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Desalinated water delivered to the United Arab Emirates

23 January 2009

CH2M Hill, a global full-service engineering, procurement, construction, and operations firm has delivered design, construction, and commissioning services to the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority for two seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plants in the United Arab Emirates. A third desalination plant for the Authority is currently under construction by CH2M Hill, and is expected to be online by mid-2009.

Pressure exchanger technology is used for energy recovery at all three new desalination plants.  These units allow for recovery of over 94% of the energy that would have otherwise been lost by waste of the RO concentrate stream.
Pressure exchanger technology is used for energy recovery at all three new desalination plants. These units allow for recovery of over 94% of the energy that would have otherwise been lost by waste of the RO concentrate stream.

Located in the rapidly developing United Arab Emirates, the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority is responsible for providing reliable and affordable electricity and water to the Emirate of Sharjah. As water demands increase, the authority is turning to SWRO membrane desalination to diversify and augment the region’s potable water supplies.

“The Emirate of Sharjah needs additional water supplies,” said CH2M Hill’s Felix Wang who served as commissioning manager and process engineer. “Salty water comes from the taps in some areas, such as Khor Fakkan. The new desalination plants will serve a critical need in the existing distribution network. It feels great to know that we are doing good work for the people of Sharjah.”

CH2M Hill has served as the single-source of responsibility for engineer-procure-construct services for the three new desalination plants, which will provide more than 60,000 cubic meters (16 million gallons) per day of high-quality desalinated water to the people of Sharjah. The Layyah and Khor Fakkan SWRO desalination plants began exporting desalinated water in October 2008.

The environments and source waters of the three plant sites differ dramatically, each presenting unique design and engineering challenges. The Layyah SWRO desalination plant lies on the Arabian Gulf, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) northeast of Dubai. The Khor Fakkan and Kalba SWRO desalination plants are located on the opposite side of the Oman Peninsula on the east coast of the UAE, facing the Arabian Sea.
The engineering challenges have been addressed with an array of advanced desalination technologies.The Layyah and Khor Fakkan sites use dual-stage media filters for treatment of the raw seawater prior to reaching the high-pressure SWRO system. The Layyah site incorporates a dissolved air floatation system before the media filters for enhanced removal of particulates, and better protection against accidental oil spills and seasonal algae blooms. Instead of conventional media filters, the Kalba desalination plant will use high-performance ultrafiltration membranes that are specifically designed for SWRO pretreatment applications. All three plants incorporate the highest efficiency energy-recovery devices available on the market. These innovative technologies result in the production of desalinated seawater at lower capital and operating costs than conventional systems.

CH2M Hill’s Keith Scott, program manager and a seasoned veteran of design-build desalination projects, is responsible for the concurrent delivery of the three desalination plants. Scott said, “At the conclusion of these projects the team can look to each other and be extremely proud of what we have accomplished together: single-source EPC delivery of three desalination plants to the water-starved Emirate of Sharjah that will serve as showcase facilities for the Authority and CH2M Hill.”


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