Overcoming harmful algal blooms: Ras Al Khaimah’s desalination plant open for business

Ras Al Khaimah's newly opened SWRO project will use dissolved air flotation (DAF) as part of its pre-treatment to overcome the regional challenge of harmful algal blooms...

Red Tide

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s capital state of Abu Dhabi may be generating headlines on the coupling of solar and desalination technologies but this week has seen its smaller Emirate brother open a seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) project.

Located in Ghallilah in Ras Al Khaimah, the 68,130 m3/day project costing Dhs320m ($87.1 million) was built by Aquatech for the Federal Electricity & Water Authority (FEWA).

Aquatech was awarded the engineering-procurement-construction (EPC) contract to build the SWRO project in June 2011. This included the civil works, buildings and electrical and mechanical installation.

The contract was extremely competitive at the time, with 15 EPC bids being submitted.

The Ghallilah SWRO has been designed to “overcome the red tide phenomena”, caused by algal blooms that can discolour coastal waters and potentially “shut down the desalination plant”, according to Aquatech.

Commonly called red tides, the threat of harmful algal blooms (HABs) is not new but is growing in scale and significance.

A report from the Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC) said: “HABs can restrict operations in desalination plants by clogging filters” and that “other impacts include fouling of surfaces due to dissolved organic materials that can also compromise the integrity of RO membranes, or that can cause taste and odour problems”.

Dr Vikrant Sarin, manager – technology & business development for Aquatech, told WWi magazine: “Red tide (algal blooms) is a big problem in this region for desalination plant operators. Dissolved air flotation (DAF) was specifically included in the design to tackle this problem and is installed as part of the pre-treatment. Pilot studies were done by FEWA to arrive on the design.”

A total of 4,788 SWRO membrane modules were provided by Toray for the Ghallilah project, alongside X-Flow UF membranes by Pentair (Norit).

Mohammed Saleh, director of FEWA said that the new plant will increase reservoir water storage to over 90,000 cubic metres, according to local source, The Gulf Today.

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