The Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority, ADWEA, has announced a $1.2bn project to build the world’s largest reverse osmosis water desalination plant in Abu Dhabi, with operations set to begin in October 2021.
ADWEA also announced the commencement of a competitive process to select a developer to own up to 40% of a special purpose vehicle to participate in the Taweelah Reverse Osmosis Independent Water Project. The remaining equity will be held, directly or indirectly, by ADWEA.
The project will be built in the Al Taweelah Power Complex, 45 kilometres north of Abu Dhabi, and produce 200 million gallons of water per day using a reverse osmosis technology.
Plans call for the development, financing, construction, operation, maintenance and ownership of the plant.
ADWEA invited alliances and developers to express their interest in participating in this project, according to the independent product model applied by the authority within the privatisation programme, in partnership with the private sector. Under this programme, ADWEA seeks to own a 60 percent stake in the project, while the private sector developer will own 40%.
Reverse osmosis (RO) technology is the most popular desalination technology because of its lowest costs. The process is based on the principal of osmosis and requires a membrane barrier to separate salts from water. It consumes considerably less energy.
The official said each of the two new plants at Al Taweela will produce 100 MIGD (Million Imperial Gallons per Day). “It is not viable to build a single plant producing 200 MIGD water; that’s why two plants with 100-MIGD capacity have been planned,” Al Seairi said.
The construction is expected to start by the end of this year or early next year and will be completed within two years. “The plants are expected to be operational in 2021,” Al Seairi said.
On the cost of water production, he said the exact cost cannot be ascertained at this stage. However, the similar water production at present costs Dh10 for 1,000 (one thousand) gallons. “We are trying to cut this cost by half,” the official said.
The plants will mostly cater to the water demands of Abu Dhabi and the rest will be supplied to the Northern Emirates, he said.
"This project is in line with the leadership's vision for a comprehensive development, in which, ADWEA will play a vital role by setting up water and electricity infrastructure projects across the UAE," said Abdullah Ali Musleh Al Ahbabi, Chairman of ADWEA’s Board of Directors.
He added that the power sector is the second largest sector in Abu Dhabi after oil and gas, with a total capacity of 16,922 megawatts per day and 960 million gallons of fresh water per day.
The two plants at Al Taweela will generate 100 million imperial gallons of water per day each.