Energy efficiency a booming business in Arabian Gulf

The US-based company Energy Recovery is hitting its stride selling technology to improve efficiency in desalination in the Middle East.

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Energy Recovery, which sells clean technologies to help to boost power savings in the water industry, expects to win more business in the region as energy efficiency gains prominence.

The United States-based firm, which uses reverse osmosis to help to desalinate water, has clients across the Middle East.

“We have about 90 per cent market share in the world and our technologies are used in just about every country in the Middle East because desalinated water is such an important issue,” said the chief executive, Thomas Rooney, at the World Future Energy Summit.

“Water is an important factor in the energy industry. It is important in terms of electrical power production because it takes a lot of water for cooling power. We expect to do quite a bit more business here in the UAE, as with other countries in the region, because of this technological advancement. The UAE is looking for more and more reverse osmosis instead of heat or thermal desalination because of the incredible energy efficiency.”

The Arabian Gulf is expected to invest about US$100 billion over the next five years to fight water shortage problems, according to Ventures Middle East.

The company also has oil and gas technology that saves power in the processing of sour, or high-sulphur, gas into sweet gas. It is working with Saudi Aramco, the state-run oil company of Saudi Arabia, and other countries.

“Our oil and gas business will double this year from last year in the world. We expect the vast majority of our growth to come from the Middle East. We are the only firm in the world that’s ever done what we do in the oil and gas industry, but it is a very small percentage of our business because this is a new technology.”

The company had revenues of $43 million in 2012, an increase of 59 per cent from $27m a year earlier.

But it faces challenges in the Gulf region, where subsidies for water and power are hindering progress in reducing water consumption.

“Common challenges that are discussed would include subsidised pricing for water and energy,” said Mr Rooney.

“The reason that’s a challenge is when an innovative new technology is brought to the market, it can sometimes be confusing as to how valuable it is if the cost is subsidised.”

Regional energy ministers gathering in Abu Dhabi last November blamed subsidies for excessive power consumption.