Suez Environnement wins Dh667m desalination part of Mirfa project

Suez wins Abu Dhabi water deal by osmosis

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Suez Environnement has won the desalination part of the independent water and power co-generation project at Mirfa, 120 kilometres west of Abu Dhabi, using technology that reduces cost mainly by using less energy.
The project win for the French utility's Degrémont unit is a further sign that Abu Dhabi is increasingly focusing on the efficient use of energy for desalination plants.
The Mirfa desalination plant will deploy a system called reverse osmosis, which removes salt and algae from seawater by using membranes, and is cheaper than the other two main types of desalination technology used in the region – multi-stage flash and multi-effect distillation.
Suez said the deal, which was awarded by the project leader Hyundai Engineering, and includes the design and construction of the plant, plus a seven-year operating contract, is worth Dh677 million.
The French energy and utility conglomerate GDF Suez (which is the largest shareholder in Suez Environnement, owning about one third of the company) owns 20 per cent of the Mirfa project, with the remaining 80 per cent owned by Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority.
Mirfa is the Emirate's 10th such facility to be built under the public-private partnership model and is expected to have a total capital cost of US$1.5 billion.
When new facilities are fully integrated to the existing plant, the project will have total power generating capacity of 1,600 megawatts and the capacity to deliver nearly 240,000 cubic metres a day of drinking water, with the Degrémont plant accounting for the initial 140,000 cubic metres a day.
Suez is one of the largest desalination plant operators in the world. It built and operates the reverse osmosis plant at the Fujairah 1 independent water and power plant – the largest of its type in the region. Fujairah 1 deploys a hybrid of reverse osmosis and multi-stage flash distillation. As the Mirfa deal shows, the reverse osmosis technology continues to gain ground against other desalination systems and now accounts for the bulk of new projects in the Arabian Gulf region.
"We have made a lot of progress [on reverse osmosis] and it continues to be less expensive in terms of other technologies," said Marie-Ange Debon, deputy chief executive and head of international at Suez Environnement. Since it deployed reverse osmosis on Fujairah 1 in 2006, the process has improved its energy efficiency by20 to 30 per cent, Ms Debon estimates.
This year, Degrémont signed a deal with Masdar to develop a pilot project which aims to use 100 per cent renewable energy to power desalination.
"Energy is a key consideration with water and [governments] are putting a lot of cost pressure on [desalination providers,]" said Ms Debon. "Total cost of ownership is how they assess it and it makes a difference how you operate it over the life of the plant, the cost of chemicals, and of energy."
Governments have therefore moved from simple cost determination to a broader consideration of how the design of plants will effect the total cost over the life of water and power cogeneration operations.
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