By Jason Deign

If new projects in emerging markets hit delays then it will not be for a lack of heat transfer fluid (HTF) supplies. That is the message from the CSP sector’s major HTF suppliers as the industry gears up for new projects in regions such as the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

“We are committed to supporting the safe, on-time and completely successful start-up of CSP systems and have the world-scale infrastructure and track record to prove it,” says Carolina Barrios, market development manager for Dow Heat Transfer Fluids of the US.

Mark Jeffrey, market development manager for Eastman Chemical Company, which markets Therminol, is also at pains to highlight his company’s current production capacity.

“In anticipation of the next upswing in solar investment, we have de-bottlenecked our plants and broken ground on a new plant to meet the needs of our customers by providing a reliable supply of heat transfer fluids,” he says.

HTF producers are on guard for an uptick in demand after some observers highlighted a lack of heat transfer fluid supplies as a factor originally curtailing growth of the CSP market in India.

“In years past, during the heavy investment period for CSP, there was a question of rising costs and shortage of raw materials,” Jeffrey admits. “Now that is not the case. It is not a question of a shortage of raw materials.

“We have the proven supply and logistics capabilities to meet the demands of large CSP plants in remote, challenging locations around the globe.”

Middle East and Africa

Barrios adds: “Dow’s strategy has always been to focus on enabling its customers' success. As the CSP industry shifts towards the Middle East and Africa region, we are taking vital steps to ensure that we maintain Dow's position as the global leader for HTF for CSP.

“We are seeing very ambitious investment in CSP across Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, and beyond. Dow’s regional headquarters for the Middle East and Africa is Dubai, and we are well placed to support our customers.”

The company showcased its range of services for the Middle East CSP industry at MENASOL 2014 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, this month. It claims to have an HTF distribution network comprising 300 warehouses and 122 terminals, and shipping sites in 200 countries worldwide.

“Dow is best placed to support the Middle East CSP industry’s growth, through our advanced fluid technology, world-scale production capacity, tailored supply chain and logistics capabilities, in-depth technical support and fluid regeneration opportunities,” says Barrios.

The supplier, which claims to offer the highest purity HTF on the market in the form of its Dowtherm A product, is counting on significant growth in the region. It highlights plans for 25GW of CSP in Saudi Arabia by 2032, 2GW in Morocco by 2020 and 280MW in Kuwait by 2030.

Eastman is similarly keeping an eye on the region, as well as other growth markets. Jeffrey observes: “In the past we have seen strong demand from established regions such as Spain and the United States. Now we are in a transition phase as we see emerging markets develop.

“The next growth areas look to be Chile, South Africa, Morocco and other areas. And of course the great unknown is Saudi Arabia. We do believe, though, it is a question of ‘when’ Saudi Arabia will roll out their CSP initiatives, and not ‘if’.”

Parabolic trough

Dow and Eastman clearly also expect most of the new projects in the Middle East and elsewhere to be based on parabolic trough technology, which is the variant where synthetic HTFs are most commonly used. This may be slightly optimistic.

According to the CSP Today Global Tracker, although parabolic trough certainly accounts for the largest single volume of CSP currently announced or in planning, development, construction or commissioning, with around 4.3GW, there is a greater balance of other technologies.

Power towers, linear Fresnel and dish systems, which have a much lower need for synthetic HTFs, add up to almost 6.2GW of projects proposed or underway.

Furthermore, there is growing interest in replacing synthetic HTFs with molten salt even in parabolic trough setups, because it would allow the plants to operate at higher temperatures, thus gaining efficiency.

Nevertheless, it seems there could still be a significant boost in demand for HTFs as emerging CSP markets take off around the world. And if that is the case, then developers will grateful that a robust HTF supply chain is in place around the world, to avoid a repetition of the Indian experience.

“Our goal is to provide our global customer with excellent heat transfer fluids which are the lifeblood of their systems and processes,” says Jeffrey. “Continued growth is the plan. All eyes are on Saudi Arabia for the next big wave of CSP growth. To sum up, we see a bright future.”

To respond to this article, please write to the author, Jason Deign.


Comment from Pete Frentzos, Vice President of Business Development at Radco Industries:

"I remember reading the article about a shortage of HTF in India with some surprise. Despite a tight market for raw materials in 2012, HTF Radco manufactured and delivered to India for a 50 MW CSP plant was made on time, and we had and still have productive capacity and HTF available for much larger projects. We would challenge the comment that ”supply constraints of HTF” were holding back the CSP market. We now have warehouse in India and have set up production to supply the next utility-scale CSP project directly from India in support of local content initiatives".