Potential energy

With the launch of Energy City Qatar, the region has the chance to create a world-leading project, but it requires an infrastructure to match, as Daniel Stanton finds out.

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By  Daniel Stanton Published  December 5, 2006

|~|Energy-City-Press-Conferenc.jpg|~|Energy hub: ICT can create added value.|~|Oil and gas has long been the foundation of the Gulf's prosperity, but often the region has failed to offer the value-added services associated with the energy industry.

The developers of Energy City Qatar (ECQ) hope to change that by creating a custom-built business hub to focus on the entire oil and gas supply chain.

In building the development from the ground up, ECQ has taken the decision to create a 'city with a brain' and invest in a state-of-the-art communications infrastructure, to be delivered by Cisco and its partners.

In conjunction with a team including Accelerator Technology Holdings, Cisco will identify and design advanced technology solutions to create the infrastructure required to support the US$2.6 billion regional energy hub, which is part of Qatar's Lusail development.

Qatar, which has a healthy supply of oil and boasts the world's largest natural gas reserves outside Russia and Iran, is in a good position to attract both upstream and downstream investment in a bid to develop its economy in other parts of the energy supply chain.

The project is part of the economic vision of His Highness the Emir of Qatar and is located in the northern part of Doha, alongside what will be the international headquarters of Qatar Petroleum, making it the Middle East's first integrated energy business centre.

"Other energy business hubs have developed organically over time to answer the need to have one location in each region to enable the synergy between upstream and downstream companies," says Bob Moore, Energy City CEO.

"Having undertaken an exhaustive planning process including face-to-face conversations with global industry leaders, Energy City Qatar has identified a number of industry specific products, services and facilities that are either prerequisite or competitively advantageous in the long run in the establishment of a global energy hub for the 21st century."

Facilities will include the new International Mercantile Exchange (IMEX), shipping and logistics, and business process outsourcing services.

As well as sophisticated office facilities, ECQ will also include a US$1 billion residential development for workers and their families, making the whole development one of the world's largest IP-enabled projects, and the largest for Cisco in the region.

The business park will contain approximately 92 buildings and be designed to accommodate around 20,000 employees.

"One of the foundation stones required to make such a sophisticated and integrally dependent facility work efficiently and seamlessly is the most advanced and comprehensive technological platform available," says Moore.

"We needed to ensure that the technological platform for the city will enable communication locally and internationally whilst supporting the most sophisticated office facility management technology. Energy City Qatar must take its place as a link in the worldwide network of existing energy industry hubs and also as the first purpose-built it has the opportunity to become the most connected and technologically efficient of them all."
||**|||~||~||~|He adds: "As the Middle East hub for energy business equities, Energy City Qatar must deliver access to the highest possible standards of connectivity and efficiency. Cisco's proven expertise and ingenuity will help us to make this a reality."

Without a robust, innovative communications infrastructure, much of what ECQ hopes to achieve would not be possible. As Moore says: "A 21st century business infrastructure is key."
Not only does the high end infrastructure enable business, it also provides an advantage over other regional energy business hubs, and means that companies can be housed and ready to do business in a reduced time.

"Energy City is unique in how its developers are leveraging technology to deliver an ecosystem that provides the most innovative corporate, commercial, and residential services to all of the city's stakeholders,” says Fayez Husseini, vice president of Accelerator Technology Holdings. “Through ECQ, a new standard is being set, one where technology-enabled services are the differentiators for investors and businesses choosing their regional base.

"What we see is of huge relevance to the region. Rather than exporting a commodity we need to be exporting value-add. It should not just be about exploration and extraction." Wayne Hull, country manager, Cisco South Gulf, agrees that the energy hub is a good example of using ICT as a differentiator to create added value.

"The impact Energy City will have on the Middle East, as well as the global energy industry, will be felt by the overwhelming level of intelligence that will preside the City tenants' daily lives in every aspect, that will have an impact on their productivity, effectiveness and efficiency," he says.

"ECQ is really what Cisco is about. It presents the opportunity for us both through our team in Qatar and through our international force to be able to build a connected city. It gives us the opportunity to present a world class project to the rest of the world."

ECQ takes delivery of the land in the first quarter of 2007 and construction is expected to begin mid-year. The first building in the business park will be ready for residence in 2009, with completion of the entire business park scheduled for 2012.

"We will be rolling out services ahead of that," says Moore. "We will be building non-city-dependent businesses."
There is no doubting the ambition or the scale of the project, both from a regional and international perspective.

Samer Alkharrat, general manager, Cisco Gulf, says: "This is one of the largest tier one projects we have been involved with on a worldwide basis."

He believes that this scheme gives the Middle East an ideal opportunity to lead the way, since it has the advantage over other energy hubs of being a greenfield development with no legacy systems or infrastructure in place. "It's going to be a showcase the world can learn from," Alkharrat predicts.
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