GE to build first desalination plant using clean energy in Saudi Arabia

    15 Jun 2021

    GE Renewable Energy’s Grid Solutions has won a deal from Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction Co. Ltd. to build a turnkey substation that will power the Yanbu-4 independent water producer plant, Arab News reports.

    This is the first integrated, seawater reverse osmosis project in the Kingdom that uses clean energy. Scheduled to be operational in 2023, Yanbu-4 will have a capacity of 450,000 cubic meters per day of fresh water to be supplied to households in Makkah and Madinah.

    Located 140 km west of Madinah, near the town of Ar Rayyis on the Red Sea coast of the Kingdom, Yanbu-4 will utilize reverse osmosis technology to supply potable water.

    The plant will include solar energy units generating 20 MW of power to reduce grid electricity consumption throughout the desalination process, as well as water storage tanks designed to maintain a capacity of two operational days.

    Seoungsan Seo, project director of Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction Co. Ltd., said: “We are honored to be playing a critical role in such an innovative project and to be partnering with GE’s Grid Solutions, who have a strong track record of delivering infrastructure projects in the Kingdom.”

    Developed as a build-own-operate contract by the Saudi Water Partnership Co. as part of a consortium comprising ENGIE, Nesma, and Mowah, the plant will be operated and maintained by ENGIE with a concession term of 25 years.

    A consortium of GE’s Grid Solutions and Al-Sharif Group will provide the full turnkey solution for Yanbu-4 including a 380-110 kV gas-insulated switchgear substation. The substation will provide Yanbu-4 the power required by each load center at the plant.

    Bernard Dagher, president and CEO of GE’s Grid Solutions for the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey said on the company website: “The Yanbu-4 project is a major milestone in the development of the Kingdom’s water infrastructure. As a renewable energy-driven project, it meets the vision of the Saudi leadership to promote environmental sustainability, while meeting the growing demand for freshwater supply in the cities of Makkah and Madinah. This win confirms our ability to be a trusted partner in the infrastructure growth of the Kingdom, including in the delivery of turnkey substations for desalination plants.”

    Four banks, including Korea Development Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, and the Saudi-based National Commercial Bank, and Riyadh Bank will provide financing that includes an 80% senior debt for Saudi Arabia’s Yanbu 4 independent water project (IWP), Power-Technology reports.

    The developer team led by France’s Engie reached a financial close on the project on 21 March, over a year since they were announced as the preferred bidder for the scheme.

    In addition to the 450,000m³ per day (m³/d) seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) plant, the project includes water storage tanks with an equivalent of two days’ operational capacity, a 20MW solar photovoltaic plant, and a 40km water transmission pipeline between Yanbu and Rayis.

    The project will be implemented using a build, operate, own contract, with the water pipeline expected to be transferred after construction to the Saline Water Conversion Corporation.

    The changing global market conditions and liquidity issues arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, along with the change in the project scope, affected the timeline for reaching financial close.

    “The biggest challenge [towards reaching the financial close] was the additional scope of a 4km water pipeline,” explains Turki al-Shehri, CEO of Engie in Saudi Arabia.

    This increased the estimated project budget from approximately $650m to $850m.

    The integrated water project is expected to reach commercial operation in the fourth quarter of 2023.

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