Reverse osmosis desalination kick-started in Qatar with Ras Abu Fontas A3 project

March 10, 2015
Qatar has been a bastion of thermal desalination over the years, with reverse osmosis (RO) membrane alternatives only having been tried on a small scale. However, all that could soon change as the country has awarded its first large scale RO contract...

Qatar has been a bastion of thermal desalination over the years, with reverse osmosis (RO) membrane alternatives only having been tried on a small scale. However, all that could soon change as the country has awarded its first large scale RO contract.

The $500m Ras Abu Fontas A3 desalination plant using RO membranes will be awarded to Japanese firm, Mitsubishi Corporation (MC), it has emerged this week from local sources.

With a capacity of 136,000 m3/day, the project will be developed under an independent water project (IWP) model, with the Qatar Electricity and Water Company (QEWC) for a 25-year period.

Utility Kahramaa (Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation) is expected to sign a water purchase agreement as the off-taker with QEWC within the next three months.

In January 2013 Mitsubishi was awarded the Ras Abu Fontas A2 seawater desalination contract by QEWC.

Also providing water to Kahramaa over 25 years, the A2 project will have a capacity of 164,000 m3/day.

Previous experience of RO in Qatar has been limited and on small scale. One example was a trial in Dukhan, treating 750 m3/day of high salinity water for boiler feedwater.

One of the reasons in the past for the choice of thermal-based desalination has been short-term water storage. With a 24 hour storage, any shortfall in water production due to a “unreliability of technology” would generate a loss in the availability of water (see WWi article).

Thermal has been seen as a robust, reliable technology that the off-taker in Qatar knows well. When the 136,000 m3/day A3 project comes online, this should help build confidence in RO and prove why other Middle Eastern nations are putting trust into membranes.

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About the Author

Tom Freyberg

Tom Freyberg is an experienced environmental journalist, having worked across a variety of business-to-business titles. Since joining Pennwell in 2010, he has been influential in developing international partnerships for the water brand and has overseen digital developments, including 360 degree video case studies. He has interviewed high level figures, including NYSE CEO’s and Environmental Ministers. A known figure in the global water industry, Tom has chaired and spoken at conferences around the world, from Helsinki, to London and Singapore. An English graduate from Exeter University, Tom completed his PMA journalism training in London.

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