GE unit inks power deal with Iraq

IRAQ - General Electric Co. said it will sell power-generation equipment to Iraq in a nearly $3 billion deal designed to support the nation's tattered electricity grid.

The company's GE Energy division will supply 56 heavy-duty frame 9E multi-fuel gas turbines capable of supplying 7,000 megawatts of electricity. That's enough power for about 5.4 million homes, according to U.S. Department of Energy statistics.

The deal nearly doubles Iraq's generation capacity from current levels of about 6,000 megawatts per day, GE said, helping boost supply to the country's more than 28 million residents. The turbines will be installed throughout the Middle Eastern nation, with GE also providing technical and management training for the equipment.

The turbines can be powered by a variety of fuels, including crude, GE said.

"In an area like Iraq, that's extremely important," Steve Bolze, president and chief executive of GE Energy's power and water business, said in an interview.

Lengthy power outages have been common in Iraq, with some Baghdad areas getting as little as four hours of electricity a day. Even before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Iraq's physical infrastructure was plagued by years of war, sanctions and neglect. Outages have been a major source of discontent during the summer when the heat routinely rises above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

The first of the turbines will be shipped in 2009, and the order will be complete by 2010, Bolze said. GE Energy has plants in Greenville, S.C., and Belfort, France, and expects both facilities will be used to make the turbines.

The turbines will be installed by Iraq's Ministry of Electricity and a third-party firm, which will be aided either by GE employees or a subcontractor, the company said.

Fairfield, Conn.-based GE competed with other companies for the contract, but its long association with Iraqi infrastructure may have worked in its favor. GE has been working in the country since the 1970s, and earlier this year Iraq ordered eight turbines for emergency power. About 120 GE power turbines currently operate in Iraq. The number of GE workers currently serving there, as well as the number that could be sent as part of this deal, was not immediately available, GE said.

"We're very honored to be helping the government rebuild their infrastructure," Bolze said.

GE also does business in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.

Additionally, the company said water technology may soon become a new area of growth in the region.

"As we proceed forward, the water demands... are very robust," Bolze said.

Calls to Iraq's embassy in Washington, D.C., for comment were not immediately returned.


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