Al Salem Johnson Controls team: cooling the biggest thermal energy storage system in the worl

Al Salem Johnson Controls team: cooling the biggest thermal energy storage system in the worl

YORK technology helps KAU cut energy costs

Al Salem Johnson Controls’ (YORK) innovative technologies have contributed in saving substantial energy costs at King Abdulaziz University’s (KAU) Central Utilities Plant 2 (CUP2) project in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. A case study

March 2019

Al Salem Johnson Controls (YORK), a leading provider of integrated heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) solutions and equipment, has successfully implemented the Central Utilities Plant 2 (CUP2) project at King Abdulaziz University (KAU) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, by offering sustainable and efficient cooling solutions that have led to significant reduction in its energy and water consumption.

Consumption of electricity in the Middle East – including Saudi Arabia – is predicted to reach to 8 per cent of the world’s total electricity consumption by 2050, as per a recent study. Dr Mohanad Al Shaik, CEO of Al Salem Johnson Controls pointed out that: “given the region’s need for more energy to run cooling plants more frequently as the temperature rises, Al Salem Johnson Controls realises the need for adopting the most appropriate and sustainable solutions in accordance with modern technology. Thus, contributing to the achievement of the efficacy goals of Saudi Arabia’s national transformation program 2020.”

A pioneer in providing integrated solutions that include HVAC, fire safety and security systems, building management and control systems for the residential, commercial and industrial sectors, innovation is the cornerstone of Al Salem Johnson Controls’ business and it always embraces an environment in which new ideas, technologies and processes are explored to create diverse solutions and services, Dr Al Shaik added.



With innovation in mind, the Saudi-based Al Salem Johnson Controls applied Thermal Energy Storage (TES) technology to the CUP-2, with the objective to enhance the efficiency of its cooling plants, especially during peak time, so that the stored energy could be used later for heating, cooling, or power generation.

The value engineered solution, which involved elimination of transformers, enabled the institution to save not only the initial cost, but also the operating cost by avoiding 2 to 3 per cent transformer losses, Eng Arif Hussein, National Product Manager at Al Salem Johnson Controls said.

Five YORK Open Multistage (OM) Chillers were designed to be part of the CUP-2

Five YORK Open Multistage (OM) Chillers were designed to be part of the CUP-2

“The project presented our company with a series of challenges which our dedicated and innovation-oriented team was successfully able to overcome,” he added.



The task was daunting: for the total load of 56,000 tonnes of refrigeration, the target was to ensure efficient cooling of college buildings, hospital and support facilities, with minimum power and water consumption for CUP-2.

The initial approval of the idea of the CUP-2 dates back to the early 1990s, when the conceptual idea of the plant was approved. But it was not till 1997 that the first bidding took place with the following requirements: design of air-condensing system; minimum electricity consumption; no water availability; limited budget; 56,000 tonnes of cooling capacity and limited platform area.

Meeting these requirements presented multiple challenges to competing bidders. There were subsequent bids with variation in designs yet, they failed every time to meet either the budget or power usage restrictions from the Saudi Electric Company (SEC). At this point, consultants were required to re-design the plant in a way that ensured all the project’s requirements were addressed within existing constraints, including plant space, power availability and water scarcity.



The consultants working on the project identified that the range of ambient dry bulb temperature fluctuation between day and night in a Middle East coastal city, such as Jeddah, could be as high as 18 to 20-deg F. This was the first step towards reducing the external component of peak load and shifting to thermal storage technology, thereby reducing the connected equipment electrical load matching with the available power.

Accordingly, the project team – including the consultant, contractor and Al Salem Johnson Controls (YORK) – determined that six huge ice storage tanks, each with a capacity of 21,150 tonnes per hour, would be sufficient to reduce power requirement and meet the power availability criteria for chillers, making it the biggest ice storage application in the world.



“Now the challenge was to design a chiller with such a big capacity that can produce ice in very limited time (that is from 8 to 12 hours of off-peak time). In addition, the same chillers needed to be available for cooling during the daytime. Therefore, a dual cooling mode was necessary,” said Eng Arif Hussein.

Al Salem Johnson Controls (YORK) proposed custom chillers with dual evaporators; brine cooler making ice during the night and chilled water cooler to chill water during daytime.

The whole CUP-2 plant was finally integrated by sophisticated Chiller Plant Facility Management

The whole CUP-2 plant was finally integrated by sophisticated Chiller Plant Facility Management

One of the terms of the contract between KAU and Al Salem Johnson Controls (YORK) was that the YORK chillers to be used in the project will have to be imported from the Johnson Controls factories in the US. However, due to their sheer size, they could not be assembled in the Saudi factory but had to be assembled at the project premises.

This by itself represented yet another challenge to the Al Salem Johnson Controls (YORK) team, as assembling the chillers required absolute precision, profession and care. 



Subsequently, five YORK Open Multistage (OM) Chillers were designed to be part of the CUP-2, with a capacity of 3600 tonnes of refrigeration (TR) at chilled water conditions, and 2750 TR at ice making conditions.

Due to the unavailability of water, chillers were required to work on air-cooled condensing, which in turn would expose tonnes of refrigerant (R-134a) to circulate all over the Condenser Farm, in the size of two Olympic football fields. To overcome the threat, it was decided to limit the refrigerant to chiller boundary, and YORK chillers were supplied with water cooled condenser, which in turn was pumped to outdoor industrial dry coolers for cooling.

Since the solution called for ice-making, on one end and high ambient temperature on the other, high head capability became evident. Three-stage open type centrifugal compressors for two modes of operation with 13.8kV Tewac motors were furnished. Thus, the value engineered solution with 13.8kV/60Hz again saved not only the initial cost by the elimination of transformers, but also operating cost was saved by avoiding 2 to 3 per cent transformer losses. 

The remaining capacity was met by Equally Intuitive Solution with 14 externally compounded single-stage centrifugal compressors, mounted on YK Chiller Platform, with industrial grade PLC Controls that can produce 2150 TR each, having high head two-stage capability to work with dry coolers and reject heat at 110-deg F, while producing chilled water for comfort cooling.



The whole CUP-2 plant was then integrated by sophisticated Chiller Plant Facility Management that integrated the ice banks operation, all kinds of pumps, valves, OM and CYK chillers, GEA dry coolers, auto-transformer starters and others into a single entity. It ensured production of chilled water temperature of 40-deg F going to airside units installed all over the campus buildings, and the return loop temperature of 59-deg F, thereby minimising the chilled water flow and pumping energy to the entire campus with 30 km of piping network.



Meanwhile, as part of its commitment towards the Kingdom’s Vision2030 and localising talents, Al Salem Johnson Controls trained over 20 Saudi technicians during the implementation of the project to enhance the expertise of young Saudis in the sector.

Further, in accordance with the Vision 2030, Al Salem Johnson Controls focuses on adapting to the positive changes that have been taking place in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the company is guided by a set of values that focus on environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions, and water and energy efficiency.

“The values of Al Salem Johnson Controls are the cornerstone for the implementation of the CUP 2 at the King Abdulaziz University,” Dr Al Shaik said.

Also worth mentioning is that the company has, perhaps, the largest specialised aftermarket team in the Middle East comprising of well-qualified technicians and engineers to handle the operation and maintenance services of its products and solutions.

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