GCC to expand desalination capacity by 40% in 5 years

Oct. 28, 2015

Demand for potable water in the GCC countries currently stands at about 3,300 MIGD, and is expected to rise to about 5,200 MIGD by 2020.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Oct. 26, 2015 — The Middle East is facing a water crisis, with supplies across the region predicted to deteriorate in the coming decades.

In August, a report by the World Resources Institute said that 14 of the 33 likely most water stressed countries in 2040 are in the Middle East, including nine considered “extremely highly stressed” with a score of 5.0 out of 5.0: Bahrain, Kuwait, Palestine, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Lebanon.

This region faces “exceptional water-related challenges for the foreseeable future,” the report said.

To help address these challenges, countries in the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) will increase their total seawater desalination capacity by nearly 40 percent by 2020 according to new figures released by the International Water Summit in collaboration with MEED Projects.

The six GCC members are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain.

In an effort to meet the rapidly growing demand for potable water, the GCC’s current seawater desalination capacity of approximately 4,000 million imperial gallons a day (MIGD) is set to increase to more than 5,500 MIGD over the next five years.

Demand for potable water in the GCC countries currently stands at about 3,300 MIGD, and is expected to rise to about 5,200 MIGD by 2020. MEED Projects noted that, although current reserve margins between supply and demand appear to be at comfortable levels, at country and local network levels the supply-demand gaps are much smaller.

Ed James, director of Content & Analysis at Meed Projects, said: “Our data shows that over the last 10 years, the region has invested $76 billion in standalone water projects. If we add the power component investment of these desalination facilities, that figure exceeds well over $100 billion. Going forward, we expect the largest investments to be made in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Oman and Kuwait, which have the steepest short-term demand projections. The addition of more than 1,500 MIGD of new capacity will likely require a similarly large amount of investment.”

Operators are likely to favor less energy-intensive methods of desalinating water over traditionally dominant forms of thermal distillation in GCC states such as multi-stage flash (MSF) or multiple-effect distillation (MED), which require large amounts of energy.

“Reverse osmosis (RO) membrane technology is becoming increasingly prevalent in the region because it relies on a chemical rather than thermal solution to desalinating seawater. Not only does the technology save on power, but it means countries can also lower their potential carbon emissions,” James added.

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