Low-CO2 desalination plant for Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi’s Mirfa 2 Reverse Osmosis Seawater Desalination Project will be the UAE’s third largest low-carbon intensive RO plant, providing water for 210,000 households.

By Joanne McIntyre, Valve World

As one of the main companies responsible for the integrated coordination of planning, purchasing, and supply of water and electricity across the UAE, Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC) recently announced the award for the low-carbon intensive Mirfa 2 Reverse Osmosis (M2 RO) Independent Water Project to a consortium consisting of ENGIE and TAQA. TAQA will take on the majority share of the equity in the project and hold a stake in the operations and maintenance company. Following the award, the project’s Water Purchase Agreement (WPA) was signed between TAQA, ENGIE, and EWEC.

Low-carbon desalination

M2 RO will desalinate seawater using low-carbon intensive RO technology to produce up to 120 million imperial gallons per day (MIGD) of potable water, equivalent to approximately 550,000 cubic metres per day. This is sufficient to meet the water demand of up to 210,000 households in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Low-carbon intensive RO water desalination plants are up to 96% more efficient than traditional thermal desalination plants, enabling a more than 85% reduction in carbon emissions associated with water production.
Othman Al Ali, Chief Executive Officer of EWEC, said: “We look forward to this strategic collaboration with TAQA and ENGIE, which will see the development of the UAE’s third largest low-carbon intensive RO water desalination plant. The development of the M2 RO water desalination project enables EWEC to further accelerate its strategic initiative of decoupling water desalination operations from power generation. It will implement tangible and effective actions that contribute to the achievement of UAE Water Security Strategy 2036 and the UAE Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative objectives.”
The project significantly empowers EWEC to manage and operate water desalination and power generation more efficiently and effectively. EWEC is investing heavily in the development of RO projects, using advanced techno-economic modelling to plan the sectors capacity requirements strategically. By 2030, the company expects over 90% of its water production to be via RO, resulting in carbon emissions associated with water production falling from 14.6 million tonnes in 2020 to 2.1 million tonnes by 2030.
“This will reinforce our position as a leader in advancing sustainable, secure water and power supply in Abu Dhabi and across the UAE,” stated Mr Al Ali.
Farid Al Awlaqi, Executive Director of Generation at TAQA Group, commented: “TAQA is proud to be a principal shareholder in the M2 RO project, which will be critical to supporting national decarbonisation efforts and long-term water security for the UAE. This project aligns with our recently announced ESG strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As part of this strategy, we have committed to expanding the use of the highly efficient reverse osmosis technology and to decouple power and water production to reduce our carbon emissions from water desalination. The project also supports our growth ambitions to have water production using RO technology become more than two-thirds of our total capacity by 2030.”

Who’s who in Mirfa 2?

EWEC drives the planning, forecasting, purchase and supply of water and electricity in Abu Dhabi. It performs its role as the sole procurer of water and electricity from independent producers, ensuring the short- and long-term balancing of bulk supply and demand for distribution companies. EWEC is part of ADQ, one of the region’s largest holding companies with a broad portfolio of major enterprises spanning key sectors of Abu Dhabi’s diversified economy.
TAQA is a diversified utilities and energy group headquartered in Abu Dhabi, with significant investments in power and water generation, transmission and distribution assets, and upstream and midstream oil and gas operations.
ENGIE is a global reference in low-carbon energy and services committed to accelerating the transition towards a carbon-neutral world, through reduced energy consumption and more environmentally-friendly solutions.

The use of valves in RO desalination

Reverse osmosis (RO) is a water treatment process that uses a semi-permeable membrane to remove dissolved salts, minerals, and other impurities from seawater or brackish water, producing fresh water that is suitable for human consumption or industrial applications. Valves play a critical role in the RO process, controlling the flow of water and chemicals and ensuring the efficiency and safety of the system.
Valves commonly used in RO desalination include:
Pressure relief valves: used to relieve excess pressure that can build up in the RO system. Typically installed on the high-pressure side of the system and designed to open automatically when the pressure exceeds a certain limit, releasing water to prevent damage to the membrane or other components.
Check valves: allow water to flow in one direction only, preventing backflow. Often used in the feedwater and permeate lines to prevent contamination of the feedwater with the treated water.
Ball valves: commonly used in the pre-treatment stage of the RO system to isolate or control the flow of chemicals such as anti-scalants or chlorine.
Needle valves: These have a long, tapered needle-like stem that is used to precisely control the flow of water or chemicals. Commonly used in the post-treatment stage of the RO system to add chemicals such as pH adjusters or disinfectants.
Solenoid valves: Operated by an electric current and used to control the flow of water or chemicals automatically. Often used in the control system of the RO system to activate or deactivate pumps or valves as required.

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