Dr Saif Saleh Al Seairi and Eng Faisal Najd share details of Taweela Reverse Osmosis project at a press conference. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi will build world’s largest desalination facility by 2021, which will cater to the water demands of Abu Dhabi and Northern Emirates, a top official announced here on Tuesday.

The Dh2-billion Taweela Reverse Osmosis (RO) Independent Water Project with two desalination plants working on reverse osmosis technology will be constructed at Taweelah power and water complex, approximately 45 kilometres north of Abu Dhabi city, said Dr Saif Saleh Al Seairi, acting director-general of Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (Adwea), at a press conference during the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW).

Desalination is a process that removes the excess salt and other minerals from water to obtain fresh water. It is one of the oldest forms of water treatment, which is still popular across the world. About 70 per cent of the world’s desalination plants are in the Middle East.

Reverse osmosis (RO) technology is the most popular desalination technology because of its lowest costs. The process is based on the principal of osmosis and requires a membrane barrier to separate salts from water. It consumes considerably less energy.

The official said each of the two new plants at Al Taweela will produce 100 MIGD (Million Imperial Gallons per Day). “It is not viable to build a single plant producing 200 MIGD water; that’s why two plants with 100-MIGD capacity have been planned,” Al Seairi said.

The Adwea has already announced the commencement of a competitive process to select a developer or developer consortium to build the project.

The construction is expected to start by the end of this year or early next year and will be completed within two years. “The plants are expected to be operational in 2021,” Al Seairi said.

On the cost of water production, he said the exact cost cannot be ascertained at this stage. However, the similar water production at present costs Dh10 for 1,000 (one thousand) gallons. “We are trying to cut this cost by half,” the official said.

The plants will mostly cater to the water demands of Abu Dhabi and the rest will be supplied to the Northern Emirates, he said.

The reverse osmosis technology was selected after extensive studies as it is the most cost-effective and efficient one. “We also did extensive studies on the location of the plants and finally chose Al Taweelah,” Al Seairi said.

The Adwea announced that the selected developer or developer consortium will own up to 40 per cent of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to be incorporated in Abu Dhabi to participate in the project. The remaining equity will be held, directly or indirectly, by Adwea. Interested parties have to submit an expression of interest no later than 12 noon local time on February 7.

The project is important to secure the security of potable water supply in the emirate of Abu Dhabi as well as playing a key role in the ongoing cost-reduction initiative in the sector through the procurement of competitive and efficient RO water desalination technology, Adwea said.

Figures

2 plants costing Dh2b

200 MIGD (million imperial gallons per day): capacity (100 MIGD each)

Dh10 per 1,000 gallons: present cost of water production

2018-2019: Construction to begin

2021: Construction completion and start of operations