How to transform 30,000ha of UAE desert into a green oasis

The UAE could transform 300km2 of its desert into green, arable land using PPPs and Swedish technology, according to Sanctum Consult’s Craig Beeson

Sanctum Consult’s Craig Beeson (above) delivered a presentation on PPPs and innovation at <i>CW</i>’s Leaders UAE 2017 summit.
Sanctum Consult’s Craig Beeson (above) delivered a presentation on PPPs and innovation at <i>CW</i>’s Leaders UAE 2017 summit.

The UAE could use Swedish technology and public-private partnerships (PPPs) to transform 30,000ha of its desert into arable land.

This is the view of Sanctum Consult’s chief executive officer, Craig Beeson, who explored the possibility during a presentation at Construction Week: Leaders in Construction UAE Summit 2017.

Beeson told delegates that the Emirates could transition from a food importer to a food exporter with two power and aqua towers, and desert-greening zeolites.

Developed by one of Sanctum’s partners, Sweden-headquartered United Science & Capital, the technologies could be implemented at little to no cost to the public sector, according to Beeson.

WATCH: Sanctum Consult on the MEP sector’s transition to PPP

Sanctum and United Science & Capital’s desert greening technology involves, porous, volcanic rocks known as zeolites. By altering the zeolites’ pore sizes, and transforming them into organic material composites (OMCs), this system allows water, nutrition, and cooling agents to be directed to specific places, such as the roots of crops.

“The system enables us to use one fortieth of the water that you would normally need to grow your crops or plants,” Beeson explained.

“We will build a factory, which will [use] waste recycling and incineration to generate power through pyrolysis. This energy will drive reactors and a desalination plant to provide approximately 50,000,000m3 of water. By doing this, we could turn 30,000ha of desert into an arable oasis,” he added.

The power and aqua tower, meanwhile, uses temperature and pressure differences to drive air through turbines and generate electricity. The 650m-tall structures can also be used to desalinate billions of gallons of seawater per year.

“One tower is sufficient to produce 6,570,000MW [of power] per year, which is enough for roughly two million people,” said Beeson. “It can provide anywhere between 500,000,000m3 and 1,000,000,000m3 [of desalinated water] per year, which is enough for the whole of Riyadh, for example.

“[A tower] costs $2bn if you’re only looking for power. If you want the desalinating water as well, it’s another $1bn. So we’re talking about a $3bn project.”

Beeson told the summit’s attendees that, if deployed in combination, these technologies could transform the face of the UAE and wider Middle East.

“At this stage, we have most of the GCC governments interested,” he revealed. “And the good thing is that we’re going to pay for it all; the governments don’t have to pay anything.

“If you combine two [power and aqua] towers with our desert greening project, [you could] turn the UAE into a food exporter rather than a food importer. It’s going to change the whole landscape,” he concluded.

Full coverage of CW: Leaders in Construction UAE Summit 2017 will be included in issue 669 of  Construction Week, which will be published on Saturday, 23 September.

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