Masdar 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. First announced in January 2013, the project aims to develop and demonstrate energy-efficient seawater desalination technologies efficient enough to be powered by renewable energy.
The new technologies are expected to allow the implementation of cost-competitive large-scale seawater desalination plants powered by renewable energy in the UAE and abroad.
The pilot program is a direct result of a call to action by His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. The UAE’s rapidly increasing population and robust economic growth make the development of more advanced desalination innovations necessary to address the country’s long-term water security.
“We look forward to working with these four leading companies as they break ground on new desalination technologies,” said HE Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Chairman of Masdar. “Seawater desalination is an energy intensive process that if left unchecked will become unsustainable over time. We must innovate and discover commercially viable solutions to meet our long-term water needs.
“Water security is one of the most pressing issues around the world,” added Dr. Al Jaber, “but with the Gulf region’s climate we have limited natural options. Combining best-in-class desalination technologies with our abundant solar resources is a logical step toward securing our country’s water supplies.”
Each company, selected for the project because of their leadership and innovation within the desalination sector, will build and operate its own test plant to develop and demonstrate desalination technologies over the course of 18 months. This timeframe will enable the companies to gauge which desalination technologies emerge as the most efficient and therefore have potential to be powered by renewable energy. 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. As part of the pilot project, each of the four companies will collaborate with the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology – a research-driven, graduate university in Abu Dhabi.
The entire pilot project test facility will be located in Ghantoot, 90 kilometers northwest of Abu Dhabi. Masdar selected Ghantoot because of its easy access to deep seawater and the availability of existing utility connections from a now-decommissioned desalination plant. During the course of the project, the test plants will also provide 1,500 cubic meters of potable water per day to Abu Dhabi’s water infrastructure, enough to meet the water requirements for around 500 homes.
The development of energy-efficient seawater desalination facilities is critical to the Gulf because the region accounts for 50 percent of the world’s desalination capacity. In addition, turning seawater into potable water requires substantial amounts of energy.
The announcement of the contracts was attended by H.E Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General, Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi; Dr Salah Hashimi, Director of Infrastructure and Environment GSEC; Nick Carter, Director General of the Regulation and Supervision Bureau; Dr. Ahmad Belhoul, CEO Masdar; Carlos Cosin, CEO Abengoa Water; Pierre Pauliac, CEO Degrémont Middle East; John Webley, CEO Trevi Systems; Xavier Joseph, CEO of Sidem/Veolia Gulf Countries and Faraj El-Awar – Program Manager at UN Habitat.
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. Hosting government, business and civil society leaders, the Abu Dhabi Ascent is designed to build momentum for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in New York, which aims to catalyze transformative action and build political impetus in advance of the 2015 UNFCCC Climate Change Conference in Paris.
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