Thursday, November 13, 2014

So, you think you’re saving energy?

Here are some household energy saving practices that in reality do not save as much energy as you think….

That there is a possibility that the world may run out of fossil fuels used to produce energy has been heralded by different organizations and entities throughout the world. In this light, energy conservation and efficient usage efforts and practices have been ramped up in the past several years. In fact, most people mitigate the risks of an energy crisis by adopting energy saving practices at home. According to studies, however, a great deal of what is being practiced at home is not as effective as most of us think. We selected four of the most popular energy saving myths and took a close look at why they aren't completely working and at what should be done to improve on them.  

Practice no. 1: Using screen savers to save energy
Using screen savers on your computer does not prompt your machine to go into energy saving mode. In fact, a screen saver is actually a file running on your computer, which means that as the screen saver cycles, your machine is working even harder. It is advisable to deactivate screen savers and set your computers to sleep after 10 or 15 minutes of inactivity instead. It is also a good idea to turn your monitor off during times of inactivity.

Practice no. 2: Not turning a computer off because starting from power-off consumes more electricity
When a computer is constantly on sleep mode and never turned off, it still consumes a significant amount of energy required for it to be readily awake if necessary. In fact, both the computer and the monitor are drawing power to keep themselves in suspended mode. It is advisable to put your computer off when it will not be in use for a long period of time. In fact, you can automatically set your computer to shut down at certain times.

Practice no. 3: Turning appliances off without unplugging
It is true that turning gadgets and appliances off when not in use will save energy. Keeping them plugged, however, will still result in a considerable electricity consumption, owing to what is called “vampire power”. When appliances are kept plugged, they still take electricity from the wall socket. The easiest way to counter this is to unplug things that are not in use.

Practice no. 4: Leaving an appliance on, because turning it off and on often shortens its lifespan
It used to be true that putting appliances or lights off and on often would reduce their potential lifespan. But, that is no longer the case today. Technology has taken a huge leap that lights, appliances and gadgets can be turned off and on anytime without harming them. Remember, leaving something on for more than a brief period of time uses more energy than shutting it off when not needed and turning back on when in use.

Fossil fuels are finite resources, and with today’s massive energy requirements, drying it up is not a far-fetched scenario. In these crucial times, even the littlest of energy conservation effort carried out at home, when done collectively, can go a long way. It is much better, however, if one maximizes the results with even a slight change in practice.


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Monday, November 10, 2014

Risks of Working in Confined Spaces at Power Plants

Working in confined spaces is often touted to be one of the most risky types of work carried out in power generation contexts. The risks involved in working in enclosed spaces may include exposure to hazardous atmospheres, suffocation, electrocution or burns. Dangerous as it is, the hazards of working in such an environment can be predicted and mitigated, and the impending accidents prevented.

One of the foremost dangers of working in enclosed spaces is exposure to electrical energy. Arc flashes and thermal burns are especially dangerous in such a working condition, as it may be difficult for a worker to avoid unintentional contact or proximity. Flammability is another hazard, as the equipment already inside the space and the devices introduced by the worker into the space can potentially be sources of ignition.

When working in energized enclosed spaces is indispensable, safety procedures, such as de-energizing electrical equipment and controlling access to risky premises, should be strictly followed. In addition, it is essential to train and orient the workers prior to deploying them for work in enclosed areas.

Another danger of working in confined spaces is engulfment. Presence of matters such as coal, sand and dirt, to name a few, poses a considerable risk. For instance, when an auger operates, matters such as the ones mentioned flow out of the bottom of the storage area. Matters at the top may not flow down evenly, forming what is called a temporary bridge out of the matter. When a worker walks over the surface of a bridged matter, he or she can be immediately engulfed.

Pipes through which gases and liquids pass through also present several potential risks. Valves and pipes inside confined spaces are hard to access and infrequently inspected, and leaks could instantaneously create a dangerous situation. Moreover, since materials being transported in pipes, such as steam or refrigerants, are at extreme temperatures, working in close proximity with the pipes can bring a considerable risk.

The stratified gaseous atmosphere in enclosed spaces, such as tanks, also represents danger for workers. Gases have different densities and can rise or sink relative to each other. Depending on the temperature and source of the matter, gaseous hazards may be found anywhere in an enclosed area. In order to mitigate this risk, the air must be evaluated at short intervals in a potentially stratified atmosphere, and workers should only be allowed to venture into the spaces where atmosphere has been tested.  

The foregoing situations are just a few of the potentially dangerous conditions that require a thorough evaluation before engineers and professionals are sent to work in them. Aside from what is evaluated, a keen attention should also be given to the team doing the evaluation. A company has to make sure that the group is thoroughly trained and qualified, and evaluated to perform the processes. Emergency communications should also be well defined and centralized. A phone number or emergency contact detail should be on every document or work order so the information is easily accessible in cases when it is needed.


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sharing the Power Pie

Many residents and businesses that packed their bags and left the Middle East at the height of the crisis are now zipping their luggage for a completely polar reason.

As the Middle East rises from the ashes of the recent financial downturn, a great number of companies and ex-residents that fled the region are now clawing to take the next flight in. The Middle Eastern governments, particularly in the GCC countries, have remained tenacious in the face of the downturn and strategically, albeit riskily, continued to disburse notable amounts to fund infrastructure, commercial and residential projects, which were then in danger of being either stalled or cancelled. Now, in light of the nascent regional upturn, these projects (in addition to new ones) are gaining traction, and the companies that used to shy away from them from fear of an unprecedented collapse are now optimistically tendering to win the rights to capitalize on the burgeoning GCC construction industry.

However, the companies and the residents in the GCC will not only have the economic and financial rewards to share among themselves – each of them will also have to take a piece of the region’s energy supply, which may not be as rapidly expanding as the economy or as actively evolving as the industrial processes. A perennial issue in the developing economies, like the Middle East, is the observed discrepancy between the rate of economic and industrial expansion and of investments in power-related infrastructure. Economic activities in emerging markets are increasing at a remarkably fast pace while projects related to power generation or distribution are, most of the time, suffering notable delays.

That the demand for energy outstrips the supply may bring about serious repercussion in the foreseeable future. Most of the countries in the Middle East depend on natural gas – a finite resource – for electricity, and though the present demand may not result in its complete depletion, an occasional spike in energy requirements, like during the summer months or seasons of intense oil & gas or commercial production, may result in supply hiccups which are not to be underestimated.

When the demand overwhelms the supply channels, power outages may occur. Saudi Arabia has reportedly experienced several occurrences of massive power interruptions in recent years, said to be due to the demanding energy requirement during the hottest and peak production months. The emirate of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates has also felt the economic effects of a sustained power interruption, with local industrial companies reporting cumulative losses between AED 70 million and AED 100 million.

To prevent the recurrence of power interruptions, governments in the Middle East are exploring the possibility of tapping other sources of energy to boost their respective countries’ electricity supply. Some countries in the GCC are keenly looking at harnessing the power of the sun to complement their traditional energy sources. Saudi Arabia has announced that it is looking to install 41 GW of solar power by 2032, predicted to yield enough energy to support 20% of its total electricity production. Kuwait is already mapping out plans to at least produce 5% of its electricity from solar means, while the UAE, Jordan and Qatar have also unveiled solar generation targets on the gigawatt scale.

Over the next few years, these objectives will translate into large-scale power-related infrastructure projects aimed at enhancing the overall electricity generation capabilities of the aforementioned Middle Eastern countries. There is however, an unaccounted arc that calls for a more heightened attention: What happens, then, between now and the time when these projects are finally fully operational? Will power interruptions continue to persist? Will load shedding be a regular solution so that power plants avert the possibility of a total shutdown? Will companies, factories, oil & gas facilities and mining sites in the Middle East continue to suffer financial loses when the power supply cannot support their operational demands?

A power boost
Interim power generation plants could represent an immediate, viable, sustainable and cost-efficient solution to energy-related problems while the permanent electricity infrastructure is still being planned, evaluated or constructed. Rental power technologies, as the ones provided by Altaaqa Global CAT Rental Power, can provide cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional sources of power when situations call for a boost in power supply, like during the summer months or during the completion of large-scale activities. Gas, diesel or dual-fuel (70% gas and 30% diesel) generators are specifically developed to reduce fuel costs and encourage cost-savings on the part of the end-users.

Interim power station technologies also provide the most flexible power solution to support base load, intermediate, peaking or standby power generation. These solutions are adaptable enough to meet the exact requirements of different industries in the Middle East, such as utility, industrial manufacturing, oil & gas, mining, petrochemical, maritime and aviation to name a few.

Substation-free power plants have also been developed to cater to areas where there may not exist substations. These types of mobile power systems can directly hook up to the grid, thanks to a state-of-the-art packaged protection system.

Making supply meet demand
Rising from the ruins of the recent economic slump, the Middle East is now enjoying a market resurgence. The region has once again caught the attention of foreign and local investors alike, and is currently witnessing rapid growth in infrastructure-, utility- and construction-related activities. The current regional trend, however, is taking its toll on the region’s energy supply, thus the heightened urgency to find alternative sources of electrical power, both for short- and medium-term utilization. Renewable sources are gaining traction and gradual acceptance and application, but for immediate electricity requirements in any occasion, be it natural calamities, power plant shutdowns, grid instability, supply shortages or back-up, rental power systems still represent the foremost choice.

*The foregoing article is based on what was originally published in the October issue of Utilities Middle East magazine, published by ITP.*


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Tribute to the Real Heroes of Energy

Though there are a million heroes across the literary works of different cultures around the world, they are all variants of a prototype going through a monomyth.   

Marvel has just announced a slew of movies for the next five years. Featuring the next part of the Avengers series to stories of never-been-featured characters, the next years will surely be exciting for fans of epics and superhero movies. Did you know that no matter the name, the background, the costume nor the superpower, heroes in movies or books are in reality molded from a single prototype? Joseph Campbell, in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, endeavored to trace what he calls the monomyth or “the hero’s journey” by studying thousands of epics and hero stories from different cultures throughout the arc of history.

Every hero story starts in the hero’s ordinary world. The hero goes on doing what he normally does, until he receives a call to adventure – a challenge, a cry for help or a personal quest. Then he departs and embarks on a journey to an unknown world. At this juncture, the hero faces several trials, which he conquers one by one, till he reaches the ultimate challenge. At this point, the hero encounters difficulties that push him to the brink of defeat. But, the hero recovers and defeats the enemy. In his victory, the hero receives a recognition and, then, returns to his world. Upon his return, the hero enjoys a better life and a stronger character, fortified by his ordeals and forged by conquered trials.

Imagine the new-age heroes, like Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games or Harry Potter. Their stories follow the same pattern, though rendered unique by auxiliary characters and interpretation. The hero’s journey myth exists in every culture and constantly evolves, because we humans “reflect on our world through symbolic stories of our own lives”. Heroic characters are not only found in the great literatures of the world, they are among us every day, and even in us.

Closer to home, engineers working at temporary power plants are heroes in their own right. They are deployed to disaster-stricken countries or perilous areas to complete a job, and they willingly march on to heed the call of duty. When they arrive at the location, they are faced with numerous operational, logistical and technical challenges that push the envelope of engineering ingenuity.

When the power stations are installed, they confront the reality of putting them on to start supplying electricity to the area. When the power plants are finally operational, the fulfillment of completing a job and serving thousands of people represents their reward and recognition, after all the trials that they, in the end, conquered and surmounted.

After decommissioning the plants, the engineers go back to their bases changed men and women, better informed and ever more confident of the vocation they chose to pursue.

As Joseph Campbell once said: “In the cave one fears to enter, lies the treasure one seeks.” Each of us has a “cave” – be it a job interview, an examination, being away from family or being deployed to far-reaching areas. We have to listen to our personal calls to adventure, accept the challenge, conquer our fears and claim our treasures. At the end of every adventure, we will come out as more creative designers, more innovative engineers, more talented singers, more graceful dancers… better human beings, ready to do it all over again.


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Seize the Opportunity

During peak production seasons, it is not rare for utility companies to set ceiling caps for electricity consumption or to charge a premium during hours of heavy energy demand. They even warn some companies to taper their energy usage or they will be compelled to pay a hefty penalty.

In cases such as this, what choice do industrial companies have?

Many companies, especially those in consumer goods and industrial production, only have a handful of months that they regard as their peak production season. During these months, the requirement for their products exponentially increase, hence they find the need to use their production machinery at full capacity and to extend their operational hours round-the-clock. As a result of intense production activities, their power consumption spikes.

Will they have to control their electricity usage and risk foregoing the opportunity of making double or triple their off-peak revenue? Will they have to go on with the feverish production pace and choose to pay the penalty, which could take a sizable amount off the profit that they will be making?
Hiring the services of temporary power providers to augment the existing power supply is an option that industrial companies can take in times of peak production. Using mobile power stations will allow these companies to avoid paying a considerable penalty imposed by utility companies, and to work around the ceiling cap for energy consumption if they require more electrical power. There is a real risk that the increased tariff rate during peak hours and the fine enforced by the utility companies may take out a substantial amount from a company’s peak season revenues. In times like this, it may be more cost-beneficial to run alternative power sources, like interim power plants.

Because temporary power stations are modular, flexible and adaptive, they can be easily installed in a variety of customer locations anywhere in the world. Modern gensets have the capability of producing electricity according to customer requirements, precluding over- or under-sizing. They also have a plug-and-play configuration that allows them to be installed, commissioned and activated in as little as days.

More importantly, as a temporary solution when power demand is heightened, mobile power plants bring more cost-efficiency compared to paying hefty fines or limiting production activities. Several studies conducted in different industries in different countries show that in short- or medium-term use, the price of procuring, running and maintaining power plants for hire is significantly lesser than the cost related to the effects of lost business opportunities, customers, production time and raw materials.

The negative effects of peak lopping can be countered by engaging the services of mobile generator providers. Temporary power plants are cost-beneficial and bring about invaluable paybacks to the operations of industrial entities. With interim power plants, companies can take full advantage of a peak production season onwards to raising a more sustainable and prolific business.  

 *The foregoing article is based on what was originally published in the October 2014 issue of Power Watch magazine, India.*


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Balanced Energy Mix

India’s energy situation was precarious. Energy experts estimated that about 300 million people in India had no access to electricity, and that the demand for energy in the country was consistently outstripping the supply. Energy authorities feared for the worst as electricity requirement during months of peak consumption was expected to exploit the country’s thin energy capacity.

Recognizing the situation’s need for an urgent resolution, the country has ventured into ambitious renewable energy generation projects that could potentially instill balance and reliability to India’s mix of energy sources. Now, India is said to have the fifth-largest power generation portfolio and is touted to be the fifth largest wind energy producer in the world. Power generation from renewable sources in the country is on the rise. In 2013, the share of renewable power in the country’s total energy mix accounted for 12.3%, up from 7.8% in 2012. Wind power accounts for 68% of the aforementioned percentage, with an installed capacity of 19.1 GW. India has also entered into small hydropower, biomass and solar energy generation.

Drivers for growth of renewable energy generation
India’s economy is now enjoying an upturn, with growth rates predicted to peak at 6% in the coming years. With the expanding economy come the growth in urbanization and the rise in per capita energy consumption. As electricity requirements in the country increases, expenses from importing fossil fuel for power generation proportionally spikes. In this light, government authorities in India deemed to encourage the country’s transition from fossil-based energy options to renewable sources through offering various incentives, such as tax holidays and generation-based incentives (GBIs).
When technologies were gradually rolled out, renewable energy proved to be increasingly cost-competitive compared to fossil-based power. Renewable sources were also considered to be highly scalable and distributed, thus alternative power generation became justifiable in the electrification of remote areas, which may have deficiency in power grid and road infrastructure.

With renewable energy generation becoming an attractive endeavor for foreign and local investors alike, India’s government created a liberal environment for investment in renewable energy projects.

Some challenges ahead
India is now among the world leaders in renewable energy generation. While the process holds much potential, there are some observed challenges that are yet to be resolved by the country.

Experts on the ground reveal that one of the obstacles to the proliferation of renewable energy facilities, particularly that of wind and solar, is the perceived insufficiency in the strict employment of renewable purchase obligations (RPOs), which is said to be limiting the demand for power from renewable energy sources. Constraints in transmission infrastructure is also a salient hindrance, because, owing to this, only a limited amount of generated power reaches the grid. Economic factors, like a weak Indian Rupee and delays in payment, also put pressure on project financing and investor interest, respectively.

Perhaps the most striking disadvantage of utilizing renewable energy sources, say experts, is their unpredictability and apparent instability. As wind or solar power generation facilities depend on nature to run, it may be difficult to forecast its performance, which is of particular importance in critical applications. While highly sophisticated prediction equipment is available, it cannot be 100% reliable, and weather disturbances or aberrations can still happen. In cases when there is not enough natural “fuel” to run renewable generation facilities, the areas to which they supply could suffer from load shedding or rolling blackouts. Additionally, in peak summer months or in the coldest winter months when climate control systems are usually in full blast, renewable energy plants can potentially be overwhelmed by the demand if not enough impetus enters the systems.

The need for an energy “safety net”
For a burgeoning country like India, the solution to sustaining economic growth and energy viability may not be simply ascribed to one single source of power. It has been documented that the country’s existing traditional permanent power infrastructure may encounter some difficulties in supporting India’s power demands in a variety of contexts, hence the effort that the country is exerting to make inroads into renewable energy generation. While the new technologies may hold water, total immersion into the new paradigm may take time, as shown by the range of legislative and economic considerations that still present themselves as impediments to alternative energy growth. Renewable technologies are on their way to progress and advancement, as research and development endeavors are well encouraged by the Indian powers that be. Improvement, however, may not happen overnight, and as it unravels, renewable energy facilities may find merit it taking in support from stable and tested technologies, like rental power systems.

Rental generators may be able to supplement the existing power generated by traditional and renewable sources of energy. They can act as an energy “safety net”, preventing electricity levels from falling beyond what is acceptable and productive. These rental generator sets are equipped with state-of-the-art fast-start systems that allows them to supply the needed power at the shortest possible time, in cases of instability from other sources of electricity.

Interim energy technologies also represents a cost-effective immediate solution to power supply shortages, as they do not require sizable initial capital to be acquired. India, as a country looking to increase its expenditure in renewable sources in years to come, may find benefit in this attribute, as renting power generators would not entail denting a country’s budget or restructuring financial resources allocated to other services.

Because they are modular and flexible, temporary generators can also be installed where renewable energy facilities find most appropriate applications. Rental power systems can be easily delivered from any point on Earth to another and, owing to its easy, plug-and-play configuration, can be started in as short as few days.

With rental power plants on board, the perceived limitations of traditional and renewable energy sources can be overcome, and the power can be bridged until the other sources regain their stability. In this context, temporary power plants find their maximum benefit in being used as supplementary or back-up power while permanent energy facilities are being constructed or refurbished, or when alternative energy sources are being advanced and improved.

The key to power is balance
Having a balanced energy mix may be the key to a sustained economic, political and social stability. As countries like India enjoy an economic upturn, growth industries, such as manufacturing, utilities and oil & gas, should be expected to consume large sums of energy. With limited resources, it may be difficult for a country to rein in energy consumption at the expense of economic opportunities. What developing countries need are support systems – like what rental power plants are for energy sustainability. As India maps its road to energy stability, temporary electricity generation facilities are available to support the country’s existing infrastructure to produce continuous and reliable electricity needed to power the country’s future.

*The foregoing article is based on what was originally published in the September 2014 issue of EPC&I magazine, Northern Lights Communications, India.*


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505