Hot Coals

What do IEA  Clean Coal Centre staff do when they are on holiday? They go and visit coal-fired power plants. Well I do. But this is the first time I have had the opportunity to visit a plant in the early stages of construction. Thanks to the generosity of DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority), a member organisation of the IEA Clean Coal Centre, I was permitted a site tour of the new Hassyan 2,400 MW clean power plant in Dubai, UAE.

My first question to my hosts was, of course, why on earth is Dubai building a coal-fired power plant? The answer is surprisingly simple – diversification and energy security. The country, like many around it, is heavily reliant on gas for electricity. And although many large solar projects are also under development, coal continues to provide advantages over renewable energy in terms of cost and reliability. As reported by the US Energy Information Administration this week, Dubai is not the only country in the middle east that is diversifying into coal for energy.

And the Hassyan project is not a gentle introduction to standard coal-fired power generation – DEWA is hitting the ground running with a state of the art demonstration of HELE technology (high efficiency low emission). With no history of coal combustion, the region has no pre-existing standards for emissions from this sector. Despite this, DEWA are building one of the cleanest plants in the world – a 2,400 MW, 4 unit, ultra-supercritical plant with every emission control technology currently available being installed from day one. And serious steps are being taken to ensure that the plant has minimal effects on the local environment:- intake and outflow pipes for the facility extend over 4.5 & 2.5 km respectively out from the coast line and land has been reclaimed from the sea to facilitate easy and safe delivery of coal shipments. Even coral reefs have been relocated to ensure that local, established sea-life is not disturbed. Next door to the site, in a co-located but separately operated site, there will be a large desalination unit, providing fresh water for the city.


The plant is not due for completion until 2023 and so at the moment it is very much still a building site with over 2,000 staff working in temperatures of over 40 Centigrade, not even the highest temperature Dubai will see this summer. As Picture 1 shows, Unit 1 is well under way with the ground almost complete for Unit 2 to begin. Work on Unit 1 stalled a little recently due to issues with the foundations. Building large structures on Dubai’s sand and stone does not come without challenges. Soil reinforcing was required along with additional & modified foundation supports to ensure the structure will remain stable, as shown in Picture 2. But work continues around this to keep the delay down to around 2 months or less. Picture 3 shows the hanging supports already in place, ready to attach the boiler once the supports underneath are completed.

The DEWA Hassyan plant is a clear indication to growing economies that coal can be an important part of a sustainable and diverse national energy portfolio and that investment in HELE technologies can ensure that environmental issues are minimised.

More information on the Hassyan plant can be found here.