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Industrial Project of the Year: Shortlist

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

Shortlisted Nominees


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.


Petronas IETP, Malaysia

What is it?

A 102,000m3/d integrated effluent treatment plant (IETP) and sludge handling system for the Petronas RAPID Refinery at the Pengerang Integrated Complex in Johor, Malaysia.

Who is involved?

The contract was awarded to a joint venture comprising VA Tech Wabag, which took the lead on engineering and procurement, and local partner Muhibbah Engineering. Technip and AMEC Foster Wheeler were responsible for the front-end engineering design of the project and Fluor Corporation acted as project management consultant. Equipment included a high-pressure wet air oxidation system provided by Siemens Energy and a sludge dryer from Watropur.

What makes it special?

The sheer scale of the treatment plant is impressive: as one of the largest IETPs in the world, it treats seven complex oily effluent streams including spent caustic. Its success is critical to the operation of the colossal refinery and petrochemicals complex, which itself is Petronas’ largest project ever.

Collaboration between the client, consultant and contractor was a top priority, aided by the integration of smart solutions. Software such as SmartPlant 3D and Wrench was used to streamline the design and project control processes, and optimise the implementation schedule.


Sustainability was at the heart of the project, with the IETP designed to meet the International Finance Corporation’s global discharge regulations. The plant will serve as a model for advanced effluent and sludge treatment for refinery and petrochemicals discharge for similar projects across the whole of Southeast Asia and the Middle East.


Roy Hill Mining Water Supply, Australia

What is it?

A 20,000m3/d water treatment plant and 4.3km pipeline serving the Roy Hill iron ore mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Who is involved?

The project was delivered by Osmoflo under a 20-year design, build, operate and maintain contract, with most services carried out in-house. The Australian company also supplied the plant’s reverse osmosis membrane system, with pre-treatment technologies including mixed media and cartridge filtration. Osmoflo is using its PlantConnect software for remote monitoring of the plant.

What makes it special?

The key challenge of the project was contending with the difficulties of the mine’s location. Set in a remote and arid spot 1200km from the nearest city of Perth, the tricky conditions include high temperatures, cyclones and unpredictable rainfall. The design of the plant accounts for variations in feed water with optimised chemical and power consumption. A flexible approach to construction was also required: the plant was fabricated at Osmoflo’s manufacturing facility in South Australia and then transported 3,400km to the Roy Hill mine for installation.


Repurposing water from bore fields is a top priority at the plant. Water typically discharged back to the environment is now a crucial ingredient in the desalination process, conserving groundwater resources and producing high-quality water to wash impurities from the iron ore.

In addition to increasing reuse, the plant contributes to maintaining sustainable groundwater levels in the area. A 4.3km pipeline was installed to pump the excess brine produced by the plant to a downstream managed aquifer recharge system.


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.


The Global Water Awards 2020 is proudly sponsored by:

Dupont Water Solutions

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