Suhail bin Mohammed Faraj Al Mazroui, Minister of Energy and Dr Sultan bin Ahmed Sultan Al Jaber , UAE Minister of State and Chairman of Masdar participated on Monday to the inauguration of the first renewable-energy desalination plant, at Ghantoot in Abu Dhabi.
This pilot plant can produce just a modest quantity of water per day around 1,500 cubic metres enough to supply 500 homes.
The purpose of the project is to prove to investors that renewable energy-powered desalination plants are powerful enough to ensure profitability.
To produce water from classic desalination than from ground surface, is ten times more expensive and involve the consumption of precious fossil fuel and it is not environmental friendly.
The project began in 2013, when Masdar invited 180 companies in the water desalination industry to participate in the pilot scheme.
Through a competitive tender, four commercial partners: Abengoa, Suez Environnement, Sidem/ Veolia and Trevi Systems, were selected to support the development of the programme.
The chosen site was a decommissioned desalination plant in the Ghantoot area, selected due to its accessibility to deep seawater and availability of electricity and natural gas.
Like with any desalination plant, the Ghantoot plant starts by extracting seawater. This is pumped into a tank, where it is tested to verify the quality.
It is then distributed to the four partners, each receiving a water flow varying from 10 cubic metres to over 100 cubic metres per hour, based on each partner’s requirements.
Three of the plants use reverse osmosis technologies, and one (Trevi Systems), forward osmosis. With the reverse osmosis, seawater is pumped from the sea, while in forward osmosis it is sucked out. All four plants use various technologies to save as much energy as possible.
The four plants discharge a total of 3,951 cubic metres of brine back into the sea daily.
All desalinated water produced by the four plants is collected in another tank and checked daily by Masdar to ensure it is up to quality standards.
The water demand in the UAE is expected to grow by 30 per cent by 2030 and most of it comes from desalination plants. The UAE has the highest rate of water consumption in the world and 80 per cent of it comes from desalination plants.
If the renewable energy desalination pilot plant in Ghantoot, which works mostly on solar power, proves to be commercially successful, it may be the answer to water scarcity not only in Abu Dhabi, but also in MENA region.
The target is to have a commercial scale facility operating by 2020.
Masdar has given itself one year to demonstrate that this is a good investment.