• Sustainability technologies are recharging a water-deficit Middl

    11/25/2012 5:26:51 PM
    Sustainability technologies are recharging a water-deficit Middl
  • With the Arabian Gulf accounting for 5% of the world's population but only 1% of the world's available water supply, conservation of water and re-use of wastewater are increasingly gaining attention, as are companies that operate in these fields. 

    The population of the GCC amounted to 47 million at the end of 2011, according to recent Qatar National Bank data. Global consultancy Booz & Company has estimated that the GCC states consume an average of 850 cubic meters of water per capita each year, compared with a global average of about 500 cubic meters. In Saudi Arabia, the largest country in the region, the figure stands at 950 cubic meters per person per year.

    Zawya Projects data reveal that around USD 1.085 trillion of projects are in the design, bid or construction stage up to 2037 in the GCC. This means that these governments will need to find a long-term solution to provide water as well as dispose of and treat the huge amounts of wastewater generated; both in terms of future water shortage issues as well as achieving economic and environmental sustainability with solutions like public-private partnerships in the utilities sector.

    "GCC countries need to increase their use of treated wastewater. Re-use water, as it is also called, isn't used for drinking, but at one-third the cost of desalinated water, it is a good alternative for activities such as maintaining landscaping near public roads, irrigating non-food crops, district cooling, and cooling power-generation equipment at industrial facilities," according to the analysts at Booz. 

    According to Frost & Sullivan, another global consultancy, GCC governments have allocated more than USD 100 billion for investment in the water sector between 2011 and 2016 to improve desalination technologies, water networking and focus more on wastewater treatment and recycling. 

    "Water scarcity and rapid population growth have led the GCC region to invest in water infrastructure. The water infrastructure market is expected to grow at about 15% to 17% in the year 2013," Kshitij Nilkanth, program manager at Frost & Sullivan's environmental practice for the Middle East and North Africa, told Zawya. 

    These investments also present a strong growth opportunity for firms that specialize in the field.

    "With the region focused on enhancing water-use efficiencies in line with the sustainable development commitments of the governments, we have been proactive in building strategic partnerships that promote water re-use while enhancing customer use efficiency," Nabil Habayeb, president and chief executive of GE for the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, told Zawya.

    "Today, we purify over 800 million liters of water daily for drinking, irrigation and municipal uses across MENA," Habayeb said.
    Some of the key projects GE is involved in include providing of water and wastewater treatment systems for Jebel Ali Free Zone's Palm Water utility project, which also called for the long-term operation and maintenance of the USD 550 million project. The company has also opened a manufacturing facility and office complex in Dubai; the 38,000 square meter facility is the largest purpose-built water plant in the Middle East, serving 14 countries in the MENA region.

    The Center of Excellence attached to the facility "will also share best practices related to water treatment, technologies and solutions aimed at increasing customers' efficiency", Habayeb said.

    Other companies in the sector share GE's bullish view. "We view the GCC/MENA as a booming market for construction of water and wastewater treatment facilities as well as water management. Desalination, wastewater re-use applications and water saving solutions will lead the development and be the key drivers for water efficiency in the region," Emmanuel Gayan, director for Veolia Water in the Middle East, told Zawya.

    "With a portfolio of more than 250 proprietary technologies including a vast number of reference plants in the region, the company has the flexibility to respond to the current as well as upcoming technological challenges," he said.

    Veolia has seen an acceleration in government spending in all countries in the region, especially in the more populated ones such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and (since the formation of a post-revolution government) Egypt.

    "In the past two decades, many of the GCC countries have witnessed increased infrastructural development and population growth that has put immense pressure on their water resources. Therefore, the GCC governments are looking for viable options to enhance water supply by various fund allocations and through private investors," said Frost & Sullivan's Nilkanth.

    And Saudi Arabia tops that list, agrees Khaled Jame, a director at Hyder Consulting: "Saudi Arabia is spending billions of dollars. The metering systems are outdated, the pipeline systems need to be replaced and they are growing very fast in terms of population. We see tremendous demand rising for efficient wastewater treatment and technologies in the GCC."

    Habayeb said GE is exploring water management solutions with its customers, including wastewater re-use, to ensure that the precious resource is managed in an efficient and sustainable manner. "Today, some of the most pressing water-related issues our customers face are associated with availability, quality, productivity, the environment and energy. GE has doubled its level of investment in clean research and development from USD 700 million in 2005 to more than USD 1.5 billion in 2010 to focus on helping our customers meet pressing energy and water challenges. One of the most promising efforts to stem the global water crisis is industrial and municipal water recycling. 

    "Recycling water reduces the nutrient loads from wastewater discharges into waterways, which in turn reduces and prevents pollution. Water recycling allows communities to become less dependent on groundwater and surface water sources, and can decrease the diversion of water from sensitive ecosystems. Every day, we invest in developing new technologies to meet industry challenges, from reducing the total cost of producing water to reducing waterborne diseases and to providing environmentally friendly chemicals," Habayeb said.

    Technologies that Reduce Costs

    Veolia's Gayan said technological innovation has made water treatment processes more efficient and brought down the cost of treating wastewater to standards required for more sophisticated re-use. "We foresee re-use of wastewater in industrial applications as becoming the norm in the Middle East, also due to government enforcing treated sewage effluent (TSE) use regulations in the region."

    Gayan points to an example of innovation implemented at one of energy giant Shell's gas to liquids plants in Qatar. "A sustainable water management solution, zero liquid discharge, was put in place. The water produced in the transition from gas to liquid is led to an effluent treatment plant, where it is treated and re-used in the production process. Our patented technologies are used to ensure that no liquid effluent is discharged into the natural environment."

    Nilkanth noted that with the growing demand for potable and non-potable water, water is re-used through polishing the secondary treated sewage. "Advanced wastewater treatment technologies such as membrane bio reactor (MBR) technology are likely to find increased usage in the next five years, as the demand for treated water for district cooling and landscaping increases. New pipe materials such as glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) are gradually finding favor with the design consultants," he said.

    GE and Veolia both see double-digit revenue growth from the region, in spite of economic reverses arising from the Arab Spring.
    "Many countries in the GCC are also planning smart cities and green projects. This is expected to lead to upgradation of the existing treatment capacities and technological advancement in treatments such as usage of membranes," said Nilkanth.
    "We forecast good potential for TSE, wastewater treatment and desalination in the GCC countries. Abundant opportunities are expected to be created in the desalination and wastewater treatment market benefiting the allied industries like membrane suppliers, water and wastewater equipment suppliers, technical consultants and pumps." 

    Jame added that the Hyder team looks for new technologies in relationship to SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition), which refers to industrial control systems (ICS): computer systems that monitor and control industrial, infrastructure, or facility-based processes. 

    "We specifically look for wireless technology and leakage detection technology. Abu Dhabi is ahead of the game in terms of using automatic meter reading technology and that is also being implemented in other countries in the area. Again, leakage from the pipes and connections is another issue in the region - around 30% of water is lost due to leaking pipes. If you can control that amount, you can save lot of money," Jame said.