SUSTAINING GCC WATER
A look at the latest trends in the GCC water sector
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’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. 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. Saudi Arabia announced in September plans to build two desalination plants, costing a total of $1.06bn (SR4bn), and these will be built in the cities of Al-Khobar and Jubail in the Eastern Province. The plants will contribute to pumping of more than one million additional cubic meters of water daily to various cities in the Eastern Province, according to Abdurahman AlFadli, Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture and also chairman of the board of Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) The projects will be implemented by taking advantage of highly advanced technologies and worldclass standards so as to improve the efficiency of production and bringing down operational costs. The desalination projects that are expected to go on stream by the middle of 2021 have already been approved by the Saudi King, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as part of wide efforts to improve the water production and distribution infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. Also six proposals have been submitted for Saudi Arabia’s Shuqaiq independent water project (IWP), according to the Water & Electricity Company (WEC), which received the bids. The IWP will have a capacity of 450,000 cubic metres a day (cm/d). The groups that submitted proposals are: Veolia (France) / Marafiq (local) / Alamwal al-Khaleejiah althaniya (local), FCC Aqualia (Spain) / Nesma (local) / Haaco (local), and Marubeni Corporation ( Japan) / Acciona Agua (Spain) / Abdul Latif Jameel (local) / Bahr Rawafid (local). Others are Engie (France) / Mitsubishi Corporation ( Japan) / SSEM (local) / Metito (local)Acwa Power (local) / Al-Babtain Contracting (local) and Cobra (Spain) / Orascom (Egypt) / Al-Blagha Investment (local) In November, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) awarded a contract worth $78.3mn to construct a water reservoir in Al Nakhali. This will hold 120 million gallons of desalinated water to increase Dubai’s storage capacity to 1,010 million gallons. The project includes the construction of two rectangular, reinforced, concrete 60-million-gallon reservoirs. The project includes the construction of two rectangular, reinforced, concrete 60-million-gallon reservoirs. Work is expected to proceed according to project schedules, and the construction and operation of the reservoir is expected to be complete within 24 months. Also in November, the Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA) and MDC Power Holding Company, an entity owned by Mubadala Investment Company, signed an agreement and formed a consortium to co-develop desalination plants in the Northern Emirates. The mandate is to develop three desalination plants to be located in the Northern Emirates for a total capacity of 135 million imperial gallons per day (MIGD), which will be developed in two phases in Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, and Fujairah. The first phase of the project is scheduled to be completed by 2021. In August, Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP) initiated the per-qualification process for developers to set-up two new independent water projects (IWPs) in Al Batinah region. The two proposed water desalination plants will have a combined capacity to produce 250,000 cubic meters of water per day and will be located at North Al Batinah and Barka. OPWP is planning to procure two new capacities (100,000 and 150,000 cubic meters per day) which are located in Al Batinah region (Barka and North Al Batinah, respectively). The IWPs are to be developed as a private sector project by an appropriately qualified developer. In July, Acciona Agua announced that it had won a $232mn contract to design and build Al Khobar desalination plant on Saudi Arabia’s east coast.
The engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract is for 210,000 m3/d reverse osmosis (RO) capacity on the Gulf coast, 400 kilometres east of Riyadh. The plant will supply desalinated water to Saudi Arabia’s Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) for municipal use, and to oil giant Saudi Aramco. The project is scheduled to complete by end of 2020. The award is the first given by SWCC to a Spanish firm. In 2010, Marafiq awarded Acciona Agua a contract to design, build and commission Al Jubail seawater RO desalination plant. The UAE’s Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA) selected a consortium led by ACWA Power and Tecton Engineering and Construction in June for a sea water reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination project in Umm Al Quwain. Once completed, the plant in Umm Al Quwain is expected to process about 45mn gallons of seawater a day into potable water. This is the first FEWA desalination plant in co-operation with the private sector and the authority intends to commence three other desalination plants following the same model, which will be tendered before the end of the current year, according to said Mohammed Salah, director general, FEWA. The Abu Dhabi Department of Energy unveiled in November the seven consortia bidding for Taweela desalination plant mega-project, with the lowest price coming from ACWA Power at $0.49 per cube. Acwa Power of Saudi Arabia, along with its partner Abengoa, placed the lowest bid using the higher electricity tariff at AED8.26 ($2.25) per 1,000 gallons (4.55 m3); or $0.49 per cube. The next best bid under that electricity price was 4 percent higher from partners Engie and Marubeni at AED8.26 per TIG. In November, Saudi Arabia is building a solar-powered desalination plant using adsorption technology. It is the first industrial application model that uses desalination adsorption technology. A symbolic foundation stone for the 5,200 m3/d desalination facility, which is to be located on the Red Sea coast at Yanbu, was laid by Saudi leader King Salman during a visit to King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), in Riyadh, on 5 November 2018. Muscat Water, a joint venture between Al Sulaimi Group Holding and AquaSwiss AG, has completed the construction of its water desalination plant in Qurayyat. The plant will produce 8,000m3 of desalinated water per day for supplying potable water to Qurayyat 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 that the Mirfa Independent Water and Power Plant (IWPP)
in Abu Dhabi was now into full commercial operation. The plant adds 1,600MW 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 360MW acquired from the Al Mirfa Power Company. 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 prequalified. 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 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 multistage 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 Filmtech RO elements from the new plant are an essential product for seawater and brackish water desalination, as well as for water reuse to provide potable, non-potable and industrial water. Dow Water has launched the IntegraFlux Ultrafiltration (UF) module which features XP Fibre, a high-performance, breakthrough fibre that delivers improved quality of water treatment at a lower cost. Some of the most prominent RO technologies used in the region include DOW FILMTEC SEAMAXX and DOW FILMTEC ECO 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 $2.1. This is slightly below the cost of producing freshwater via thermalpowered 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 1,200MW 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 the 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-out 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. Through a partnership that started in 2018, Diehl Metering has been able to comprehensively implement Fixed Network projects in Saudi Arabia – over 700.000 HYDRUS ultrasonic water meters have now been installed in the country. Saudi Arabia aims to install about 12 million smart meters by 2025. 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 last year the opening of a new office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 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. More than 70% of wastewater is reused across the GCC, and now these countries are aiming for 100% reuse of treated sewage effluent within the next few years. The idea is to guarantee proper treatment so that seawater and wastewater can be reused in normal applications such as drinking water, agriculture, landscape irrigation and industrial processes, enabling communities and countries to stretch limited freshwater supplies. Capital expenditure on advanced water reuse has been growing at an annual rate of 19.5% as the need to become efficient rises up on the agendas of most governments and businesses. Over $40bn of government investments are slated for new treatment and collection systems in the region over the next seven years. Work on doubling the capacity of Jebel Ali Sewage Treatment Plant in the UAE is in full swing and 17% of the work in phase 2 has been completed since the start of expansion in May. The expansion work at a cost of $353.9mn will increase the capacity of Jebel Ali Sewage Treatment Plant from 375,000 m3 / day to 675,000 m3/day. The project consists of 6 phases in two main pathways, the liquid waste treatment process and solid waste treatment process. It has a plant for the production of compost from solid waste which is sold to the public, which adds economic value to the project. The treated water is pumped again through a pipeline network covering the whole of the Emirate of Dubai for use in irrigation of public parks and is sold to developers and farm owners, which also adds economic value to the project. As water security concerns rise, the Public Authority of Electricity and Water in Oman said it was planning to build strategic water storage reservoirs in Muscat in order to overcome a crisis situation if desalination plants are disrupted. Saudi Arabia awarded a project to build 17 strategic water reservoirs. The reservoirs, located in Makkah’s Al Sharay and Taif ’s Al-Hada, will each have a capacity of 170,000 cubic metres, with 2.9 million cubic metres of potable. They are scheduled to be completed in three years. Similar projects are taking place near other cities including Jeddah, where the first phase of a 4 millioncubic-metre reservoir was completed recently. Sharjah Electricity & Water Authority (SEWA) and Meinhardt Singapore have identified six initiatives to modernise the water storage infrastructure in Sharjah. These include planning and engineering design consultancy services for the strategic water storage reservoirs for water crisis management and capacity building for SEWA 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..
Governments in the GCC have allocated approximately $100bn towards implementing better water technologies and energyefficient desalination
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
Since the introduction of RO technology, the number of membrane-based desalination plants has increased sharply, and these currently account for 73% of the overall global installed capacity of 88.6 million m3/day from 18,983 plants
Despite a general slowdown in new infrastructure projects across the GCC, optimism remains high in the water sector as demand reaches unprecedented levels
Oman said it was planning to build strategic water storage reservoirs in Muscat in order to overcome a crisis situation if desalination plants are disrupted