Utilities Middle East - - COVER FEATURE - By Baset As­aba

The GCC re­gion has over the past few years adopted a strat­egy that aims to ex­pand its to­tal sea­wa­ter de­sali­na­tion ca­pac­ity by nearly 40% by 2020 in an ef­fort to meet the rapidly in­creas­ing de­mand for potable wa­ter in the re­gion.

While 5% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion re­sides in the Mid­dle East and North Africa, the re­gion has less than 1% of the world’s avail­able wa­ter sup­ply but is home to the high­est con­sumers of wa­ter in the world. In United Arab Emi­rates (UAE) alone daily per capita wa­ter con­sump­tion av­er­ages 500 litres, about 82% above the global av­er­age.

GCC govern­ments along with wa­ter so­lu­tions providers and wa­ter re­searchers are now in­sti­gat­ing a bal­ance be­tween in­no­va­tion and reg­u­la­tion to ad­dress a loom­ing wa­ter cri­sis in the re­gion.

The GCC re­gion has over the past few years adopted a strat­egy that aims to ex­pand its to­tal sea­wa­ter de­sali­na­tion ca­pac­ity by nearly 40% by 2020 in an ef­fort to meet the rapidly in­creas­ing de­mand for potable wa­ter in the re­gion.

The GCC’s cur­rent sea­wa­ter de­sali­na­tion ca­pac­ity of ap­prox­i­mately 4,000 mil­lion im­pe­rial gal­lons a day (MIGD) is set to in­crease to more than 5,500MIGD over the next 5 years as the GCC states in­vest heav­ily in in­creas­ing potable wa­ter sup­ply.

With the de­ple­tion of ground­wa­ter, de­sali­na­tion has over the years be­come the pri­mary source of potable wa­ter in GCC coun­tries such as UAE and Saudi Ara­bia, which have ex­pe­ri­enced rapid rises in de­mand for wa­ter on the back of strong eco­nomic and pop­u­la­tion growth.

Cur­rently, de­mand for potable wa­ter in the re­gion is about 3,300MIGD, and is ex­pected to grow to about 5,200MIGD by 2020. While cur­rent re­serve mar­gins be­tween sup­ply and de­mand ap­pear to be at com­fort­able lev­els, at coun­try and lo­cal net­work lev­els the sup­ply-de­mand gaps are much smaller.

For ex­am­ple, while UAE has en­joyed com­fort­able re­serve mar­gins in re­cent years, Saudi Ara­bia, Oman and Kuwait have faced real chal­lenges meet­ing de­mand, es­pe­cially dur­ing the sum­mer months. Age­ing plants also do not al­ways op­er­ate at full de­sign ca­pac­ity, fur­ther re­duc­ing the the­o­ret­i­cal to­tal out­put.

Fo­cus of the wa­ter sec­tor in the re­gion is shift­ing to­wards sus­tain­able prac­tices, waste­water treat­ment and re­cy­cling, with sev­eral util­i­ties and wa­ter agen­cies an­nounc­ing no­tice­able projects in­di­cat­ing start of a tech­no­log­i­cal turn­around for the re­gion. Govern­ments in the GCC have al­lo­cated ap­prox­i­mately $100bn to­wards im­ple­ment­ing bet­ter wa­ter tech­nolo­gies and en­ergy-ef­fi­cient de­sali­na­tion.

Ur­ban wa­ter sup­ply in the King­dom of Saudi Ara­bia (KSA) and the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE) is al­ready above 90% cov­er­age, with the ma­jor­ity of this wa­ter (up to 80%) sourced through de­sali­na­tion. In the next cou­ple of years, it is an­tic­i­pated that wa­ter sup­ply in ur­ban re­gions will reach 100% cov­er­age in these coun­tries.

Util­i­ties such as DEWA (Dubai elec­tric­ity and Wa­ter Sup­ply), are lead­ing by ex­am­ple with Moody’s In­vestors Ser­vices up­grad­ing the com­pany’s rat­ing to in­vest­ment

grade. This has been a re­sult of op­er­a­tional im­prove­ments and a sound fi­nan­cial pro­file.

In­vest­ments in the wa­ter sec­tor have been on the rise over the past few months, with sev­eral projects un­der ex­e­cu­tion or bid­ding/ten­der­ing stage. These projects are cov­er­ing all seg­ments of the wa­ter sec­tor, in­clud­ing de­sali­na­tion, in­de­pen­dent wa­ter and power projects (IWPP), wa­ter trans­mis­sion and dis­tri­bu­tion, re­pair and re­place­ment of net­works, waste­water treat­ment and pro­duced wa­ter treat­ment.

In De­cem­ber, Saudi Ara­bia said it would spend more than SR9 bil­lion ($2.4 bil­lion) in build­ing in­fra­struc­ture for key wa­ter projects in the Makkah re­gion. The Sa­line Wa­ter Con­ver­sion Cor­po­ra­tion (SWCC), which is re­spon­si­ble for the de­sali­na­tion of sea­wa­ter, pro­duc­ing and sup­ply­ing elec­tric­ity and wa­ter to var­i­ous re­gions in the King­dom, re­cently signed sev­eral con­tracts aimed at in­creas­ing wa­ter sup­ply to some gov­er­norates in the Makkah re­gion as well as en­sur­ing sup­ply to ar­eas with­out wa­ter.

These projects in­clude the con­struc­tion of Phase Four of a sea­wa­ter re­verse os­mo­sis (SWRO) de­sali­na­tion plant at Shoaiba in Jed­dah, the trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy and the pur­chase of pro­duced wa­ter at the Shoaiba power and de­sali­na­tion plant, and the Shoaiba-Mina wa­ter trans­fer sys­tem.

In the Taif re­gion, work is on to lay wa­ter pipe­lines from Arafat be­sides im­ple­men­ta­tion of pump­ing sta­tions, stated the re­port. The projects also in­clude the man­u­fac­ture and sup­ply of the Rabigh-Jed­dah-Makkah wa­ter trans­fer sys­tem and in­stal­la­tion of pump­ing sta­tions.

A con­sor­tium led by Saudi Ara­bia’s ACWA Power was in De­cem­ber awarded a con­tract to de­velop the Salalah In­de­pen­dent Wa­ter

The Mirfa IWPP in Abu Dhabi is now into full com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion with 1,600MW of power and 52.5MIGD of sea­wa­ter ca­pac­ity.” Engie

Project in Oman. Ve­o­lia and Dho­far In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment and In­vest­ment Co (DIDIC) are also a part of the con­sor­tium that was awarded the con­tract by Oman Power and Wa­ter Pro­cure­ment Com­pany (OPWP).

The plant will be lo­cated in Dho­far re­gion and will have the ca­pac­ity to gen­er­ate 25 mil­lion gal­lons per day of de­sali­nated wa­ter us­ing re­verse os­mo­sis tech­nol­ogy. OPWP is procur­ing the con­tract through the buil­down-op­er­ate (BOO) model un­der a 20-year wa­ter pur­chase agree­ment (WPA). Dho­far De­sali­na­tion Com­pany, the com­pany de­vel­op­ing the project, will be owned by the con­sor­tium.

In 2016, Mus­cat Wa­ter, a joint ven­ture be­tween Al Su­laimi Group Hold­ing and AquaSwiss AG, com­pleted the con­struc­tion of its wa­ter de­sali­na­tion plant in Qu­rayat.

The plant will pro­duce 8,000 cu­bic me­tres of de­sali­nated wa­ter per day for sup­ply­ing potable wa­ter to Qu­rayat and nearby vil­lages.

Mus­cat Wa­ter aims to pro­duce potable wa­ter at very com­pet­i­tive prices through unique dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing tech­nolo­gies, to as­sure a high lo­cal Omani con­tent, and to de­velop sig­nif­i­cant in–coun­try-value through the de­ploy­ment of Omani man­power and lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties in its projects.

French com­pany Engie an­nounced in Novem­ber that the Mirfa In­de­pen­dent Wa­ter and Power Plant (IWPP) in Abu Dhabi was now into full com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion. The plant adds 1,600 MW of power and 52.5 mil­lion gal­lons (around 200,000 m3) per day (MIGD) of sea­wa­ter de­sali­na­tion ca­pac­ity.

The con­struc­tion of the $1.5bn IWPP, lo­cated 160 kilo­me­tres away from Abu Dhabi, was ini­ti­ated in Oc­to­ber 2014. It is owned by ENGIE (20%), Abu Dhabi Wa­ter and Elec­tric­ity Author­ity (ADWEA) (60%) and Abu Dhabi Fi­nan­cial Group (20%).

De­vel­oped un­der a full turn-key en­gi­neer­ing, pro­cure­ment and con­struc­tion con­tract (EPC), the project in­te­grates the ac­qui­si­tion of an ex­ist­ing 22.5 MIGD (85,000 m3 per day) wa­ter pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties and as­so­ci­ated in­fra­struc­ture along with the ac­qui­si­tion, re­fur­bish­ment, erec­tion and com­mis­sion­ing of four GE 9E gas tur­bines with a com­bined net ca­pac­ity of 360 MW ac­quired from the Al Mirfa Power Com­pany.

In Au­gust, the UAE’s Fed­eral Elec­tric­ity and Wa­ter Author­ity (FEWA) said it would in­crease ca­pac­ity of Ghalilah de­sali­na­tion plant. The Ghalilah fa­cil­ity, in Ras al Khaimah, whose orig­i­nal project was awarded to Aquat­ech in 2011, will in­crease ca­pac­ity from 15 to 45 mil­lion im­pe­rial gal­lons a day (68,000 to 205,000 m3/d).

FEWA, which sup­plies wa­ter and elec­tric­ity to the north­ern emi­rates Aj­man, Fu­jairah, Ras al Khaimah, and Umm al Quwain, also plans to build a 45 mil­lion gal­lons a day (205,000 m3/d) sea­wa­ter re­verse os­mo­sis plant in the north of Umm al Quwain in what is an­tic­i­pated to be the first pri­vately fi­nanced project in UAE. Thir­teen con­sor­tia have re­port­edly pre-qual­i­fied.

A fur­ther de­sali­na­tion plant project pro­posed for Al-Zawra, Aj­man, will have ca­pac­ity of 30 mil­lion gal­lons a day (136,000 m3/d). FEWA may con­sider ex­port­ing wa­ter ow­ing to “the ef­fi­ciency of the new plants”.

Re­verse Os­mo­sis (RO) in de­sali­na­tion con­tin­ues to gain promi­nence in the re­gion as op­posed to ther­mal tech­nol­ogy. Its re­li­a­bil­ity, sus­tain­abil­ity and qual­ity are there­fore of crit­i­cal im­por­tance to wa­ter con­sumers and of equal con­cern to wa­ter sup­pli­ers.

Since the in­tro­duc­tion of RO tech­nol­ogy, the num­ber of mem­brane-based de­sali­na­tion plants has in­creased sharply, and these

Re­verse Os­mo­sis (RO) in de­sali­na­tion con­tin­ues to gain promi­nence in the re­gion as op­posed to ther­mal tech­nol­ogy due to its re­li­a­bil­ity, sus­tain­abil­ity and qual­ity.”

cur­rently ac­count for 73% of the over­all global in­stalled ca­pac­ity of 88.6 mil­lion m3/ day from 18,983 plants. 27% of plants world­wide still rely on ther­mal tech­nol­ogy, with 73% us­ing multi-stage flash (MSF) and 27% re­ly­ing on multi-ef­fect dis­til­la­tion (MED).

The RO process pu­ri­fies wa­ter by forc­ing it through a semiper­me­able mem­brane, which re­tains most of the or­ganic and in­or­ganic species present. Pu­ri­fied wa­ter is col­lected as ‘per­me­ate’ while the ‘con­cen­trate’ part, or brine, is dis­carded.

Dow Wa­ter’s fac­tory in Jubail City, Saudi Ara­bia, un­der­pins the com­pany’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to tap into the grow­ing de­mand for tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tions in the GCC.

A con­sid­er­able quan­tity of Filmtech re­verse os­mo­sis (RO) el­e­ments are al­ready be­ing shipped from the fac­tory since it opened last year, the first such plant to be built by Dow Wa­ter and Process So­lu­tions (DW&PS) out­side of the US where it is head­quar­tered.

The wide adop­tion of re­new­able en­ergy in the GCC is now be­gin­ning to find its way into the de­sali­na­tion space amidst grow­ing calls for en­ergy ef­fi­ciency in wa­ter pro­duc­tion. The Abu Dhabi Fu­ture En­ergy Com­pany, Mas­dar, an­nounced last year that it had started test­ing three sys­tems to cap­ture so­lar heat as part of its Re­new­able En­ergy De­sali­na­tion Pro­gramme, to de­velop wa­ter de­sali­na­tion sta­tions with greater en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and com­mer­cial ad­van­tage.

The three sys­tems were in­stalled at the site of the Mas­dar Re­new­able En­ergy De­sali­na­tion Pro­gramme in Ghan­toot. Eval­u­ated with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Im­pe­rial En­ergy, EMSOL In­no­va­tions and GREENone Tec, the sys­tems work by cap­tur­ing the sun’s heat to strengthen the process of de­sali­nat­ing sea wa­ter, as an al­ter­na­tive to burn­ing nat­u­ral gas.

Wind power has also emerged as an­other re­new­able en­ergy for al­ter­na­tive to power de­sali­na­tion plants in UAE. A new study by Mas­dar In­sti­tute shows that the cost of pro­duc­ing wa­ter for the UAE’s nat­u­ral wa­ter stor­age struc­tures, and the car­bon diox­ide emis­sions as­so­ci­ated with the process, could be re­duced us­ing wind power for the de­sali­na­tion.

Be­cause wind speeds in the UAE are low, the uni­ver­sity part­nered in the project with Syn­lift In­dus­trial Prod­ucts of Ger­many, which pro­vides so­lu­tions for low-wind sites. Their study con­cluded that the cost of pro­duc­ing 1,000 litres of wa­ter would ar­rive at be­tween $1.6 (EUR 1.43) and USD 2.1. This is slightly be­low the cost of pro­duc­ing fresh­wa­ter via ther­mal-pow­ered de­sali­na­tion, be­fore adding avoided emis­sions to the cal­cu­la­tion.

The use of other re­new­able en­ergy sources, such as nu­clear and geo­ther­mal

en­ergy, to sup­ply wa­ter in Abu Dhabi has also been in­ves­ti­gated.

The Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion na­tional nu­clear cor­po­ra­tion, Rosatom, has stated that its sub­sidiary, Atomen­er­go­mash (AEM), pos­sesses a gen­er­alised so­lu­tion for the in­te­gra­tion of a de­sali­na­tion fa­cil­ity into a nu­clear power plant (NPP) based on the VVER-1000 or VVER-1200 re­ac­tors. A clas­sic ex­am­ple of this type of in­te­gra­tion are the co-gen­er­a­tion units that have been op­er­at­ing at Rus­sian NPPs for many years, and are used to heat pop­u­la­tion cen­tres in the vicin­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to Rosatom, cal­cu­la­tions show that if an NPP is con­structed with a re­ac­tor that has a ca­pac­ity of 1,200 MW 8 % of the to­tal steam flow could be di­rected for de­sali­na­tion, which cor­re­sponds to a pro­duc­tiv­ity for the MED-fa­cil­ity of 170 thou­sand m3/d. The in­te­gra­tion of these two types of ac­tiv­i­ties needs to be done at the de­sign stage, and re­sults in costs sav­ings thanks to the joint ef­fec­tive use of re­sources (steam, hy­draulic struc­tures, sup­port­ing sys­tems) and also cre­ates syn­ergy.

Tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments in smart wa­ter net­works (SWNs) are help­ing GCC wa­ter util­ity op­er­a­tors boost ef­fi­ciency and proac­tively man­age and con­trol dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tems. The prin­ci­pal ob­jec­tive of im­ple­ment­ing such a net­work is to im­prove per­for­mance by op­ti­mis­ing sys­tem op­er­a­tions, rather than re­ly­ing solely on cap­i­tal im­prove­ments.

Geo­graphic in­for­ma­tion sys­tem (GIS) tech­nol­ogy, su­per­vi­sory con­trol and data ac­qui­si­tion (SCADA) sys­tems, smart me­ters, and ad­vanced me­ter­ing in­fra­struc­ture (AMI) are help­ing op­er­a­tors lo­cate util­ity as­sets, mon­i­tor wa­ter us­age and sys­tem op­er­a­tions, track trends, and re­motely con­trol pumps and strate­gic valves.

Util­i­ties have signed lu­cra­tive deals with so­lu­tions providers to in­te­grate smart so­lu­tions for the ef­fec­tive man­age­ment of wa­ter as­sets as well as en­abling op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency across the value chain.

Shar­jah Elec­tric­ity and Wa­ter Author­ity (SEWA) has so far in­stalled 18,000 Smart Me­ters which can sig­nif­i­cantly con­trib­ute to en­sure the ac­cu­racy of the me­ter read­ings and iden­tify the ac­tual amount of elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion and aims to re­place all con­ven­tional me­ters in its strate­gic plan for 2020.

To em­pha­sise the need for in­no­va­tion, SEWA has signed long term part­ner­ship agree­ments with glob­ally recog­nised brands such as Siemens, ABB, GE, Rolls Royce and IBM to am­plify the use of smart tech­nolo­gies across var­i­ous op­er­a­tions in the hope to en­hance ser­vice de­liv­ery.

There are more wa­ter util­i­ties en­thu­si­as­ti­cally wad­ing into the world of smart leak preven­tion since leak con­trol pro­grammes have a clear pay­back. The abil­ity to cap­ture lost and un­billed wa­ter in­creases rev­enue and re­duces wa­ter pro­duc­tion costs for cities.

Ox­ford Flow, a de­vel­oper of flow con­trol tech­nolo­gies, signed its first deal in the GCC with SEWA. The Ox­ford Uni­ver­sity spin-off will be tri­alling its di­aphragm-free Pres­sure Re­duc­ing Valve (PRV) in the wa­ter net­work in the emi­rate of Shar­jah.

In Novem­ber, Ger­many’s Diehl Me­ter­ing and Saudi Ara­bia’s Abunayyan Hold­ing signed a strate­gic co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment that will in­clude build­ing a state-of-the-art fi­nal assem­bly line in Saudi Ara­bia for ul­tra­sonic wa­ter me­ter tech­nol­ogy.

CESI, a tech­ni­cal con­sult­ing and en­gi­neer­ing com­pany head­quar­tered in Italy was re­cently awarded the sec­ond phase of the Au­to­mated Me­ter Read­ing (AMR) tech­nol­ogy im­ple­men­ta­tion project by Nama Group (NG) Oman. The ob­jec­tive of the AMR roll­out is to im­ple­ment a cen­tral sys­tem in or­der to ob­tain cus­tomer read­ings re­motely.

Xylem, a lead­ing global wa­ter tech­nol­ogy com­pany, an­nounced the open­ing of a new of­fice in Riyadh, Saudi Ara­bia in 2016. The new of­fice is part of Xylem’s $35mn in­vest­ment in the Mid­dle East North Africa re­gion, which in­cludes ad­di­tional re­sources to help pro­vide lo­calised prod­ucts, ser­vices and ca­pa­bil­i­ties in key mar­kets through­out the re­gion.

De­spite a gen­eral slow­down in new in­fra­struc­ture projects across the GCC, op­ti­mism re­mains high in the wa­ter sec­tor. Over the next months, the GCC is ex­pected to step up its in­vest­ments on wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture as de­mand reaches un­prece­dented lev­els. But great em­pha­sis is likely to be placed on the in­te­gra­tion of smart so­lu­tions into wa­ter man­age­ment sys­tems to guar­an­tee op­er­a­tional and as­set op­ti­mi­sa­tion.

Sea­wa­ter de­sali­na­tion re­mains the main source of potable wa­ter pro­duc­tion in the GCC

EF­FI­CIENCY In­te­grat­ing re­new­able en­ergy into sea­wa­ter de­sali­na­tion

Re­verse Os­mo­sis con­tin­ues to gain wide adop­tion in new de­sali­na­tion plants

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