Saudi Arabia awards contract for world’s largest desalination plant

The Water and Electricity Company of Saudi Arabia (WEC) has awarded a contract to build the world’s largest desalination plant to a joint venture between ACWA Power International and a conglomerate called the Saudi Brothers’ Commercial Company.

The ACWA bid was chosen from a shortlist of five to build the plant at Rabigh, a town on the Red Sea coast about 100km north of Jeddah.

When complete, the plant will use reverse osmosis to yield a capacity of 600,000 cubic metres a day. The plant may be expanded in the future to double its output.

Mohammad Abunayyan, chairman of ACWA Power, said in a press statement: "Rabigh 3 will deliver potable water at the lowest cost achieved to date for reverse osmosis while consuming the least amount of power for each cubic metre of water produced."

WEC has agreed to buy the water produced at Rabigh 3 for 53 cents per cubic metre, which ACWA says is the lowest cost ever achieved for reverse osmosis technology.

Reverse osmosis is a technique for removing dissolved minerals from sea water by forcing it through a membrane at pressures of up to 1,000 pounds per square inch.

The water output will be piped to Mecca and Jeddah, easing the strain on the kingdom’s water infrastructure during Ramadan and Hajj seasons.

The plant is being delivered under a 25-year build-own-operate contract and is scheduled to begin operations by the end of 2021.

A consortium comprising Marubeni Corporation of Japan, Acciona Agua of Spain and two Saudi companies, the Abdul Latif Jameel and Rawafid Alhadarah Holdings, was appointed as reserve bidder.

The value of the deal was not announced.

Image: The deal was signed on 25 December (ACWA)

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