SAUDI ARABIA – The Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) has completed the installation of the world’s largest multi-effect distillation desalination unit at Shoaiba. The plant has a capacity of 92,000 m3/day and is expected to pump water to Makkah and other areas before the start of the Hajj season in August. The project was implemented by SWCC in collaboration with ACWA Power & Sasakura in order to expand the Shoaiba 2 desalination plant.
Meanwhile, the rapidly decreasing cost of photovoltaics (PV) has led industry leaders in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Chile to express greater interest in solar powered reverse-osmosis desalination. At the Global Water Summit in Paris earlier this month, Thomas Altmann of ACWA Power argued that solar power was turning the industry on its head.
Until now, industry officials have struggled to integrate the solar and desalination components of several facilities. Saudi Arabia’s PV-powered project at Al Khafji, for instance, is behind schedule and likely to have its solar power and desalination components operate separately. Attempts at solar desalination in Morocco have encountered similar setbacks.
The Saudi government is nevertheless optimistic about further integrating solar power into its extensive network of existing and planned facilities. In March, King Abdullah Economic City started the construction of its own solar PV-powered desalination plant. Carlos Cosin, CEO of Almar Water Solutions in Madrid, estimates that a Middle Eastern Country will be the first to operate a commercial solar desalination plant.
A fossil fuel driven desalination plant in Al Khafji, Saudi Arabia, Credit: Chip Hires/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
KENYA – Last week Simon Chelugui, the Water Cabinet Secretary, revealed the government has settled on a contractor to construct a $6.5 million desalination plant in Lamu County. Roads and Infrastructure secretary James Macharia is soon expected to officially launch the plant. Meanwhile, Mombasa County recently awarded contracts for two desalination plants, and is also embarking on a $35 million water and sanitation development program in collaboration with the World Bank.
INDIA – Shri Nitin Gadkari, the Minister for Shipping, Road Transport & Highways, recently revealed that several major ports are set to establish water recycling and desalination facilities. According to Gadkhari, the Ministry for Shipping will install desalination plants at the ports of Paradip, Kamarajar, and VO Chidambarnar.
The largest of these will be a 130,000 m3/day plant at the VO Chidambarnar port, formerly Tuticorin Port, which will serve 20 percent of Tuticorin city’s requirement and will also help serve the water needs of the entire Chennai port.
SCIENCE – A research group from Shinshu University, Japan, has developed robust desalination membranes that can endure large-scale water desalination. The group added carbon nanotubes to the membranes which enhances resistance to chlorine, one of the main causes of degradation in reverse osmosis membranes.
These robust membranes are capable of resisting harsh conditions and can tolerate cleaning treatments while remaining chemically stable. The researchers are working on scaling up synthesis of the nanotube nanocomposite membranes, and plan on eventual commercial production of the membranes.
 Khaled Al-Humaidi “Makkah plant to pump 92,000 cbm of water daily”, saudigazette.com.sa, April 23, 2018.
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 Lucas Laursen “Saudi Arabia Pushes to Use Solar Power for Desalination Plants”, spectrum.ieee.org, April 20, 2018.
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 Kazungu Samuel “Kenya to launch Sh650m desalination plant in Lamu ‘soon’”, businessdailyafrica.com, April 19, 2018.
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