Middle East

Collection of water and wastewater news headlines from the Middle East

Saudi's solar desalination vision gets brighter

Research underway in Saudi Arabia to look at how solar power can be harnessed for desalination processes is paying off as the country looks set to increase capacity. Reports from Arab News suggest that the Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) will establish three new solar-powered desalination plants to reduce dependence on oil.

Abdul Rahman Al-Ibrahim, governor of the corporation, was quoted as saying that two solar-powered desalination plants are currently operating in Al-Khafji and Jubail, and SWCC is planning to establish three more plants in Haqel, Dhuba and Farasan.

Al-Ibrahim confirmed progress on the desalination plant being constructed in Ras Al-Khair, adding it would be ready within two years.

"Electricity production at the Ras Al-Khair plant will start in April 2013, while desalination water production in 2014," the governor reportedly said. About 55% of work on the project has been completed.

Large scale thermal/RO desalination gains traction

Lower cost membrane desalination and increased water scarcity is now meaning that large scale desalination plants are coming online outside of the Middle East.

The largest membrane desalination plant in the world - the 444,000 m3/d Victoria Desalination Plant in Melbourne, Australia - came online recently but it will be soon surpassed by the 500,000 m3/d Magtaa plant in Algeria, and the 510,000 m3/d Soreq plant in Israel.

The largest thermal desalination plant in the world is the 880,000 m3/d Shoaiba 3 desalination plant in Saudi Arabia, although this will be displaced in 2014 as the largest desalination plant in the world by the 1,025,000 m3/d Ras Al Khair project in Saudi Arabia, which uses both membrane and thermal technology.

Data published from the International Desalination Association (IDA) showed that over the past five years a 57% increase in the capacity of desalination plants coming on-line has been witnessed. The installed base of desalination plants around the world now has a capacity of 78.4 million m3/d compared to 47.6 million m3/d at the end of 2008.

Around 60% of desalination capacity treats seawater; the remainder treats brackish and less saline feedwater. Historically, large scale desalination has mainly been built in the Gulf region where there is no alternative for public water supply.

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