Four companies awarded Masdar desal pilot project

Project aims to reduce cost of water production through desalination

NEWS, Business, Contract, Energy, Masdar

Masdar has awarded four companies – Abengoa, Degrémont, Sidem/Veolia and Trevi Systems – with contracts to each start the construction of a desalination plant as part of Masdar’s pilot project in Abu Dhabi.

The program, which began in January 2013, aims to improve the energy efficiency of water desalination.

“Continuing to use traditional energy intensive desalination technologies is not an option for a sustainable future,” said Dr. Ahmad Belhoul, CEO of Masdar, as he awarded the contracts.

Each company will build and operate its own test plant to develop and demonstrate desalination technologies over the course of 18 months. Al Ramahi explained that for cost effectiveness, conventional electricity will be used as the source of supply for the pilot project, rather than renewable resources.

“We want to make the desalination technology affordable,” said Mohammad El Ramahi, associate director of asset management, engineering and operations at Masdar.

“From the cost point of view, Abu Dhabi government currently pays $2.8 per cubic meter. We’re aiming for around 60% of that number. We call this pilot a success if each one of them meets that target,” Al Ramahi explained on the sidelines of the press conference.

By the end of the year, the companies will prepare the modules, ship them and install them, in order to begin production by January 2015. The program will run up until June 2016.

All of the four test plants will demonstrate innovations in advanced membrane technologies, such as reverse osmosis and forward osmosis, which are more energy efficient processes than the thermal processes currently in use in most of the desalination plants throughout the UAE.

“What is very important to know is that more and more countries in the region are assessing the value of a desalination project, not under the subsidised cost of electricity, but under the real cost of electricity - which in several countries means multiplied by two. So it’s very important for us to be sure that we are owners of a technology which is really efficient it will be the market of tomorrow,” said Xavier Joseph, CEO of Sidem/Veolia Gulf Countries.

The entire pilot project test facility will be located in Ghantoot, 90 kilometers northwest of Abu Dhabi. The contractor for the site’s infrastructure works will be awarded shortly, according to Al Ramahi.

Masdar’s awarding of these contracts to these companies was announced during the Abu Dhabi Ascent, a two-day, high-level meeting convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to encourage bold actions to address climate change.

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