The gas-rich emirate of Qatar, holder the world’s third-largest gas reserves, inaugurated another massive 2,000-MW gas power plant in the industrial city of Mesaieed, south of the capital Doha this May. The combined-cycle plant comprises three configuration groups (2 x 2 x 1). It also includes two black-start turbines, with a total of six 9FA gas turbines, six heat-recovery steam generator boilers, three D11-type condensing steam turbines, and two 6B dual gas-diesel turbines.

The Qatar plant was built for Mesaieed Power, which holds the development and operating rights, by Spain’s Iberdrola at a cost of more than $1.66 billion. It is expected to supply around 40% of the power generated by the country, which has a population of 1.2 million. According to Iberdrola, the new plant will increase installed capacity in the peninsula by 55% since the end of 2007, the year in which the project was awarded.

Qatar is positioning itself to provide bulk power in the Middle East. By this summer, it will have raised installed capacity to 7,000 MW, according to official figures. It expects increases from even larger projects under construction such as the 2,730-MW Ras Qurtas station.

This April, Business Monitor International (BMI) said electricity generation in the emirate was set to take a quantum leap during the next eight years, registering a 149% increase—the highest for the Middle East/Africa region. The Middle East has a current installed capacity of 152 GW—97% of which is thermal generation—accounting for 3.5% of global electricity generation.

“The power sector is competitive, with good progress towards privatization,” BMI said in its research note, though it added that the regulatory environment remains “relatively unattractive.” Forecasts also project that real gross domestic product growth would average 8.24% a year in the next four years, with electricity consumption per capita expected to increase by 34%. “Power consumption is expected to increase from an estimated 20 TWh in 2009 to almost 32 TWh by the end of the forecast period, providing a small theoretical generation surplus assuming 10% average annual growth in electricity generation,” it said.

Both the Mesaieed and Ras Qurtas plants will be used to power “projects which depend on energy in their production, such as the aluminum factory,” Energy Minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah told reporters at the Masaieed plant’s inauguration. The minister indicated that Qatar was also considering power exports, including supplying 500 MW to the power shortage–stricken region, particularly to Kuwait and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) would also be a possible recipient. This May, as it began a long, hot summer, the oil-rich Gulf nation’s emirate of Sharjah suffered power shortages that forced many businesses to close. Sharjah is located close to energy-intensive Dubai, one of seven emirates that form the nation. Last summer it reportedly suffered more intense, almost day-long blackouts. Officials blamed the blackouts on an overburdened distribution system and lack of generation capacity.

Demand for power in the UAE could hit 40,000 MW by 2020, some of which could be met with a new nuclear plant, expected to be operational by 2017.