns, but in the absence
of such events and with the country’s high dependence
on oil revenues the economy would collapse before that
point. The Saudi Arabia’s oil balance on a business-as-
usual trajectory is shown in Figure 10.
In order to free up petroleum for export, all current and
Figure 8. Power generation by source, [16].
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Figure 9. Oil consumption increase in Saudi Arabia, [17].
Figure 10. The Saudi Arabias oil balance on a business-as-usual trajectory, [11].
future gas supplies (except NG liquids) reportedly remain
for use in domestic industrial consumption and desalina-
tion in SA. However, NG production (estimated at 2.7
TCF in 2007) remains limited, as the soaring costs of
production, exploration, processing and distribution of
gas have squeezed supply, while an estimated 13% to
14% of total production is lost in venting, flaring, rein-
jection and natural processes according to OPEC and
other sources, [15]. SA has no net imports or exports of
NG. The 2009 NG production was estimated by 3.2 TCF;
and was totally consumed locally. The total consumed
fuels (NG and oil) increased from 1.798 million equiva-
lent barrels per day (Mebbl/d) in 2000 to 3.0322 Mebbl
/d in 2009, an annual increase of 6%, [15]. The total
produced energy in 2009 was 11.3402 Mebbl /d, and thus
the consumed to produced ratio was 26.7% in 2009. The
consumed energy is expected to reach most of the oil
production (8.5 M-boe/d) in 2028.
In the UAE, the EP consumption increased in Abu
Dhabi from 25,424 to 31,478 GWh from 2003 to 2008,
and in Dubai from 16,572 to 23,571 GWh from 2005 in
2010, [9]. The consumed fuel energy increased from
0.686 Mebbl/d in 2000 to 1.4467 Mebbl/d in 2009, an-
nual increase of 8.6%. The UAE total fuel energy pro-
duction in 2009 was 3.477 Mebbl/d/d, or the consumed
to produc ed ratio was 41.6%. The repo rted UAE popula-
tion in 2009 was 5.066 million, and this gives annual
consumed Mebbl per year per capita (Mebbl/ as 104
Mebbl/, [18]. The UAE is more aware of the energy
problem than other GCC. This is clear from starting to
build a nuclear power plant of 4 reactors of 1400 MW
each, and their active participation in renewable energy
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In Kuwait, the EP consumption increased from 43,734
to 51,749 GWh from 2005 to 2008, [19]. The daily DW
production increased from 317 to 423 MIGD MW from
2004 to 2008. Figure 11 shows the expected total con-
sumed fuel (given in blue) would meet the total expected
production in almost 25 years (y). The fuel used for EP
and desalted seawater generation (in red) is about half of
the total consumption, [20]. In Bahrain the EP consump-
tion increased from 8267 to 12,224 GWh from 2004 to
2009. The daily DW production increased from 93 to 131
MIGD MW from 2004 to 2009. The oil production in
2010 was 46 ,000 bbl/d , of wh ich 76% wa s crude oil. The
oil consumption in 2009 was 45,000 bbl/d, see Figure 12,
The projection here was based on business-as-usual
trend estimate, given known technology used for gener-
ating both electric power and desalted seawater by both
natural gas and crude oil.
In Qatar, the consumed EP increased from 13,232
GWh in 2004 to 28,144 GWh in 2010, more than dou-
bled in 6 years, significant annual increase of 13.6%, [22,
23]. For 1.7 million (M) population, this gives 1650 kWh
per capita per year (kWh/ of EP in 2009.
In Oman, the EP consumption increased from 13,867
to 19,121 GWh from 2007 to 2010. The daily DW pro-
duction increased from 84 to 129 MIGD from 2004 to
2008, [24].
While consumed energy is on the rise in all GCC, the
produced prime energy in most of GCC is almost con-
stant, or even decreasing. The produced oil was decreas-
ing at the ratios of 8.2% in UAE, 9.6% in SA, and 13%
in Kuwait from 2005 to 2009. The exported fuel is the
main source of income to the GCC. So, the income from
selling energy productions in GCC is not sustainable, [1].
One of the known sustainability conditions requires
that the rate of using non-renewable resources such as
fossil fuel does not exceed the rate of developing sus-
Figure 11. Percentage of expected fuel consumption by all
sectors and by CPDP and their percentage of total fuel oil
production of 2.5 M-bbl/d., [20].
tainable substitutes such as renewable energy (RE). It is
unfortunate that practical application of RE use does not
even started yet. Another sustainability condition re-
quires that pollutants emission rate does not exceed the
environment’s capacity to absorb, or render them harm-
less. Unfortunately, the GCC has the highest CO2 per
capita with no insight solution to this problem.
Examples of the kWh/ of EP in different countries
are given in Figure 13, [25]. Figure 13 shows that Qatar
and Kuwait have the highest kWh/ y .ca of EP in the world .
In Qatar, it was 950, 1500, and 1650 kWh/ in 1990,
2003, and 2010 respectively [23]. As a result, Qatar,
Kuwait, and UAE have the highest CO2 emission in the
world, as shown in Figure 14, [25]. Figure 15 shows the
drastic increase of the CO2 emission in Qatar, which has
the highest per capita in the world, [26].
Currently, fuel oil and NG are consumed in the GCC’s
power plants (PP). Both oil and NG have limited supplies,
and their costs are continuously rising. Fuel consumed in
Saudi Arabia (SA), Kuwait, UAE almost doubled every
10 years or less. The fuel productions in these countries
in 2009 are: 11.34 Mbb l/d in SA, 2.55 Mbbl /d in Kuwait,
and 3.476 Mbbl/d in UAE. So, its full production s can be
consumed locally in almost thirty years if the present
consumption rates prevail. Thus, there is an urgent need
to change to more sustainable fuel energy.
An important reason for the poor and worsening re-
cord of energy inefficiency in the GCC region lies in the
domestic pricing policies that keep prices well below
international levels, which need to be addressed soon.
However, according to Alyousef and Stevens [27], even
the methodology used by the International Energy Asso-
ciation (IEA) does not help the situation to improve; the
authors claim that the method used grossly overstates the
levels of subsidies on oil prod ucts in the region. This fact
at best creates negative attitudes toward s energy issues at
a time when they need to attract serious discussion and
debate while at worse undermines and discredits the very
real practical concerns over domestic pricing derived
from a careful economic analysis.
Securing fuel supply for an EP generation in the GCC
is a major challenge in the coming decades; as it con-
sumes about half of the total consumed fuel. This can be
achieved through: reducing dependence on one source of
energy, exploiting more fuel or renewable energy, and
lowering the demand by energy conservation. There is
real need for alternative energy use to generate EP gen-
eration, and to keep the income from selling oil. There
are available prime energy alternatives to generate EP,
such as renewable sources (e.g. solar and wind); and nu-
clear energy.
To a similar direction, Dehen, the CEO of Energy
Sector and Member of the Managing Board of Siemens
G has proposed in the World Energy Insight 2010 a A
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Figure 12. Bahrain total oil production and consumption, 1999-2009, [21].
Figure 13. Per-capita electricity consumption of selected major developed (red), GCC (purple), regional (blue), and major
developing nations (green) for 1990 and 2003. Lighter, l eft-hand bars, are for 1990; darker, right-hand bars, are for 2 003, [25].
Figure 14. Representative of CO2 per capita emission in some countries, in 2008, [25].
Figure 15. History of the CO2 emission in Qatar, [26].
three-step strategy to formulate an efficient energy sys-
tem; the proposed strategy highlights the optimization of
the energy mix, technical improvements to achieve grea t er
efficiency and reduce fossil fuel consumption and sys-
temic optimization of the energy system in order to
transform today’s passive consumers of the energy sys-
tem into interactive “procumers”—that produce the en-
ergy they consume [28].
4. Power Plants Fossil Fuel Choices
The NG is the preferred Fossil Fuels (FF) used in PP
worldwide. Figure 16 shows that the FF used in power
plants are coal, NG, and oil, with negligible share of oil.
In the GCC, only NG and oil are used, [29].
The projection in Figure 16 is based on the Interna-
tional Energy Outlook Reference case in 2011 (IEO2011,
[29]). This Reference case projection is a business-as-
usual trend estimate, given known technology and tech-
nological and demographic trends. The IEO2011 cases
generally assume that current laws and regulations are
maintained throughout the projections. Thus, the projec-
tions provide policy-neutral baselines that can be used to
analyze international energy markets. While energy
markets are complex, energy models are simplified rep-
resentations of energy production and consumption,
regulations, and producer and consumer behavior. Pro-
jections are highly dependent on the data, methodologies,
model structures, and assumptions used in their devel-
opment. Behavioral characteristics are indicative of
real-world tendencies, rather than representations of spe-
cific outcomes. Energy market projections are subject to
much uncertainty. Many of the events that shape energy
markets are random and cannot be anticipated. In addi-
tion, future developments in technologies, demographics,
and resources cannot be foreseen with certainty. Key
uncertainties in the IEO2011 projections are addressed
Figure 16. Prime energy used in electric power generation,
through alternative cases. EIA has endeavored to make
these projections as objective, reliable, and useful as pos-
sible. They should, however, serve as an adju nct to, no t a
substitute for, a complete and focused analysis of public
policy initiatives.
The non-Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) countries account, in general, for
80% of the global rise in gas consumption, with annual
growth averaging 3% per year (y) to 2030. Gas use is
driven mostly by economic growth, accompanying in-
dustrialisation, industrial policy, the power sector and the
development of domestic resources. The gas consump-
tion in the Middle East grows 3.9%/y over 2010-2030.
The power sector accounts for 44% of this growth as
domestic gas and imports in some countries displace oil
burning. Petrochemical industries are contributing to the
projected 3.2%/y growth in industrial gas use [12].
The idea of using coal in the GCC is dismissed as it is
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not practical for several reasons. Coal combustion affects
the environment more badly than both NG and oil.
Compared with oil and gas, coal emits more greenhouse
gases (GHG), mainly CO2, causing global warming; and
more air polluting gases such as sulfur oxides and nitro-
gen oxides. The infrastru cture for transporting coal is not
available in GCC, such as railways. A coal PP of say
3000 MW, a typical capacity of a power plant in the
GCC, would consume about 500 kg of coal per second,
or 43,200 tons daily. This requires 4320 full trucks of 10
tons load daily to supply the coal to the power plant.
Large power plants using coal is usually located close to
coal mines, or served by railways to transport the coal.
Moreover, supplying coal from a foreign country is ex-
pensive and unsecured.
decreasing in the future. The oil has much better usage
than being burned in PP such as steam generator of steam
PP or combustion chambers in PP using GT, as show n in
Figure 17, [29].
Crude or heavy oil is used in boilers of steam Power
Plants (PP). This practice of using heavy oil is slowly
dying out in favor of NG because lot of pollutants is re-
leased into the air due to burning of the oil compared to
NG. In the US, the residual oil share in generating EP
decreased from 16.8% in 1973 to 6.2% in 1983, [30]. In
2005, electricity generation from all forms of petroleum,
including diesel and residual fuel was only 3% of total
production. The d ecline is the result of price competition
with NG an d en vir onm ent al restri cti ons on e mi ssio ns. F or
PP, the costs of heating heavy oil, extra pollution control
and additional maintenance required after burning are
often outweighed the low cost of the heavy (or residual)
fuel. Burning residual fuel oil also produces much darker
smoke and uniformly higher carbon dioxide emissions
than NG, [30].
There are no prospects of using oil in running PP
worldwide in the future, as shown in Figure 17, [29]. T his
figure shows that the share of oil in power generation is
either kept the sam e by the already oil operat ed PP or even
Figure 17. Prospects of fuel oil usages, [29].
Most PPs in the GCC is using gas turbines (GT) or GT
combined cycle (GTCC), see Figure 7 for the case of
Saudi Arabia. In GCC, the hot gases discharged from the
GT are used in heat recovery steam generator (HRSG) to
produce steam. The steam is then used to drive steam
turbine to generate more EP without adding more fuel.
NG or light fuel oil is burned in the combustion cham-
bers of the GT. The light oil is more expensive than
heavy oil, and much higher than NG. O il h as muc h be tter
uses for transportation and petrochemical industry than
being burned in boilers of steam turbines or in combus-
tion chambers. Figures 18 and 19 show the cost of dif-
ferent fuels (coal, NG, and heavy oil) used for EP gen-
eration; and the cost ratio of NG to oil. Figure 20 shows
the operating cost of generating EP when different fuels
(nuclear, coal, NG, and oil) are used. In conclusion, the
use of fuel oil in EP production is much more costly and
more polluting to the environment compared to NG. So,
oil burning in PPs is decreasing and should be com-
pletely stopped in the GCC countries.
The remaining and more economical FF used for PP is
NG. This also came as a result of power plant industries,
where the GTCC using NG is the most preferred PP
The power plants using GT are the easiest and cheap-
est PP to build. The GTCC have the highest efficiency.
The GTCC is the first best choice for EP generation in
the GCC. Besides, the transportation of gas is more ex-
pensive than that of oil; and exporting oil return is much
higher than that of NG, even in liquefied form. Qatar and
the UAE use only NG for EP production. Other GCC,
such as SA and Kuwait, augment their NG production
with fuel oil. It is unfortunate that Kuwait and SA still
make extensive use of crude oil for power generation
because of limited gas availability. In 2010, the only 34%
of electricity was produced from gas in Saudi Arabia, see
Figure 21, [34].
5. Natural Gas in the GCC and EP
Convention al PP and (or CPDP) utilizing GT and GTCC
should use only NG. The NG is clean fuel with less pol-
luting gases when combusted than oil. Moreover, the
price of oil is much higher than the price of NG, almost
twice [32].
Figures 22(a)-(f), show the NG history of production
and consumption in the GCC, [35-40]. Figure 22(a)
shows that the production is more than the consumption
in the GCC countries as a whole. However, with respect
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Figure 18. Cost comparison of different fuels used in EP generation in last six years, [31].
Figure 19. The ratio of natural gas to residual oil costs, [32].
Figure 20. The operating cost of generating EP by different fuels, [33].
Figure 21. Share of different fuels in producing EP in SA,
year 2010, [34].
to each country, this is right only for Qatar, Figure 22(b),
but not for the all other five GCC. Qatar NG production
in 2 009 w as 31 45 BC F, w hi le con su mption was 745 BCF.
The difference between the productions and consumptions
in all the GCC represents the amount exported by Qatar.
Figures 22(c)-(e) and Table 2 shows that all the pro-
duced natural gas is completely consumed for domestic
purposes in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. This
does not mean that the NG produced satisfies all the de-
mands. In 2010, Kuwait natural gas production and con-
sumption were 414 and 446 BCF respectively. Kuwait
started to import natural gas in 2007 to face the decline in
its NG production and to lower its oil consumption in PP.
The UAE uses natural gas only in power plant, and the
produced NG satisfied its needs up to 2007, when they
start to import gas from Qatar. This is the result of NG
continuous rise in demand and decline of production; and
the main reason for the UAE to adopt the use of Nuclear
Power Plants (NPP). In 2009, Oman’s natural gas pro-
duction and consumption (Figure 22(f)) were 875 BCF
and 520 BCF respectively. Much of t he remaini ng nat u ral
gas reserves are locked in geological formations that are
smaller and more difficult to access. For example, the
concession of the Khazzan and Makarem natural gas
fields operated by BP highlight the technical difficulties
facing development of natural gas in Oman. BP has re-
cetly increased its estimation for these fields to between n
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. EPE
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. EPE
Source: EIA
Figure 22. (a) History of NG production and consumption in the GCC, (data from Ref. [1]); (b) History of NG production
and consumption in Qatar, [37]; (c) Kuwait NG production and consumption, [38]; (d) Saudi Arabia NG production and
consumption, [39]; (e) UAE natural gas production and consumption, [35,36]; (f) Oman history of NG consumption and
roduction, [40]. p
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. EPE
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. EPE
50 and 100 TCf of reserves in-place, of which only 10 TCf
are recoverable. Oman would consume all its NG pro-
duction and start importing NG within few years. So,
while the demands are always on the rise, the NG pro-
ductions do not match this demand. This happened in
UAE, SA, Kuwait, and Bahrain; and soon will happen in
Oman. Part of its produ ced NG is re-injected in oil field s
to increase oil production, and takes up rising proportion
of domestic production. Although Oman is a net exporter
of oil and natural gas, it also imports small volumes of
natural gas. The Dolphin pipeline provides Oman’s only
natural gas imports, providing approximately 200 million
cubic feet per day (MCf/ d) .
The Oman a nd Qalhat LNG projects are the sole source
of natural gas exports from Oman, with a nameplate ca-
pacity of 506 BCF/y, (1.388 BCF/d). Table 2 shows that
in 2009, there was 411 Billion Cubic feet (BCF) deficit
between the NG production and consumption in Bahrain,
Kuwait, UAE, and SA. This deficit in NG is even less
than the actual demands, because oil fuel substitutes the
difference between the demand and consumption. These
countries, and soon Oman, have to import NG from
Qatar or other NG producer countries with surplus. The
situation in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are critical since
they use heavy and crude oil in huge quantities to aug-
ment the natural gas in power plants and CPDP. The fuel
oil is relatively expensive and the GHG emissions are
relatively higher than natural gas.
So, all the GCC countries are in deficit of natural gas
needed to run their power plants or CPDP, except Qatar.
The use of oil for burning in PP is a bad practice since it
has much better usage as a liquid for transportation, and
petrochemical industries. More than that, the use of this
oil drains these countries resources.
In 2008, the prime energy consumed in SA was almost
56% petroleum-based and 44% NG, [34]. Saudi Arabia is
moving forward with plans to build nuclear power plants
Table 2. Natural gas production and consumption in the
GCC countries and Iran.
Country Production A Consumption BA – B =
Qatar 3154 745 2408
Bahrain 444 444 0
Iran 4632 4649 –18
Kuwait 406 437 –31
Oman 875 520 355
Saudi Arabia 2770 2770 0
United Arab Emirates 1725 2086 –362
Total 14,005 11,653 2352
Total without Iran 9373 7004 2370
(NPP) by 2020 to meet domestic power need s and to free
up oil for export. Saudi Arabia is also participating in the
GCC’s efforts to link the power grids of member coun-
tries in order to reduce shortages during peak power pe-
The upgrading of SA’s refineries will reduce the share
of undesirable heavy fuel oil, thereby reducing its avail-
able supply.
The GCC countries should stop completely burning
petroleum oil in PP. They should start using renewable
energy to take share in EP production.
6. The Alternative of Nuclear Energy
The GCC countries had a negative attitude towards nu-
clear energy, viewing it primarily as a potential competi-
tor of the hydrocarbons. This negative attitude, which in
essence translates into a denial of access to nuclear en-
ergy technology, might have been justified as long as
hydrocarbon energy was abundant and cheap. Since the
turn of the century, conditions have radically changed
and a reconsideration of the case is imperative today
To this direction the UAE tentatively decided to inte-
grate nuclear energy into the electricity scheme to miti-
gate CO2 emissions as declared by the government. In
[42] an evaluation of the effectiveness of the UAE’s nu-
clear strategy, presents that nuclear energy is more prac-
tical and economic viable option in mitigating CO2 than
renewable energy and carbon capture.
Nuclear energy is capital intensive and an excellent
store of value for the future: it is the kind of investment
that a country with large financial resources and limited
investment opportunities would logically find very at-
tractive as a basis for long-term economic diversification
and sustainability [41]. However, investments in nuclear
energy are perceived of high risk and therefore are
treated with suspicion.
The use of nuclear energy to generate electr ic power EP
and desalt seawater D raises many concerns in the GCC.
In spite of these serious concerns, the question is not to
accept nuclear energy or not, as it may be the only option
they have. The real question should be how and when
nuclear energy would be inherently safe, not prohibitively
expensive, and when it can be applied safely in coun tries
at different development stages. Nuclear energy can pre-
sent a sustai na bl e way to pro duce EP and D i f i t s st a nding
problems are resolved. The introduction of NE to UAE
(presently) and to Saudi Arabia (as planned) to generate
EP (i.e. nuclear power plants, NPP) and D (nuclear de-
salination ND) can encourage other GCC to diffuse some
of the public resistance to NE. There are arguments that
these countries have enough fuel oil and natural gas re-
serve to satisfy its present needs. Also, there are fears of
large catastrophic accidents like what happened in Cher-
nobyl, Ukraine, and the Three Mile Island in USA.
Moreover, there are standing problems of nuclear waste
disposal, nuclear plants de-commissioning, possible ra-
dioactive contaminations, excessive capital and operating
costs, lack of nuclear fuel technology and trained per-
sonnel in developing countries. It also imposes depend-
ency on the foreign country supplying the NPP to re-fuel
the reactor for entire life of the plant. The supplying
country should also ha ve acce ss to the spent (use d) fuel to
avoid its reprocessing for unlawful uses. It is necessary to
have qualified manpower for safe operation and mainte-
nance of the NPP. So, Kuwait’s personnel, for example,
should acqui re trai ning i n t he count ry s uppl y ing t he plant,
thus requiring additional time and cost. This training is not
limited to scientists but to all levels including engineers
and technicians. These factors a pply to some GCC like SA,
UAE, and Egypt, [43].
7. Activities towards Sustainable Energy in
the GCC Countries
The activities of using solar or wind energy are very lim-
ited to some scattered research work. The output of this
work is very hard to find its application on a large scale
to curb the increasingly consumed oil and NG. Although
Qatar was the first country in the GCC to form Ministry
of Environment, the awareness of environmental issues is
low. SA is the most needed country to diversify its fuel;
as it is facing shortage in NG needed to operate its PP,
and its power demand is growing at an alarming rate,
[44]. The increase of SA’s population and oil consump-
tion lower the per capita income (mainly depends on oil
export) since oil production is almost constant or de-
The UAE is the first country in the GCC to deal the
fuel energy problem surrounding the use of oil in EP
generation; and tries effectively to reduce consumed fuel
energy. All its power plants are operated by NG (part of
it is imported). Public transportation metro and efficient
bus systems are operating in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to
reduce the transportation fuel consumption. The govern-
ment subsidization of gasoline (for car) in the UAE is the
least, compared to other GCC. For example, the 2008 car
super gasoline price was $0.45/liter (l) in UAE; while it
was 0.16/l in SA, $22/l in Qatar, $21/l in Bahrain, $24/l
in Kuwait, and $31/l in Oman. The UAE diversifies its
PP primary fuel by starting to build Nuclear (N) PP hav-
ing four reactors of 1400 MW (electric) each. The activi-
ties in renewable energy are clear in Masdar project. This
project initiated in 2006 in Abu Dhabi, UAE. It is
planned to build a city relying entirely on solar energy
and other renewable energy sources, with a sustainable,
zero-carbon, zero-waste ecology. It will cost US$22 bil-
lion and take some eight years to build. Masdar will em-
ploy a variety of renewable power resources. Among the
first construction projects will be a 40 to 60 MW solar PP,
built by the German firm to supply power for all con-
struction activity. Also solar panels will be placed on
rooftops to provide supplemental solar energy of 130
MW. Wind farms will be established outside Masdar’s,
and capable of producing up to 20 MW.
In this context, the number of discussions and research
activities relating to the necessity of policies promoting
more sustainable forms of energy is recently increasing.
In [45,46] the solar and wind energy potentials are high-
lighted in the GCC. The authors have also listed the ma-
jor renewable energy (RE) projects (mainly solar and wind)
in each of the six GCC and have proposed a mechanism
to accelerate the RE utility in these countries.
From a different perspective, particular reference has
also been made in the international scientific literature
for the social and political specificities of the region re-
garding the ado ption of altern ative energy so urces; in [47]
the authors have composed an analytical review of the
current Renewable Energy Sources (RES) and Rational
Use of Energy (RUE) development status in the GCC
region, giving special emphasis to the business opportu-
nities that the region offers for reg ional and international
companies involved in this market. Patlitzianas et al.
(2006), have identified and assessed sustainable energy
investments in the framework of the EU-GCC coopera-
tion. Indeed, the smooth cooperation of EU and GCC key
energy players is considered important for the challeng-
ing objective to engage GCC countries in a more sus-
tainable development path [48-50].
8. Conclusions
The fuel mix changes relatively slowly, du e to long asset
lifetimes, but gas and non-fossil fuels gain share at the
expense of coal and oil. GCC should diversify fuel
sources by introducing renewables and nuclear energy
and investment in these resources. Energy demand man-
agement initiatives, including curtailment of energy sub-
The most preferred PP type using fossil fuel is the
GTCC; which is the predominantly installed and applied
in the GCC. The standard fuel used in the NG; and all
GCC countries, except Qatar, have to import NG to run
their PP. Although UAE and Kuwait started to import
NG, the most needed country, SA, does not start yet.
This may be for supply security reasons. Burning the too
expensive crude oil in PP is equivalent to burning money.
The per capita CO2 emission in GCC is the highest in the
world, and 100% use of fossil fuel should stopped by
using renewable energy. The UAE started to build NPP
to take share in satisfying its EP needs. SA also has plans
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. EPE
to build NPP. The UAE started also to build two large
concentrating solar plants (CSP). One plant has 100 MW
capacity and using parabolic trough solar collectors. The
second is solar tower having 10 MW electric capacity,
[8]. A share of solar energy in EP generation should be
adopted and fulfilled. The simple way is to augment the
GTCC by solar energy (to become integrated solar com-
bined cycle). The realization of electric power grid be-
tween the GCC opens the door for better energy co-op-
eration between the GCC. The availability of NG in
Qatar can be used to build excess power capacity in
Qatar to supply other needed GCC short of NG for EP
when needed. EP was exported in last two years from
Qatar to Kuwait. Conserving energy must be the highest
priority for the GCC countries, which have the highest
per capita of energy consumption worldwide.
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Bbl Barrels
BCF Billion cub ic feet
Bm3 Billion cubic meters
BMC Billion cubic meters
Ca Capita (person)
CPDP Cogeneration power desalting plants
D Day
DW Desalted seawater
Ebbl Equivalent barrel
EIA Energy information admi nistration, from the US
EP Electric power
FF Fossil fuel
GCC Gulf co-operation council countries
GDP Gross domestic product
GHG Greenhouse gases
GT Gas turbine
GTCC Gas turbine/steam turbine combined cycle
GWh Giga Watt hour = 1000 MWh = 106 kWh
H Hours
kW Kilo Watt = 1000 kJ/s
kWh Kilo-Watt hour, 3600 kJ
LNG Liquefied natural gas
M Minute, or meter
MAAGP Mina Al-Ahmad i Gas Port
MIG Million imperial gallons, 4546 m3
MIGD Million imperial gallons per day, 4546 m3/d, or
52.62 kg/s
MW Mega Watts = 1000 kW
NG Natural gas
OA P E C Organization of Arab petroleum exporting co u n-
PP Power plant
SA Saudi Arabia
TCF Trillion cubic feet
UAE United Arab emirates
Y Year
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