F&S: Technology needed to combat GCC water crisis

GCC governments have allocated approximately $100bn for water projects

Photo used for illustrative purposes only.
Photo used for illustrative purposes only.

With the GCC seeing an increase in population as well as growth in industrial and agricultural activities, the amplified pressure on the region’s existent water resources is shifting the focus of the GCC water sector towards more sustainable practices, with governments allocating approximately $100bn towards the implementation of better water technologies and energy-efficient desalination.

According to Frost & Sullivan (F&S), innovation is the need of the hour in this scenario, with the adoption of technologies like hybrid/solar desalination and reuse of produced water (PW) for non-potable purposes gaining increasing relevance in the GCC region.

Kshitij Nilkanth, programme manager, environmental technologies practice, Frost & Sullivan, said: "In recent years, the market has seen a slew of new concepts, including forward osmosis (Al-Khaluf, Oman), membrane distillation, tri-hybrid applications using Nano filtration (such as the pilot project at the R&D Centre of the Saline Water Conservation Corporation) and low temperature distillation.”

“These technologies all aim at energy-efficient desalination and lowering the energy footprint of plants,” Nilkanth said. “With increasing focus of the GCC to adopt environmentally sustainable practices, these new technologies will have promising scope."

Among the GCC countries, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have taken the first steps in developing solar desalination projects. Saudi Arabia, through its King Abdullah Initiative, is expected to produce 30,000m3/day of desalinated water in the first phase and will extended capacities to 300,000m3/day by phase two. There are also plans to extend this initiative throughout the Kingdom in phase three.

Another practice, which is slowly gaining momentum in the region, is the use of produced water, a by-product of oil and gas extraction that needs special handling like any industrial waste, for non-potable purposes.

However, this "waste" has the potential to be recycled and reused for industrial as well as irrigational purposes. The GCC, being the global hub for oil and gas extraction, generates about 1.85bn cubic metre (bcm) of PW annually, with Oman being the highest net PW generator.

According to Frost & Sullivan, the PW management market in the GCC earned revenues of $288mn in 2012 and is estimated to reach $482.6mn in 2017, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.9%.

While the treatment equipment market is becoming competitive, the services market is relatively new in the GCC and will be a strong growth segment in the long run.

At present, the use of PW is limited in the region. Higher costs and lack of sophisticated technology are the major hindrances in use of this potential resource at a mass scale.


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