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Industrial Project of the Year

For the project, commissioned in 2019, that represents the most impressive technical or environmental achievement in the field of industrial water and wastewater. See the full shortlist showreel here.

Aramco Produced Water Desalination, Saudi Arabia

What is it?

A successful pilot test of a mechanical vapour compression (MVC) desalination unit using produced water as feedstock, with water treated for reinjection.

Who is involved?

The project was funded and carried out by national oil company Saudi Aramco. Technology provider Vacom designed and built the MVC desalination unit, with Tahliyah as their local representative in Saudi Arabia.

What makes it special?

The extreme salinity of produced water in Saudi Arabia makes it almost impossible for conventional desalination technologies to handle. However, this new unit was able to adeptly handle produced water with salinity levels of 100,000 mg/l and treat it to a suitable level for reuse. The distillate water is of the ideal quality to use in Aramco’s crude oil washing, well maintenance and drilling operations.

Now that the pilot has proven itself, this process offers the potential to play a crucially important part in the future of produced water reuse in water stressed regions such as Saudi Arabia.


Aramco plans to use this new technology to kick off a wide-ranging programme of reuse in its oil operations, with potential total groundwater savings of 2.2 billion gallons annually after full implementation.

The implications of this test will be felt beyond the boundaries of Aramco’s own activities. By increasing produced water reuse in the oil and gas sector, more groundwater will be available for non-industrial applications in Saudi Arabia, which reduces reliance on seawater desalination and frees up crucial resources for use elsewhere.


Seawater Energy and Agriculture System, UAE

What is it?

The world’s first bioenergy facility using saltwater to produce seafood and aviation biofuel in the desert environment of the UAE. The two-hectare pilot system is based in Masdar City in Abu Dhabi.

Who is involved?

Jacobs provided design and engineering services for the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium at Khalifa University. The project was carried out in collaboration with Boeing, Etihad Airways, Honeywell UOP and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. Construction was done by the International Mechanical & Electrical Company.

What makes it special?

This project is characterised by cross-industry co-operation to implement sustainable biofuel production and create an agricultural alternative in the UAE. In January 2019, Etihad Airways operated the first commercial flight using biofuel from the project from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam.

The innovative setup of the system ensures that the maximum potential is extracted from each stage. Seawater is used to cultivate aquaculture in six ponds of 1400m3 in total, with the nutrient-rich wastewater used to fertilise salicornia plants which can then be harvested for biofuel.


Excess water is channelled to mangrove forests, which absorb carbon, purify the water and shelter fish nurseries.

Its success demonstrates the viability of using saltwater for halophyte agriculture in the desert environment of the UAE, avoiding the use of precious groundwater and arable land to produce biofuel. Its environmental integration even extends to the use of on-site solar panels to power the system’s pumps and valves. The next step is scaling the system up to a 200-hectare site, in a move towards full commercial implementation.

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