RAK rubber factory turns to solar thermal plant as cheaper alternative to diesel

by Hatem Hussein

ABU DHABI, 16th January, 2019 (WAM) -- With the Expo 2020 right on our doorstep, many companies are looking for ways to demonstrate real innovation in renewable energy, CO2 reduction, and, needless to say cost-saving solutions.

During the now-running World Future Energy Summit, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) spoke to Faisal Noordeen, Managing Director of Ocean Rubber Factory (ORF) in Ras Al Khaimah.


"Considering the support from the government and the initiatives from the leaders of the UAE, industrial players will meet - if not exceed - the targets set for increasing renewables’ share in the energy mix," said Noordeen, whose company yesterday announced the 3-month results of the UAE’s first solar thermal deployment applied to Industrial Process Heat.

"At Ocean Rubber Factory, solar thermal contributes 27% of daily thermal energy use, which is a total renewable impact of 18-19%. We are discussing an expansion of the TVP solar thermal plant to increase this mix, including solar-driven cooling. This will not only cut the thermal load but also the cooling load, and push our renewable mix towards Ocean Rubber Factory's overall goal of 50%."

On the impact of digitalisation on the renewables industry, Noordeen said,"New technology allows for quick, easy reporting, troubleshooting, and precision control of any system. This is key for us at Ocean Rubber Factory, where energy is an important part of our process, and we need to act fast in case of problems, and allow for the optimisation of our systems."

The Rubber Factory and TVP Solar announced during the Summit yesterday the 3-month results of the UAE’s first solar thermal deployment applied to Industrial Process Heat.

Commissioned at ORF’s Ras Al Khaimah factory in September 2018, the solar thermal plant supplies a 180 C directly to the rubber manufacturing machinery. Even in the winter months, the TVP solar plant proved an average daily efficiency of 37% supplying 180 C, and producing an average 1.9 kWhth/m²/day.

TVP CEO, Piero Abbate, is emphatic, "Solar thermal kills diesel. TVP cost of heat is below 0.040 USD/kWhth today. Tomorrow we will be at two cents." He goes on to explain that "All UAE industrial players using fossil fuels can save money, cut CO2, and in particular can now via TVP qualify for sustainability targets required by the imminent Expo2020 in Dubai."

The solar thermal plant occupies 500 m², sized to match the peak heat demand of the Rubber Factory's machinery, and was installed within 5 weeks. This plant has been supplying 180 C consistently for 6 hours per day in wintertime daylight hours without any cleaning; this substantiates TVP’s unique claim of high performance, even in desert environments. Since commissioning, it has been operating continuously, automatically and unattended.

"Our Ras Al Khaimah facility runs 22 hours per day at 180 C, burning diesel. This costs us 0.53 USD/litre, nearly 50% more expensive than the solar thermal supply," said Noordeen.

"This winter, the TVP solar field is providing 27% of the average daily energy. Together we expect this to go up to 40% in the desert summer months."

Noordeen concluded that "With this project, Ocean Rubber Factory demonstrates its commitment to sustainability, while saving operating expense, and showing our engagement to adopt impactful innovations."

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