Adnoc and Tabreed assess more UAE sites for geothermal energy-driven cooling plants

Companies are looking to replicate the success of their G2COOL plant at Masdar City elsewhere at a larger scale

Adnoc and Tabreed have commenced operations at the region’s first geothermal cooling plant, in Masdar City. Photo: Adnoc
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Adnoc and the National Central Cooling Company, better known as Tabreed, have started operations at their geothermal energy-fed district cooling plant at Masdar City and have identified more sites to replicate the project at a larger scale in the UAE, the companies' senior executives said.

The region's first such plant decarbonises the way buildings are cooled in Abu Dhabi green city Masdar and will help in diversifying the UAE’s energy mix in line with the country’s National Energy Strategy, the companies said.

“There is more opportunity inside Masdar City and that's one of the areas. There are also large … areas that we've identified inside Abu Dhabi and, of course, across the UAE as well,” Sophie Hildebrand, chief technology officer at Adnoc, told a media briefing on Monday.

“Tabreed is a global company and they have a global reach, so the two of us together, we see great opportunity here for leveraging this technology further to help countries meet their net-zero goals,” Ms Hildebrand said of the potential of replicating the project's success beyond the UAE.

The G2COOL plant is funded through Adnoc’s initial Dh55 billion ($15 billion) allocation towards low carbon solutions aimed at achieving net zero by 2045.

Adnoc has successfully “proven the concept inside Masdar City” and is currently working with Tabreed to assess its requirements for district cooling, Ms Hildebrand said.

Adnoc will also assess the "overlap between where geology works and where Tabreed requires district cooling”, she said.

The hot water generated by heat from the wells passes through an absorption cooling system to produce chilled water, which is then supplied to Tabreed’s district cooling network at Masdar City.

The chilled water derived from this source of clean energy accounts for 10 per cent of Masdar City’s cooling needs.

The two companies are “extremely happy” with the results and are ready to move into the next phase, Ms Hildebrand added.

“With all things you scale, you do the next larger and larger and … we're excited to see what we can do next,” she said.

Geothermal energy harnesses the heat generated within the Earth’s core to provide a constant energy source, unlike solar or wind, which are intermittent in nature. Geothermal energy plants also have high-capacity factors, meaning they can run at maximum power for longer periods.

“Geothermal [plant] is just two wells connected to our district cooling system so it's a limited footprint. If you want to bring the same [power] using solar, you will need a much bigger footprint,” said Antonio Di Cecca, Tabreed's chief operating officer.

“This is one of the limiting factors that pushed us to explore the geothermal because we don't want to depend on the energy mix of the grid.”

In March, Adnoc Drilling signed a five-year preliminary agreement with Masdar to explore partnerships and investments in geothermal energy.

“For the very first time, we have tapped into the abundance of clean underground thermal energy available here in the UAE," said Musabbeh Al Kaabi, Adnoc executive director for Low Carbon Solutions and International Growth.

"Early efficiency performance from the G2COOL plant has surpassed our expectations, proving that geothermal energy is a viable way to decarbonise the way we cool buildings, which is one of the most energy-intensive activities in our region."

Adnoc’s $15 billion allocation on low carbon solutions is directed at a range of projects to come by the end of the decade.

The projects include clean power, carbon capture and storage, further electrification of operations, energy efficiency and new measures to build on its policy of zero routine gas flaring.

The UAE is investing heavily in clean energy projects and has announced several initiatives as it seeks to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The country is developing clean energy projects such as the Barakah nuclear plant, a two-gigawatt solar plant in Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi, and the five-gigawatt Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai.

In July, the UAE Cabinet approved an updated version of the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 and the development of the National Hydrogen Strategy.

Under the updated objectives of the UAE Energy Strategy 2050, the Arab world’s second-largest economy will invest Dh200 billion by 2030 to ensure energy demand is met while sustaining economic growth.

Updated: December 04, 2023, 10:54 AM