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Desalination Plant of the Year

For the desalination plant, commissioned in 2019, that represents the most impressive technical or ecologically sustainable achievement in the industry. See the full shortlist showreel here.

Shoaiba 3 Exp. 2 IWP, Saudi Arabia

What is it?

A 250,000m3/d independently owned SWRO desalination facility, forming part of the Shoaiba 3 power and water complex in Saudi Arabia, and supplying water to meet the needs of more than one million residents in Jeddah, Mecca and Taif.

Who is involved?

The $253 million facility was developed and is owned 100% by ACWA Power, with the Saudi Water Partnership Company (SWPC) acting as the offtaker. Construction was carried out by a joint venture of Abengoa and Fisia Italimpianto and the plant is operated by ACWA subsidiary NOMAC. Equipment was supplied by Toray (high-pressure membranes), Torishima and Sulzer (pumps) and ERI (energy recovery devices).

What makes it special?

As the first project to be successfully completed under the new wave of water privatisation projects led by SWPC, the plant places a flag for PPP in Saudi Arabia, a crucial success at a time when the kingdom is looking to private finance to achieve its staggeringly ambitious water infrastructure goals. As the first major infrastructure project to be 100% owned by the private sector in the Kingdom, it shows a market that is opening up even as it is increasing the pace of success.

Despite having to cope with a wide range of hostile operating conditions, careful design work by EPC contractors mean the plant is deftly optimised to balance the highest levels of efficiency while keeping to the stringent capex requirements seen in today’s desalination market.


An ultra-compact design reduces footprint and unnecessary capital costs, while chemical dosing and post-treatment facilities are fine-tuned to keep the operating burden to a minimum.

The project was completed just 21 months after the signing of agreements with the client, a truly stunning achievement for a plant of this scale, complexity and importance, and a timeline which sets a standard for ambitious contractors across this industry.


Rancho San Lucas Multi-Stage Multi-Turbo Desalination Plant

What is it?

A 360m3/d seawater desalination unit serving the Rancho San Lucas resort on Mexico’s Baja California coast, featuring the first successful field operation of the novel high recovery multi-stage multi-turbo seawater reverse osmosis configuration.

Who is involved?

The Rancho San Lucas MSMT project was a collaborative effort by FEDCO, Water Technologies de México (WTM), Hydranautics, and American Water Chemicals (AWC) for the client, Solmar Resorts. WTM built the skid using turbochargers optimised for high recovery operation with design input from FEDCO to implement the MSMT concept and recommendations from Hydranautics and AWC on membrane and chemical selections.

What makes it special?

Building upon lessons learned in managing high recovery seawater desalination at the turn of the millennium, the multi-stage multi-turbo desalination unit at Rancho San Lucas demonstrates that seawater recovery can be maximized with high reliability and energy efficiency with low capital and operating costs using standard pretreatment, RO membranes, membrane housings and instrumentation.

This first installation allowed the hotel operator to achieve required permeate production from limited well capacity. The unit has since racked up over one year of continuous operation without downtime or loss of performance. Built originally as a pilot, the hotel purchased the MSMT to serve as its prime source of potable water in lieu of an existing conventional SWRO system.


The MSMT is a fully integrated multi-stage desalination solution that uses turbochargers to provide a pressure boost to each stage, achieving balanced membrane flux and flow velocity for optimized performance throughout the membrane array. For Rancho San Lucas, the MSMT achieved 60% recovery and an enviable specific energy consumption. The success of the Rancho San Lucas MSMT has spurred cooperation with DuPont, Hydranautics, and others to usher in the next generation of RO process design based on ultra-high pressure membranes to take recovery to new highs.