Sulzer delivers pump packages for Saudi Arabia desalination project11 January 2021

Each site uses a selection of Sulzer pumps, including the AHLSTAR single-stage centrifugal process pump and MBN-RO high pressure pump

Sulzer has built, delivered and commissioned 289 high-efficiency desalination pumps to Saudi Arabia in 18 months for its latest multiple-site west coast satellite desalination project.

The short build schedule and large number of pumps required the cooperation of several of Sulzer’s facilities to deliver all of the pump skids on time.

Fresh water is a precious resource, especially in arid countries, and keeping up with demand can be a considerable challenge. In Saudi Arabia, desalination plants deliver the majority of the country’s water and a growing population means that utilities are building for the future.

Since 1974, the Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC), a Saudi Government Agency, has built the world’s largest network of commercial desalination plants around the coast of the desert kingdom. For the organization’s latest project, an ambitious scheme to install eight reverse osmosis (RO) facilities along the Saudi West Coast, SWCC and its EPC contractor Advanced Water Technology Company, SETE Energy, Rawafid Industrial and Al Fatah International Consortium (ASRF Consortium), turned to Sulzer for the supply of critical process pumps.

RO technology has transformed the economics of desalination over recent years, halving the cost of producing clean, potable water from seawater. While advances in membrane performance and energy recovery have been central to these improvements, the efficiency of modern RO plants is highly dependent on their pumps. The energy consumed by pumps accounts for 60 to 70% of the final cost of the water produced by such a plant, according to Sulzer.

So, when SWCC embarked on its latest expansion project, it needed pumps that could deliver the high efficiency required to meet the challenge of minimizing power consumption. At the same time, the project required years of reliable operation while exposed to potentially corrosive sea water. Adding to the challenge, an ambitious build schedule meant the pumps, which are normally engineered to order, had to be delivered within a tight 12-month window.

Basem Elshaer, Sulzer sales manager for the water sector in Saudi Arabia said that SWCC selected MBN-RO high-pressure pumps from Sulzer. The main high pressure pumps chosen for the project have a 150 mm diameter discharge pipe and 320 mm impeller. They are manufactured from a super duplex stainless steel to protect critical parts from erosion and corrosion.

To simplify design, construction and operation, the new desalination plants use a highly standardized layout, with a varying number of identical RO process trains installed at each site. Each train is capable of supplying 8,500m3 of clean water per day. Each site uses a selection of Sulzer pumps, including the AHLSTAR single-stage centrifugal process pump.

Ali Awadalla, CEO of Rawafid Industrial, comments: “Under the terms of the agreement, Sulzer was contracted to supply complete units, including pumps, a high-efficiency IE3 electric motor and a comprehensive instrumentation package for each RO train. Sulzer engineers also supervised the installation and commissioning of the pumps.”

The new plants, commissioned as part of the KSA 2030 economic development plan, are designed to significantly increase the availability of fresh water, supporting the growth of tourism and economic activity in the West Coast region of the Kingdom.

Meeting the needs of such a multiple-site project required input from Sulzer specialists across the world. The local point of contact for the customer was Sulzer Saudi Pump Company in KSA, which had support from RO specialist teams in Spain and Finland.

Manufacture, test and installation of all 289 pumps have now been completed on schedule and Sulzer specialists are working with their customer on the commissioning phase of the project.

Operations Engineer

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