Turning a short-term contract into a long-term success story
ESB International started business in Bahrain on a short-term contract. Forty-four years later, we are still heavily involved in some of the country’s major energy projects.
ESB International’s first office in the Middle East was opened in 1976 in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Since then, ESB International have been involved in a long list of network and distribution projects in the country, with the planning, design and commissioning of the recently-opened Alba Combined Cycle Gas Turbine Plant expansion our latest achievement. “ESB International arrived in Bahrain in 1976 and we’ve had a very successful relationship with the Kingdom since then,” explains Brendan Stafford, ESB International’s country manager for Bahrain. “Forty-four years later we’re the principal engineering consultant for EWA – the Electricity and Water Authority of Bahrain, formerly the Ministry of Electricity and Water.”
Brendan has been in his role since the summer of 2018. However, he is very familiar with the country, having worked as an engineering and project manager in Bahrain for ESB International for the past twelve years. His early ambitions mirrors that of the company – he arrived initially on a two-year contract as a project engineer in December 2008 but has been working in Bahrain ever since.
He also is very proud of ESB International’s achievements and track record in the country.
“When we arrived in 1976, we had the contract to build the first 66 kV substation which was the highest voltage level at that time. In 1983, the first 220 kV substation was built under our watchful eye. Another huge success for us was that we built the first national control centre that monitors the full power flow around the country.”
Similarities with Ireland in terms of size and transmission systems, a deep-rooted utility background, long-established relationships and an in-depth understanding of the country gives ESB International a unique advantage over other engineering consultancies working in Bahrain.
“Our key is, we deliver, and we successfully deliver,” says Brendan. “There is a lot of trust between us and our clients and we have a proven capability.”
That utility experience is a key distinguishing factor, providing ESB International with an advantage over competitors, he explains. Not only does ESB International have practical experience of the energy sector, it also sees things from a utility perspective, which improves the service it can deliver to clients.
“The fact that we are a utility-based consultancy and that we stem from a utility is a major benefit and that is obvious to our clients. We understand the day-to-day issues and the planning issues they face as we have experience doing the same thing with our own national system from our head office in Dublin. We have significant experience across the energy value chain to delve into and call upon. There is an expert in ESB on everything so if we don’t have it in the ESB International ranks, we just make a call and we can access the broad range of expertise from across the whole company.”
The recent Alba project has been another game changer for the company. Winning the project and delivering it on time has cemented ESB International’s position as a key energy player both in Bahrain and the Middle East and marked a return to building power stations in the region.
“It was a major coup for us because we were one of six consultancies tendering for it. The plant uses leading-edge H class technology. It was a huge undertaking, delivered on time within 3 years and it definitely puts us in a good position now.”
These recent successes in Bahrain are reflected in ESB International’s growing workforce. Numbers have doubled over the past decade to nearly 85 made up of both local and international employees. The workforce is highly experienced, having worked as project managers and engineers in Bahrain and beyond.
ESB International is committed to the Kingdom of Bahrain and is actively pursuing other prospects in the market. We already have a clear pipeline of work in the country for the coming years and Brendan says there will be plenty of opportunities as the market evolves.
“At the moment we have a consultancy service on a pilot project to build a two-megawatt wind farm and a three-megawatt solar farm and hopefully in the next 6-12 months that will be connected to the grid,” explains Brendan. “Some other emerging technologies we are getting involved in are smart grids and smart metering, drawing on our previous experience in these areas within ESB. The company’s knowledge and expertise places ESB International in a prime position to help countries and utilities globally address the urgent challenge of achieving lower carbon emissions. In the future we will enter into a market of refurbishments, renewals, cable replacements, substation replacements. In fact, it is something that is kicking off already.”
And he is confident that ESB International will be a player in the Bahrain energy market and the region for many years to come.
“The future is bright,” says Brendan. “I have no doubt we will be here for the next 40 years. Our partnerships in Bahrain have been mutually successful and I’m confident these will continue.”
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