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A cool supplier makes for a cool customer in the heat

Bassam Elassaad, director of marketing for Trane (Middle East, Africa and India), talks to Zoe Naylor about the massive task of supplying air con units to the Palm Jumeirah and the Burj Dubai.

What is the background of Trane?

Trane is a division of American Standards — Trane itself was founded in the US in 1885, but we got into the air conditioning business in 1926. Since then, Trane has become a global company.

How long has Trane had a presence in the Middle East?

We established our first regional office in Lebanon in the 1960s. We moved to Sharjah in 1978, where we’ve spent over 25 years. And in the next month we’ll be moving from Sharjah to Dubai — as most of our business in the area is in Dubai, we want to be closer to our clients.

But we’re still maintaining a presence in Sharjah as there is a lot of things happening there — as well as in the northern emirates — plus we also have a presence in Abu Dhabi. In addition to the UAE we’re also opening up an office in Qatar in April. This really is a growing region for us.

How is Trane involved in supplying air conditioning for the Palm Jumeirah?

We’re involved in all aspects of the Palm Jumeirah. We’re supplying units right across the development, from residential units for the villas on the fronds, to district cooling for the crescent. We’re also supplying units for the shoreline apartments on the trunk.

For the cooling on the fronds, the villas will use a system that features one unit outside and one inside. The unit outside operates on a shoreline location — a very saline atmosphere — so we need special products to withstand this kind of environment.

We are the only company to provide an innovative design using aluminium fins. The conventional systems use a copper tube with aluminium coils — but the combination of copper and aluminium makes it more resistant to corrosion in the saline atmosphere. We will use the aluminium coil and apply a special coating that gives it a guarantee of operating in a corrosive atmosphere for a number of years.

It is innovative in the sense that we are the only company using the coil. The coil itself has been in use for a number
of years, but we’ve applied a special coating to give it
extra protection.

What are the benefits of district cooling?

It’s very much like a power plant concept — one power plant supplies power to different buildings rather than
each building having its own power generator.

The main advantage of district cooling over conventional coolers is power saving through diversity. One building may need maximum cooling at one time, while another may need less power due to reduced occupation. If you have a larger plant you’re able to take advantage of that type of diversity. It’s about economies of scale — the bigger it is, the more flexible the control of the plant.

When we talk about energy saving it’s not only the design, it is also the product used. If you don’t have efficient products you are running these huge plants at low efficiency.

Will you be looking to supply cooling to the other two Palms?

We will definitely be looking to supply to the Palm Jebel Ali. We’re in a good position because of our work on the Palm Jumeirah. Hopefully when the Palms Jebel Ali and Deira come on line we’ll have a couple of years of operation behind us, so the client will have seen the advantages that we are talking about now.

What type of cooling is Trane supplying for the Burj Dubai?

The district cooling is an integrated plant — it will supply not only the Burj but the Dubai mall as well. We’re supplying cooling in several phases. The first phase is to supply Centre Vax — huge centrifugal chillers, about seven tonnes each.

At this stage we have the first phase — the second and third phases have not yet been awarded. But we are a favourable choice, and have tendered for both.

The decision of the developer and the consultant to award us the first phase was based on energy efficiency. We showed that the total cost of ownership of our equipment was favourable to the client. So when they put everything together i.e. the initial cost, plus the running cost and the maintenance cost, we were able to prove that we can deliver an advantage over other products.

Does the height of the building produce any technical challenges in terms of supplying cooling technology?

Absolutely. The systems that were designed for the Burj Dubai use an ice storage system, which allows the machines to work at a certain time of the day to meet a particular requirement.

The ice will be made in ice storage tanks located at ground level, which are made of specially insulated materials.
Ice will be produced when the machines are in operation, and will be melted and used as chilled water at other times. The Burj will run the chillers at the time of minimum outdoor relative humidity — to increase the efficiency of condensation and avoid an industrial-type ‘plume’ that rises out of cooling towers when operating at high humidity.

What can be done to improve a system’s energy efficiency?

There are products today that are maybe 80% more efficient
than they were 20 or 30 years ago. So the efficiency curves have been growing at a very steep rate, but they are bound to flatten out. You cannot get more efficiency from a product without incurring a lot more cost, and I think it’s going to be a big challenge from now on to get more efficiency out of any product. So we look at the type of design, for instance the centrifugal units. We know that a direct drive machine — running a machine directly and not through gears — will be more efficient.

The type of refrigerant can also make a very big difference. We also look at the containment of the product — how much refrigerant is being leaked out, because these can also affect the environment —and make them as leak-tight
as possible. This is how we’re contributing to the environment, by giving energy-efficient products and by making sure they are properly installed.

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