Category Archives: Middle East

UAE consider to build man-made mountain to increase rain fall

After the extraordinary success of the cloud seeding operations that saw a significant increment of the quantity of rain fell over the United Arab Emirates, it seems that the government is seriously considering the opportunity to build a man made mountain in a bit to improve rainfall.

The United Arab Emirates invested a significant amount of 558,000 USD in the 2015 alone within the Rain Enhancement Program initiative activated by the UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs (MOPA) and run by the National Center of Meteorology & Seismology (NCMS). As reported by a local newspaper, the  Program provides grants to up to five innovative research and technology proposal over a three year period that are trying to find new ways to enhance rainfall in the Country.

“What we are looking at is basically evaluating the effects on weather through the type of mountain, how high it should be and how the slopes should be. We will have a report of the first phase this summer as an initial step”

Said  National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist and lead researcher Roelof Bruintjes to ArabianBusiness.

He further clarified that the NCAR received funds to provide a detailed modelling study evaluating the effects of building a mountain on the weather.

For those not really specialized in climatology and how the rain process works, humid and warm air moving towards the mountains will be forced by them to raise. While raising the air temperature drops (almost 6.5 Celsius per km for humid air) causing the condensation of the humidity and the creation of rain drops.

In order to do so, the mountain shall intercept the predominant air currents forcing them to release their water content before passing through.

“Building a mountain is not a simple thing. We are still busy finalizing assimilation, so we are doing a spread of all kinds of heights, widths and locations as we simultaneously look at the local climatology. If the project is too expensive, logically the project won’t go through, but this gives them (the Government) an idea of what kind of alternatives there are for the long-term future” Bruintjes said.

“If it goes through, the second phase would be to go to an engineering company and decide whether it is possible or not.”

 We have no other option but to wait the preliminary results.

Emaar’s new Tower at Dubai Creek Harbour unveiled

Finally it has been made official. Emaar Properties, one of the most appreciated developers in Dubai with several successful projects already completed like The Greens, Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa and the whole Downtown neighborhood, is going to beat his own records.  After having developed the current tallest building in the world, it has recently unveiled what could be the world’s new tallest tower.

Even though the official height still has to be disclosed, Emaar management has confirmed that it will be a “notch taller than Burj Khalifa” that with its 828 meters mesmerizes thousands and thousands of visitors every day.

The tower is expected to cost 1 billion USD and will face competition from the 1,000 meter high Kingdom Tower in Jeddah (KSA), currently under construction, for the “tallest building in the world” title.

The tower was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who has designed masterpieces of architecture like the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro or Athen’s Olympic Sports Complex, and was inspired by the Islamic minaret structure as well as a lily bud.

Emaar New Creek Tower

“Inspired by a Nation. designed for the World” is Emaar motto for the challenging Project – Photos from Emaar website.

The tower is going to be built as part of a wider Project knows as Dubai Creek Harbour, a mixed use development located in proximity to Ras al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary and its flamingos and many species of waterbirds.

The aim of the 6 sq km development was very well explained by Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties:

“With The Tower, we are delivering a compelling destination that will add long-term economic value to Dubai and the UAE. It will also position Dubai Creek Harbour as one of the most desired residential, leisure and touristic attractions, providing visitors and residents with a modern, luxurious and sustainable environment in which to live, work, learn and entertain.”

The Tower and the Project are presented in the recently released videos prepared by Emaar.

 

The sky is the limit.

 

Dubai EXPO2020 theme pavilion design competition winners revealed

His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Expo Higher Committee, in partnership with leading property developer Emaar Properties, have revealed the winners of one of the world’s most prestigious architectural competitions, to design the theme pavilions for Expo 2020.

The committee sought ideas for the three theme pavilions titled Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability, which form a central part of EXPO 2020’s theme that is Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.

The winning design for the Opportunity Pavilion was submitted by Bjarke Ingels Group, a group of architects, designers, builders and thinkers based in Copenhagen and New York. Their design philosophy reflects a belief that contemporary urban life is a result of the confluence of cultural exchange, global economic trends and communication technologies as it could be read on the Expo 2020 official website.

Expo-2020-Opportunity-Theme-Winner-is-BIG-details

Bjarke Ingels Group winning design for Opportunity Pavilion. Photo from Emirates24/7

Expo-2020-Opportunity-Theme-Winner-is-BIG

Bjarke Ingels Group winning design for Opportunity Pavilion. Photo from Emirates24/7

 

The press release issued by Expo 2020 official website and reported by the major local newspapers, continues saying that Foster + Partners, the internationally renowned practice, based in London, submitted the winning proposal for the Mobility Pavilion. Their design drew on nearly four decades of pioneering designs including Dubai’s The Index building, and the master plan for Masdar City.

Expo-2020-theme-pavilion mobility - foster + partners

Foster + Partners winning design for Dubai Expo2020 Mobility Pavillion. Photo from ArabianBusiness.com

The winning design for the Sustainability Pavilion, which will become a long term ‘cluster’ centre promoting innovative technologies, was submitted by Grimshaw Architects. The firm designed the Eden project in Cornwall, UK, and is a leader in the field of sustainable architecture.

Expo-2020-Sustainability-Theme-Winner-is-Grimshaw-Particulars

Grimshaw Architects winning design for Sustainability Pavillion at Dubai Expo2020. Photo from Emirates24/7

Expo-2020-theme-pavilion sustainability - Grimshaw

Grimshaw Architects winning design for Sustainability Pavillion at Dubai Expo2020. Photo from ArabianBusiness

“Expo 2020 will be a festival of human ingenuity. We hope that the nations and organisations that take part in Expo, and the millions who visit, will explore the power of connections across the spheres of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability”

“Our theme pavilions will play a central role in bringing this to life.”

said HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

Keep updated by visiting the official DUBAI EXPO2020 website.

Construction news: more than 390 billion USD projects ongoing in Dubai

The total value of projects under construction in Dubai equates to $53.6 billion, with a further $337.2 billion in the planning stage.  These are significant amounts of investment for most mature economies, but for an emerging market such as Dubai, they are extraordinary figures which provide evidence of Dubai’s ambition to diversify its economy away from oil-centered revenues. In this way we can summarize the new report “The Dubai Construction Pulse” published by Deloitte and MEED Projects, which analyses the construction market across a range of sectors.

Analyzing the data provided in the report, it is evident that the majority of the construction projects currently ongoing in the Emirate are related to residential and hospitality sectors with a 60% of the total value involved while 65% of the planned projects fall within the mixed use developments, most probably because of the EXPO 2020’s requirements.

Dubai Construction Projects Status

“Despite regional security concerns and wider macro-economic turbulence, Dubai continues at pace with significant project awards in Q1 2016, including the Palm Gateway Towers, Phase II of the Atlantis Resort and Dubai Creek Harbour to name but three”, said Ben Hughes, director at Deloitte Corporate Finance Limited, regulated by the Dubai International Financial Center.

Previously stalled projects have been resurrected, but new project awards have reduced since 2014-2015 as a result of regional economic uncertainty

The conclusions of the report are particularly interesting and are here below summirized.

“The current concerns relating to low oil prices and diminished market sentiment has clearly had a short term impact. Whilst the ongoing geo-political factors equally have profound effects, the fact that many Governments across the region, not least the Government of Dubai, are continuing to spend on infrastructure and other strategic developments suggests that they foresee the oil price issue and political turmoil as a temporary one.

[…] The mere action of building a project and expecting the demand to be there no longer applies, as the fundamental cost basis for these projects remains volatile and competitive. Focusing on factors such as affordability, differentiation and quality are going to be increasingly important factors, and it is hoped that such considerations will ultimately underpin the rationale for conceiving projects.

Simply constructing the tallest or most unique project no longer provides the impact it once did, so diversifying the offer by promoting a world class standard appears to be the mantra moving forwards.

[…] What is interesting is the connectedness of Dubai as an increasingly “smart city”, and […]  Dubai may even mature to the extent that it could surpass some of the more established cities across the world, such as London, Paris or New York, in terms of its level of sophistication and dedication to sustainability, smart city principles and ultimately success in delivering projects that are demand driven and profitable.”

Other than on “The Dubai Construction Pulse” website by Deloitte, the matter has been analyzed and reported by well done articles published on SaudiGazzette and Gulf Construction Online.

.

UAE to be Solar Thermodynamic Energy’s World Leader by using sand to generate electricity

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) uses mirrors to reflect heat from the sun to one point, most typically the tow of a tower filler with a fluid (usually molten salt) capable of storing heat for prolonged periods then used to produce electricity.

Thermodynamic Solar Plant with Central Tower

Traditional Thermodynamic Solar Plant that concentrates sun light in the tow of the tower – photo from http://www.fotovoltaicosulweb.it

An alternative to the central tower is represented by curved mirrors concentrating the sun light in a suitable pipe that runs all the way from/to the storage accumulating heat while running in the plant.

Thermodynamic Solar Plant

An alternative to the central concentration tower – photo from http://www.strettoweb.com

In both cases, the molted salts are heated up to 600 degree Celsius and transferred in a hot storage.

The fluid so heated is used to produce high temperature/high pressure steam that is used to generate electricity by evolving in a steam turbine.

The main benefit of this technology is that energy is easily stored and can be used at night when the source of heat (the sun) is absent. However, the popular photovoltaic modules are currently more cost effective and therefore preferred over the concentrated solar power plants.

But now the situation can drastically change.

Masdar Institute of Science and Technology’s scientists, indeed, have published a breakthrough research into more efficient solar power plants by using sand as vector fluid to transport and store energy.

Named “Sandstock”, the research published at the Solar Power and Chemical Energy Systems Conference in South Africa in December 2015, showed sand can withstand temperatures of up to 1,000°C and the higher you can push the temperature, the more efficient the plant will be in generating electricity.

The approach chosen by the researchers at Masdar Institute completely eliminates the most expensive components of the traditional CSP, the molten fluid and the pump system, by substituting it with sand and gravity. The design concept, which is inspired by a traditional sand hourglass, features a ‘cold tank,’ where sand is initially stored – before flowing into a ‘hot tank,’ located directly underneath. The cold tank will take the form of a hollow cylinder, designed to allow the concentrated solar flux to penetrate an empty central cylinder part.

Sandstock diagram

Schematic concept of the Sandstock  design – photo from social.csptoday

 

“Sand is really always a drawback in this country but in this project we wanted to use it as an advantage because it can withstand very high temperature, and of course it is very cheap here,” said Dr Nicolas Calvet, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, and guide for the research project, as also reported by The National.

“Photovoltaic is more popular because of more than 40 years of research, and the Chinese entering the market and driving prices down,” Dr Calvet said.

“If you want to make CSP more competitive you must significantly reduce the cost.”

The main costs for CSP are the reflective material, and whatever is used for heat transfer and storage. Dr Calvet and his students are using sand for the last two steps at almost no cost.

“When you build a CSP plant you need to import usually several thousand tonnes of molten salts from Chile,” he said.

“With this concept you can just build your plant in the desert and you don’t have to bring any other material, you have it on site.”

Dr Behjat Al Yousuf, interim provost at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, said: “The research success of the Sandstock project illustrates the strength of our research and its local relevance.

The slow but scaring propagation of MERS-CoV in Middle East and Asia

More than one year ago, in March/April 2014 to be precise, I was living and working in Saudi Arabia and was discretely preoccupied for the MERS (Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome) virus that was spreading in the Kingdom. It wasn’t a real breakout, since the daily cases were few, sometimes 1 sometimes 4 or 5. What scared me the most was the fact that the new cases reported were constant, meaning that the virus had a suitable carrier that was perfectly working.

Many associated the Virus with the camels new born season that in effect had caused the previous spike in the daily cases census. The spike had alarmed the international and local authorities that intervened to contain the infection. Saudi Arabia was the origin of the new Corona Virus and it was the Country with the highest number of cases reported.

After several weeks of general hysteria, the situation seemed becoming normal, with very few and isolated cases that seemed to happen just to remind us that the MERS Virus was still among us.

 After a period of relative tranquility, the MERS-CoV suddenly and powerfully appeared in South Korea where it spread and killed many people from May 2015 as reported by BBC News at the beginning of July 2015.

MERS CoV Global Situation Map by World Health Organization - photo from www.who.int

MERS CoV Global Situation Map by World Health Organization – photo from http://www.who.int

After the most recent outbreak, South Korea became one of the most severely hit Countries with hundreds cases that brought the local authorities to preventive quarantine measure for almost 7,000 people (as of end of July) and  provoked a collective fear of a pandemic in the population.

south-korea-mers-scare-wedding-photo

The level of alert in South Korea is so high that this wedding photo was taken with mask. – photo credit in the right corner

Surprisingly enough, concomitant with the recent outbreak in Korea, there has been a re-awakening of the virus even in Saudi Arabia with 22 new reported cases in the past 4 weeks. But while in Saudi we could have linked the presence of the virus to the camel farming activities, I am quite puzzled about its persistent presence in Far East. World Health Organization is strictly monitoring the evolution of the situation.

Iran Nuclear Deal by Shadi Ghanim

Have your say: Iran Nuclear Deal

I have read many articles about the Iran Nuclear Deal and got somehow confused because each and every Country directly involved in the deal has announced it to its respective population as a Victory, with a capital V (emblematic the cartoon published by The National and here reported as featured image).

The real question is: who’s going to benefit from this deal? 

While trying to answer this question, I came across an interesting article titled: “Who will cash in on the Iran nuclear deal?” where it is excellently reported how the European countries, especially those with Oil&Gas know-how will benefit from lifting the embargo. The French Total, the Norwegian Statoil and many German companies are eager to sign multi billion dollars contracts to expand Iranian extraction, refining and transportation of Natural Gas and Oil. Italy, who was not invited in the 5+1 committee and lost an estimated 45 billion Euro in the period 2010-2012, follows closely with oil giant Eni and its engineering arm Saipem, ready to get advantage of the situation.

This reasoning has been recently confirmed by Iranian authorities who confirmed that Oil&Gas Projects worth USD 185 billion are going to be awarded as soon as the sanctions are effectively lifted, as reported by Reuters. Fresh cash that is much needed by the O&G sector that is experiencing a substantial cut in new project’s number and value because of the low oil price.

But European Countries are not the only one to get benefits from the deal. The States are in pole position to get the maximum out of the deal, both directly and indirectly. A recent report published by the National Iranian American Council affirms that the States lost hundreds of billion in potential exports revenues to Iran and oil exploitation Joint-Ventures since the States-Iran relationship started deteriorating decades ago.

But this shall not be the only item we take into account. Other than guaranteeing a source of income to the European partner, the US have to grant protection to those allied Countries in the middle east that perceive Iran as a threat: Saudi Arabia above all. An this goal is not reached only by using political means but providing defensive systems to the concerned parties.

As reported by GulfNews, the States are going to sell to Saudi Arabia USD 5.4 Billion worth of missiles to enhance its defensive system.

“The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the sale would benefit a key US partner in the Middle East. Notification to Congress was sent on Tuesday and follows a major nuclear deal with Iran. The missile sale approval could help reassure Saudi Arabia about the US commitment to its security.

Definitely, Iran will witness a skyrocket increase in its economy not only because of the possibility to sell oil in the international market, but also by the consistent investments that foreign companies might decide to do in the country in the next months. The new flow of oil and gas that Iran will make available on the markets in few months time, will put further pressure on OPEC countries because of the expected (and partially already manifested) slump in the prices that are already low (WTI is at 47.72 USD/b today).