Approximately 45km north of Abu Dhabi city, the Taweelah project will be the first reverse osmosis independent water project in Abu Dhabi which will desalinate seawater for supply to local communities and industry in the area. It will also set new benchmarks for its size, efficiency and cost by utilizing the lowest amount of energy per cubic meter of water produced.
As the world’s largest desalination plant, it is estimated to supply 909,200 m³/day and is scheduled to become fully operational in the fourth quarter of 2022. The plant will play a critical role in meeting the region’s peak water demand, which is projected to rise by 11% between 2017 and 2024, according to fellow supplier Energy Recovery.
ABB is working with SEPCOIII, the EPC contractor of the plant, to ensure power supply continuity, boost system operational efficiency and reduce maintenance costs. Challenged to provide safe, reliable and stable power supply to the operation of the seawater desalination equipment, ABB is delivering 30 panels of UniGear ZS3.2 medium-voltage switchgear and 250 panels of MNS low-voltage switchgear with digital capabilities.
In an electric power system, switchgear is used to control, protect and isolate electrical equipment, in order to ensure uninterrupted power supply. The MNS switchgear delivered has incorporated intelligent devices with a data interface to enable remote operation monitoring and condition-based maintenance of the switchgear.
ABB has also delivered a wide range of low and medium voltage motors and variable speed drives to ensure reliable and energy efficient pumping in the plant. The ACS580MV medium voltage drives match the speed and torque of the motors to the pumping demand for maximum energy savings.
US supplier Energy Recovery won a $23.5m contract to supply its PX Pressure Exchanger devices and related equipment and services to multiple desalination projects across the Middle East and North Africa, including Taweelah.
Robert Mao, Energy Recovery chairman and interim president and chief executive officer, said: “When announcing Taweelah, the Emirates Water and Electricity Company noted ‘a major driver for the adoption of reverse osmosis instead of thermal desalination is the higher energy efficiency it offers.’ Thanks in part to the energy savings delivered by our pressure exchanger technology, SWRO’s economic advantages over thermal desalination methods are clear and unlikely to change.“
Compared to the nearby Taweelah power and thermal desalination plant, which was built in phases between 1985 and 2002, Energy Recovery estimates that the Taweelah SWRO plant will deliver water at a contracted cost of less than half that of the original thermal plant. Once the Taweelah SWRO plant is in operation, Energy Recovery’s PX devices are expected to recycle hydraulic energy equivalent to over 900 gigawatt hours of energy annually, an amount associated with approximately 550,000 metric tons of carbon emissions.
Rodney Clemente, Energy Recovery senior vice president of water, said: “Historically, our industry’s Achilles’ heel has been the energy intensive nature of the reverse osmosis process. No longer – many factors, including innovations in energy recovery devices and reverse osmosis membranes and a technology shift from thermal desalination to reverse osmosis, have reduced costs such that desalination water production is beginning to rival traditional water management costs,” he said.
Flowserve announced in 2019 that it had won the contract to supply the main pumps for the project. Combined with another SWRO facility in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (capacity 606,000m3/day), the supplier said it would provide 135 pumps, including key products such as high pressure (HP) pumps, HP and ERD boosters and second-pass HP pumps.