x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Power plant emergency management training centre faces closure

The The Emirates Simulation Academy, an emergency management training centre for power plant operators, the most advanced facility in the Middle East, which had been positioning itself as a nuclear training centre, is likely to close, officials say.

Ahmed Abu Talib, an instructor at the Emirates Simulation Academy, works at a simulator. The centre had positioned itself as a facility to train Emirati engineers to operate the UAE's first nuclear power plant.
Ahmed Abu Talib, an instructor at the Emirates Simulation Academy, works at a simulator. The centre had positioned itself as a facility to train Emirati engineers to operate the UAE's first nuclear power plant.

ABU DHABI // An emergency management training centre for local operators of power plants, water desalination facilities and refineries will probably have to close because of dwindling enrolment, officials there say.

The Emirates Simulation Academy for training power plant and refinery operators had been positioning itself as a nuclear training centre to prepare Emirati engineers and technicians to operate the country's first nuclear power plant.

However, industry insiders say most companies are recruiting Emiratis and training them in-house, or through partnerships with local universities and vocational schools.

The Dh76 million academy received its first students in 2009, and officials said at the time that it was planned as a local facility for those who otherwise had to travel to the US and Europe for training.

At that time, they said, nuclear plant simulators could be in place within two years, and the centre would be training staff in time for the first nuclear reactors to go online.

Since then, however, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) has partnered with various local and international institutions to train nuclear, chemical, mechanical and electrical engineers.

Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research and the Institute of Applied Technology have programmes dedicated to nuclear power, while Abu Dhabi Polytechnic and the Korean Electric Power Corporation have teamed up to offer degrees for chemical and radiation protection.

Enec estimates that it will hire between 2,100 and 2,300 staff by 2020, and expects that about 60 per cent of those hired will be locally trained Emiratis.

A licensing application filed by Enec to build nuclear plants at the Braka site, a stretch of beach west of Ruwais, is under review. Enec hopes to have its first reactor operating there by 2017.

Emirates Simulation Academy has held crisis training courses through computer simulations. Based at the Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training (Cert), the Higher Colleges of Technology's commercial arm, classes generally last from three to 10 days at a cost of Dh5,900 to Dh15,300 per person.

Classes are geared towards students in technical fields, recent graduates of technical schools and managers or supervisors of local plants. The courses focus on operating and troubleshooting equipment, gas turbine systems, crude distillations and combined cycle power plant systems. One course addresses how to deal with abnormal events such as major leaks or the failure of temperature control valves and voltage regulators.

Trainees are expected to know how to respond to alarms, and, if a number of alarms go off, which to handle first. In the real world, plant operators may have only seconds to decide how to react to an emergency.

The Emirates Simulation Academy had called itself the most advanced of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa, but it is not the only facility to provide such training. Dr Abdurrahim el Keib, chairman of the electrical engineering department at the Petroleum Institute, said the institute provided training and simulations in software and hardware. Although the school is not geared towards commercial training, some general classes have been offered for employees of local companies.

Adnoc Technical Institute also has a similar programme.

Kevin Cox, the executive managing director of Shuweihat CMS International Power Company in Abu Dhabi, said training was held at the plant and through internal classroom courses with the company's senior engineers or specialists from international companies.

The company also has an apprenticeship scheme through the Vocational Education Development Centre, a boarding school for Emiratis aged 13 to 23. About 15 per cent of its employees are Emiratis, and Mr Cox pointed out that the company is hiring fewer expatriates as it complies with contractual agreements with the Abu Dhabi Water and Electric Company to recruit and train nationals.

econroy@thenational.ae