Valeria camerino asked a number of industry players to review the current trends, technologies and challenges IN the GCC gensets market.
Gensets can be used in a broad scope of applications, from rental to providing power on construction sites or worker camps, operating cranes, pumps and tools, or even as prime power for factories and/or offices, where mains power is still not yet fully developed.
Gensets end-users tend to prefer a brand over another on the basis of the specific amount of power at defined voltages and phase, and the reliability of this power source.
Michael Sagermann, Regional Business Line Manager – Portable Energy Division, at Sweden-headquartered ATLAS COPCO, believes that at a regional level, generator market trends have remained quite stable in recent years, with a few exceptions.
“We see that local governments are now mandating a silenced enclosure on all units working near residential areas, where this was not previously a prerequisite”, Sagermann says. “Also, with power demand still being greater than supply, customers look at cost-effective solutions to supplement their power shortages to keep their businesses running at peak output.”
From a manufacturers’ perspective, the company, like its competitors, is increasingly focusing on a systematic standardisation of products and assembly to achieve more efficient production by reducing lead times as market demand increases.
At a global level, gensets manufacturers have been paying great attention to environmental issues in order to comply with the latest exhaust emission norms, which are now being implemented in most regions worldwide.
This often results in a complete product redesign to adapt them to the latest exhaust emission-compliant diesel engines.
Sagermann believes that governments should increase pressure on generator manufacturers to supply only products with minimal adverse environmental impact, in line with the environmental policies that most countries around of the world have implemented.
“We have chosen to offer our customers only the most “green” products possible,” he says. “This sometimes results in business lost to more basic specification-minded competition, but ultimately we hope our customers will choose a more sustainable solution not only for their business but also for their local communities.”
Andrew Edensor, Electric Power Projects, Territory Manager -EAME Power Systems at gensets specialist Caterpillar says his company welcomes the accelerated pace at which the region is now adopting sustainable development policies.
“What’s interesting is that, even though emissions regulations don’t apply in the region, there is still a large demand for generator sets that help meet sustainability goals,” he observes.
He adds that many multinational companies responsible for infrastructure projects in the region have corporate sustainability targets, and they are looking to reduce their carbon footprints even though there are no regional legislative requirements to do so.
“Since all Cat diesel generator sets can operate on a wide range of biodiesel fuels, we find ourselves in an advantageous position,” Edensor says, adding that the vast majority of regional demand is for diesel power, although the market is moving towards standby power to support major regional investments in large-scale infrastructure projects, such as hospitals, airports, rail and other mass transport systems.
The demand for prime power units, used on projects where the utility is not available, is also showing signs of recovery from the deferment of projects that started about 18 months ago, he points out.
One of the most popular recent developments in power generation, he says, is the use of hybrid power systems in telecommunications.
“By optimising the usage of available renewable resources, such as solar or wind, and by operating the generator set at peak efficiency points, these hybrid power systems reduce total owning and operating costs, substantially decrease fuel consumption, heavily reduce the operator’s carbon foot print and maximise system reliability,” Edensor explains.
In his opinion, interest in gas as a fuel is also on the rise in the region, limited only by the extent of the regional distribution network.
“Caterpillar is investing heavily in this business to ensure we are the leader regionally and globally in the gaseous fuels opportunity, and the pending acquisition of MWM for €580 million (US$847 million) is testimony to this resolve,” he says.
Generator sets up 400kVA are primarily used to provide power for construction, while generator sets above 400kVA are used for standby power in infrastructure projects. Both markets demand high-efficiency machines that are reliable and durable, Edensor observes.
“Standby infrastructure projects have an added need for integration, and Caterpillar’s ability to offer totally integrated single source solutions, such as UPS, generator set controls and ATS, is a major factor in our leadership of the market regionally,” he says.
In many infrastructure projects, efforts are focused on maximising the square footage available for usage, or on making the power house hidden or remote. To meet the need, then, manufacturers of generator sets must be able to offer a high power density that demonstrates value.
“Caterpillar fulfills this need with our extensive range of engines, none more so than the C175, which offers a best-in-class power density that is capable of delivering 4000kVA / KWe at 50 / 60Hz from a high-speed diesel,” Edensor says.
Sagermann explains that technologies and specifications differ widely from one brand to another, from the very basic to the sophisticated, according to the industry sectors a product is meant to target.
“For example, a rental company requires a product that is robust and durable as it needs to be moved frequently, multi-purpose (ie: it has voltage and phase selection capability and various control options), simple to use and maintain, and that offers low noise emissions since the genset could be operating in a sensitive area, such as near hospitals,” he observes.
The company has taken a three-pronged approach, designing QAX, QAS and QAC ranges, each of which target a specific customer sector.
QAX is a 12-70kVA product built in the same frame, enclosure and wheeled undercarriage of their portable air compressor.
The 14-500kVA QAS range targets the rental and contractor sectors where the genset might be used in multiple applications. Built upon a very sturdy skid base-frame and enhanced-strength super silenced enclosure, the QAS range specification is far more complete to give customers far more flexibility and added value for their investment, the company claims.
According to ATLAS COPCO, the 800-1250kVA QAC range is the most sophisticated, built within a CSC/ISO 20ft container it incorporates a VSD drive fan for reduced noise and fuel consumption as well as standard refinery package and full Power Management System controller.
In May, the company launched an extension to its QAC range of generators, the QAC1250. The QAC1250 is a dual frequency, multi-voltage genset, which will provide prime power 1,250kVA (50Hz) and 1,375kVA (60Hz) power to the latest Tier 3 – compliant Cummins diesel engine.
Over the coming months, ATLAS will also compliment its current QAS range gensets with a Cummins engine option up to 500kVA, as it currently uses various engine brands based on power capacity.
Sagermann believes that the next generation generators’ development will be driven by two key factors: legislative requirements – directives set by governing bodies in relation to exhaust emission, noise levels and spill containment – and market requirements, effectively supplying a product the market demands.
“The GCC challenges are numerous,” he says. “First and foremost are the environmental challenges, such as high temperatures and humidity that provoke de-rating. Another key challenge is the ever present blowing dust and sand that can hamper performance. And finally, there is the challenge of making a higher specification generator easy to use, since much of the local labour force is imported with little experience.”
Atlas Copco incorporates a very strict NPD (New Product Development) Process, Sagermann says.
“Being a global company we develop products for the global market, thereby the same machine must be able to work in +55°C with high dust and sand levels, as well as in -35°C with blowing snow and ice. We employ enormous resources and attention to ‘get it right the first time’.”
He explains that it can take up to two years for a new product to undergo its complete development. Significant investment is made to test the product in the various environments it could potentially operate.
In terms of standards and specifications, Sagermann emphasises that the company has always used the most stringent legislative standards as the baseline for its products.
All Atlas Copco products are compliant with EC directives related to exhaust emissions, noise levels and other environmental issues, such as spillage-free containment and are, therefore, approved for use in the UAE as well as globally.
Cat generator sets are manufactured to global standards, recognised throughout the GCC, including the ISO 8528 standard for generator sets as well as the ISO 14000 standards for environmental management. “We play an active role by participating heavily in regulatory and standard committees in the region and around the globe to ensure that Caterpillar is at the forefront within our industry,” Edensor says.
The primary challenge the company faces is in providing service and aftermarket backup demanded by customers.
To overcome this barrier, it relies on an extensive dealer network.
“Our dealers in the region have provided exceptional service for many decades; in fact, some have been in business for 50, even 60 years. Cat Dealers have a close familiarity with the market and an in-depth knowledge of customer needs, and they have made substantial investments to ensure that their service offerings are first-rate,” points out Edensor.
For Sagermann, one of the key challenges that gensets manufacturers have to tackle to operate within the GCC region is demand exceeding supply.
“We experience a significant increase in portable power needs which has put enormous pressure on our supply chain and production,” he says. “We have earlier invested in a sizeable pre-order for our factories to improve the availability for our customers.”
Another challenge for the company is that it doesn’t know in advance who will be operating the generator. “This highlights the need for simple operation processes; however, we still want to offer a fully comprehensive control and monitoring system where the end user can see what is happening with their generator,” Sagermann says. “This means incorporating more electronics, but the key step is to make the system easy to use and read, as well as ensuring reliability.”