Portable power

Portable power is often the only option available when the site is in a remote location and not hooked up to the main electricity supply network.

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By  Colin Foreman Published  July 17, 2004

Portable power|~|main plantBody.jpg|~|Power generation in Bahrain|~|Portable power is often the only option available when the site is in a remote location and not hooked up to the main electricity supply network. “Since Dubai is growing outwards, it is difficult to supply power to construction sites in outlying areas that may not be connected to power supply. For these sites it is much easier and much faster for the contractors to mobilise with rental power,” says Shibu Meeran, rental sales specialist, Oasis Construction Equipment Rental/Cat Rental Power. Portable power may be a better option even when power from the grid is available. “Often, the contractor will supply their own power on a construction site and this is usually agreed with the developer in advance regardless of proximity to the electricity network. By utilising their own power source the contractor can offer the developer a complete reliable and safe turnkey package with minimal disruption to the developer,” says Phil Burns. area director Middle East, Aggreko. A great deal of projects therefore rely upon portable generator sets for their power, including large projects like Palm Island, Arabian Ranches, Dubai Festival City, Dubai Finance Centre, Dubai Airport expansion, Dubai Marina, and Jumeirah Beach Residence. The sheer number of construction sites dotted both in and around town has meant that generator sets are now one of the most sought after pieces of equipment on the market. “The generator hire market has grown in and around the UAE. Dubai in particular has experienced huge levels of demand in a whole range of industries, but especially construction,” says Pat Fallon, general manager, Byrne Equipment Rental. For the construction industry, the demand has come from all market sectors. “The construction industry in the Middle East has grown rapidly over the last ten years and is expected to continue for some time, particularly in Dubai. As the residential population has increased significantly and projects such as Dubai Marina and The Lakes have been developed with many more to follow. The increasing tourism industry also places a much higher demand on infrastructure resulting in the need for airport expansion and a road system upgrade,” says Burns. “Aggreko has provided power on a wide range of construction projects; from plant and industrial construction to residential and commercial projects,” adds Burns. The market has changed as it has developed. “With a history of almost 30 years in this market, and uniquely the widest range of equipment in any hire fleet, we at Byrne Equipment Rental have seen huge changes over the years. Today those changes come hard and fast and we have to be able to adapt quickly to the ever changing needs of our customers, bearing in mind that in this competitive environment it is not enough to just have good equipment on your fleet - quality, price, and service also play a key role,” says Fallon. One option that many contractors opt for when sourcing portable power, is rental. “Many contractors prefer to rent power generation equipment for their construction projects. Not only does this avoid unnecessary initial expenditure of capital, it ensures that the generators are installed reliably and safely within a predetermined timeframe. Furthermore, generator maintenance is taken care of by specially qualified engineers,” says Burns. Power is required on construction sites for a whole range of applications. “Generators are used when the site is initially set up when no mains power is available, and this requirement continues to grow as sites develop. Further down the line you have bigger and more complex needs e.g., at the commissioning stage,” says Fallon. During the construction period generators are used to power all sorts of things; such as site offices, portable cabins, power tools, tower cranes, air conditioning, and the later for the building’s commissioning requirements,” says Meeran. “Construction sites usually specify what their power requirement will be in advance. It can be a bit more complicated when there are specific commissioning requirements where certain starting criteria have to be met, so we do the sizing for them,” adds Meeran. One the equipment side of things, the construction industry typically uses mid-sized generator sets. “The construction industry uses a wide range of generator sizes. Typically, 250kVA to 500kVA sizes are used but anything from 15kVA to 1250kVA can be used depending on power requirements,” says Burns. There is no hard and fast rule for the number of generators a site needs. It depends on the construction programme and how spread out the site is. The actual generator set is not the only equipment required as the total power solution requires generator sets, diesel tanks, a distribution network, and cabling. A distribution network and cabling is essential so that tools, site offices and other equipment can be connected up to the generator. Diesel tanks on the other hand are not essential. “Not that many projects use additional diesel tanks because most sites have a number of generators and receive regular diesel deliveries from fuel suppliers. Most Caterpillar generators come with short duration tanks and they make do with that. I would says that about 30% of the sites that we power opt for external tanks,” says Meeran. Although a good product is obviously important, it must be backed up with service. “Service is the one thing people look for more than anything else, and it is now the expected norm, whether it is the marine business or oil and gas industry. The construction industry with its extremely tight budgets and programmes is no different, and they insist on good quality service and back up,” says Fallon. ”Byrne Equipment Rental have set the standard with their mobile 24-hour service crews operating within each of their outlets throughout the Gulf region. “Power failure on a construction site can be disastrous, effectively halting operations. Service and maintenance is a prerequisite for the efficient operation of the generator and will help prevent downtime. Aggreko provides a comprehensive service to the construction industry that includes a complete power package available at low or high voltages, distribution systems, fuel management and specialised engineers to design, install, manage and maintain the equipment on site,” says Burns. Regular servicing can help ensure that the machine will not suffer from unexpected breakdowns. “Equipment up to 500 kv needs to be serviced every 250 hours, whereas the larger equipments needs servicing every 500 hours. This normally involves a standard servicing like an oil change and filter replacements,” says Meeran. Rental companies with large fleets rely on specialised software to track the status of machines and their service intervals. The user is often unaware of when servicing is required so the supplier has to be proactive permanent In addition to this, rental companies can also place staff permanently on site to ensure that the equipment is well maintained, for smaller projects that do not require a permanent physical presence onsite mobile service engineers can always be called upon. “We have about seven to eight people who are always mobile around Dubai and Sharjah. Depending on the traffic they can respond to a breakdown and be on site within one hour,” says Meeran. “Most breakdowns occur when the generator has not been put in for service, and more often than not the problem is a minor one like the filter needs replacing. When something can’t be fixed onsite the customer is given a replacement set so the downtime is minimised,” adds Meeran. Diesel quality is also a crucial factor for machine reliability. “Fuel quality is extremely important to run generators effectively. Low quality diesel can cause irreparable damage to the generator and ultimately result in downtime. Aggreko generators have primary and secondary fuel filtration systems built into the generators which work by filtering the impurities out of the fuel before entering the engine,” says Burns. “If customers are concerned about black outs or brown outs they should make sure they are using good quality diesel from a reputable supplier. They are not saving money because that black out time is their time, and costs them money,” says Meeran.||**||

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