Hitachi ABB Power Grids has announced that it is to lead the consortium that has been awarded the contract, worth several hundred million US dollars, for the first ever large-scale HVDC interconnection in the Middle East and North Africa, enabling the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the Arab Republic of Egypt to exchange up to 3000 MWe of electricity, much of which is expected to be generated from renewable energy sources in the future. 

The contract is with the Saudi Electricity Company and the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company. Hitachi ABB’s scope of supply includes the construction of three HVDC converter stations for the ±500 kV, 1350 km line, located at Medina and Tabuk in Saudi Arabia, and Badr in Egypt, and the provision of system studies, design and engineering, transformers, valves, high-voltage equipment, technical advisory, commissioning and service, in collaboration with two consortium partners – Saudi Services for Electro Mechanic Works in the KSA and Orascom Construction in Egypt.

The HVDC link will give Egypt access to the interconnected power grids of the Arabian Gulf, and Saudi Arabia access to those of North Africa, while strengthening grid resilience and power supply security. Both countries have ambitious carbon-neutrality targets. Saudi Arabia is working to increase the share of natural gas and renewable energy sources to approximately 50% by 2030, and the Arab Republic of Egypt intends to increase the supply of electricity generated from renewable sources to 42% by 2035. The connection directly contributes to the realisation of these goals. The in-country value of the investment is significant, generating new jobs and knowledge transfer in KSA and Egypt.

In the longer term, the link has the potential to be part of a more broadly interconnected energy system with Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, allowing the exchange of solar power from the south and east with wind and hydro power from the north.

 The 1350 km HVDC interconnector will employ overhead power lines, and a subsea cable across the Red Sea. Power will be able to flow in multiple directions among the three terminals – for instance, from Tabuk to Badr, but also simultaneously from Tabuk to Medina. Via the MACH control system, the power flow can be controlled and reversed among the stations without interrupting the continuous flow of power.

• Prysmian Group has been awarded the contract for the ±500 kV HVDC submarine and land cable system, involving the design, supply, installation and commissioning of around 127.5 km of mass impregnated submarine single-core cabling, 43.5 km of 36 kV XLPE submarine single-core cable with double-wire armouring, and 61 km of MINISUB submarine fibre optic cables for telecommunications and distributed temperature sensing monitoring (DTS). The cable route will cross the Gulf of Aqaba, a route length of approximately 20 km and deep-water installation at around 1000 m, in addition to sections of underground land cables between the landfall and the transition stations located on each side. Delivery and commissioning is scheduled for 2024.