Yusuff Wale Raphael is the Business Development Manager, North Africa, Nigeria and Ghana, Wärtsilä Energy Business. He has over 16 years of experience in marketing and business development in the Nigerian Oil and Gas and Power Industry. Wale began his career as a Process Engineer in one of the Nigerian refineries and he has been actively involved in the sale of a large number of Turbo-Machineries into major FPSO projects in Nigeria as well as Internal combustion engines for both Industrial and Captive Independent Power Plants. He holds MSc. and Bachelor of Engineering degrees in Chemical Engineering from the University of Lagos and the Federal University of Technology, Minna, respectively. He is a corporate member of the Nigeria Society of Engineers (MNSE). Wale is a delegate at the just-concluded 21st Africa Energy Forum (AEF) in Lisbon, Portugal. In this interview with Oke Peter, he speaks on the newly-introduced Wärtsilä Modular Block and the company’s efforts aimed at producing cost-effective and reliable power sources for African businesses among other issues. Excerpt:
Can you explain the idea behind Wärtsilä’s Modular Block and its functions?
The business environment now requires solutions that is reliable, modular and flexible. Power plants are no different. The Wärtsilä modular block is a pre-fabricated expandable enclosure for sustainable power generation. The primary goal was to also bring state-of-the-art Wärtsilä medium speed engine technology to market areas where it wasn’t competitive using traditional solutions based on a custom-designed permanent buildings. An additional objective was to improve the economy of power plant construction in areas where site labour costs are very high, or where skilled labour is not readily available.
How will the Modular Block technology provide a solution to the unreliable power supply for African businesses?
The slogan for the Wärtsilä Modular Block is fast, reliable power wherever you need! The pre-fabricated modular design means fast delivery minimal onsite installation time for new power generation assets. The Blocks incorporate Wärtsilä’s reliable and highly efficient medium speed engines, which have lower lifecycle costs than containerised high-speed engines or gas turbines.
Do you think Modular Block solution is an ideal technology to provide grid stability and balancing when integrating renewable energy sources?
Because the Wärtsilä engine power plants can be quickly ramped up and down as needed, Wärtsilä modular block is ideal for providing grid stability and balancing when integrating renewables sources with intermittent production. As well as natural gas, our engines can also run on biofuel for a fully renewable solution. A standard engine of this type can reach full power from standstill in just two minutes, and a specialised version for data centers, which is compatible with the Wärtsilä Modular Block as well, can do so in less than one minute. Thanks to this feature, a Wärtsilä Modular Block can be used as a clean alternative to emergency diesel generators for critical infrastructures such as data centers, hospitals or airports.
How will this technology support industrial customers, Independent Power Producers and Utilities across Africa to ensure fast and reliable power?
The solution has been developed to serve customers, in need of solution which can be delivered and installed quickly; looking for a highly modular solution that may be used in the same form in multiple locations; searching for a temporary power generation solution without a permanent building structure; in the data center, mining, renewables power generation industries wishing to firm up their intermittent generation capacity and rental businesses. Wärtsilä can offer the Wärtsilä Modular Block as a full engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) project. The solution is easily expandable to accommodate increased energy demand and to respond to the fast-growing customer business needs. The concept also enables dismantling and relocation, meaning it also offers new business models, such as power as a service or rentals. This basically addresses the concerns of industrial, IPP and utilities customers across Africa.
Modular Block solution can help businesses to operate efficiently. Is it affordable and sustainable?
Yes! Wärtsilä Modular Block solution is an extensively pre-fabricated, modularly configurable, and expandable enclosure with quick delivery and onsite installation time. It incorporates medium-speed Wärtsilä 34SG spark ignited gas engines to deliver the high levels of power needed, efficiently, reliably, and with minimal environmental impact. The modular block approach offers an attractive capital investment, which can be cascaded in accordance with growing needs, while the operating costs (OPEX) are almost certainly going to be lower than purchasing electricity from the grid.
As an expert, what is your take on the challenges facing the African energy sector and the way out?
Apart from the challenges of inconsistent policies to create the right environment to attract the necessary investments to grow the industry, lack of adequate infrastructure, lack of cost reflective tariffs (for gas and power), insecurity, and to an extent, the right technology. Africa has predominantly looked at turbine based centralised power plants. What Wärtsilä brings to the table to solve some of these challenges are innovative and smart technologies solution based on its highly efficient medium-speed internal combustion engines to produce electricity at affordable costs based on various fuels available, and integration with renewables (wind or solar). The Wärtsilä Modular Block solution offers fast delivery and quick installation of a reliable and efficient power generation, thereby limiting a number of days spent on site in places where security is a major concern and in remote locations as well. The possibility of scalability and deployability of the solution means that it can be the much-needed panacea for establishing reliable and efficient decentralised power plants.
Wärtsilä is a foremost leader in smart technologies and solutions for energy markets. What should consumers expect from you during the next AEF in 2020?
Consumers should continue to look out for the next innovative, reliable, flexible and smart technology solutions for the energy market based on Wärtsilä highly efficient and reliable medium-speed engines, and integrated solutions in the journey towards a 100 percent renewable energy future. The industry should also watch out for success stories of the Wärtsilä Modular Block solution that was launched at the AEF 2019.