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Desalination Plant of the Year: Shortlist

For the desalination plant, commissioned in 2020, that represents the most impressive technical or ecologically sustainable achievement in the industry.

Shortlisted Nominees


Al Dur 2 IWPP, Bahrain

What is it?

A $1.1 billion privately owned power and water project supplying 227,300m3/d of water through seawater desalination, and 1,500MW power from natural gas. The first water was delivered in early October 2020.

Who is involved?

The privately financed project was delivered under a 20-year build-own-operate contract by a special purpose vehicle comprising ACWA Power (60%), Mitsui (30%) and Almoayyed (10%). ACWA subsidiary NOMAC will operate the plant. Construction was led by an EPC team of SEPCO III, Power China and desal specialist Veolia Sidem, while companies involved in the desalination supply chain included Energy Recovery Inc. (ERDs), Toray (RO memrbanes), ROPV (pressure vessels) and Torishima (pumps). The project’s client and water offtaker is Bahrain’s Electricity and Water Authority.

What makes it special?

The quoted water tariff of BHD0.264 ($0.70) per cubic metre is a record low for Bahrain, resulting in significant savings for the client and proving the immediate financial impact modern technology and construction methods can have on the cost of water in the areas where it is most needed.

As one of the largest infrastructure projects in the world to be delivered in 2020, the project had to overcome a host of pandemic-related delivery difficulties, including restrictions on material and manpower entry, delays in fabrication and shipping, quarantines and on-site distancing. To deliver a project of this scale in the midst of a pandemic is a truly impressive achievement.


Deft financial management and ACWA’s boundless experience in funding and developing water projects meant the project secured extensive corporate backing in a tough financial climate to overcome liquidity worries and create one of the most economical and reliable sources of water ever for Bahrain.


Khobar I SWRO, Saudi Arabia

What is it?

A 210,000m3/d reverse osmosis desalination plant serving around 350,000 people in the city of Khobar, on the east coast of Saudi Arabia, as well as providing water for national oil company Saudi Aramco.

Who is involved?

The plant was designed and supplied by lead contractor Acciona for its client, the Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC), which will own and operate the facility. Key components were supplied by Energy Recovery Inc. (ERDs), LG Chem (RO membranes), ROPV (pressure vessels), Andritz (high-pressure pumps) and Piedmont (filtration), among others.

What makes it special?

In a year when the pandemic made international travel and work on the ground difficult or impossible for many projects, the innovative use of a digital twin approach meant a team of specialists from Madrid was able to test and commission of the plant remotely. This saw the project delivered to schedule, hugely reduced the number of personnel on site and offered a glimpse into the future of project management.

The speedy and safe commissioning of the Khobar plant marked the start of a massive rehabilitation programme for SWCC. By replacing its huge portfolio of ageing thermal desalination plants with ultra-modern thermal devices, Khobar and its following projects will massively reduce the energy footprint of the world’s largest desalination body and result in annual operating cost savings running into the hundreds of millions of dollars.


The plant ably copes with the mixed demands of municipal and industrial water users at a time when demand from both is growing rapidly. After being brought online at a time when housebound families were using more water the plant made a huge contribution to the utility mix, and soon after commissioning was comfortably supplying in excess of its nominal capacity.


Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant, Singapore

What is it?

A 137,000m3/d dual-feed reverse osmosis desalination plant, drawing water from the Marina Reservoir and the Singapore Strait. The plant is Singapore’s fourth major desalination facility and a key part of the city-state’s water security strategy.

Who is involved?

The project was delivered under a 25-year design-build-own-operate contract by project developer Keppel Infrastructure for its client, Singapore’s Public Utilities Board. Key equipment was provided by Nijhuis (DAF units), Amiad (strainer systems), Pentair(UF membranes), Hydranautics (RO membranes), and Xylem (UV disinfection). AECOM and subconsultant ILF supported Keppel on engineering, while Black & Veatch advised the client on technical works.

What makes it special?

The unique dual-mode design means the plant can switch from the reservoir water supply to seawater at the drop of a hat, responding to fluctuating weather and availability. This helps optimise operation costs during reservoir mode, when only lower-pressure RO treatment is needed. In the face of increasingly erratic weather conditions, the option to switch to reservoir supply also makes the plant a crucial line of defence against the risks of stormwater flooding.

The plant is a model of efficiency. The use of DAF as a pretreatment stage reduced the footprint by 30%. The direct coupling configuration retains booster pressure and minimises pumping cycles, significantly reducing energy consumption. Meanwhile the first use of UV for drinking water disinfection in Singapore eliminates the need for dedicated chemical handling.


As well as being the most compact plant in Singapore to date, the plant’s site is dedicated to public benefits. The entire facility and pumping station are located underground, with park space on the roof made available for public recreation. Rainwater harvesting and irrigation further improve the site’s energy efficiency, while reducing the load to the drainage network in the vicinity.


ZPC Seawater Desalination Project, China

What is it?

A two-phase hybrid desalination plant with a total capacity of 605,000m3/d, providing water through MED and SWRO technology for refining processes in China’s Zhejiang Province. The first phase of the project was completed in 2020, while a second stage is under construction with commissioning expected in November 2021.

Who is involved?

The project provides water to the Zhejiang Petroleum & Chemical Cooperation Limited (ZPC). Shanghai Electric was the EPC contractor for the 305,000m3/d MED part of the project. It is being constructed in parallel with 300,000m3/d of new seawater reverse osmosis capacity furnished by Hangzhou Water Treatment Technology (HWTT).

What makes it special?

Shanghai Electric proved there is still an exciting future for thermal desalination, delivering an MED solution that can be powered both by conventional thermal vapour compression (TVC), and by a new “Flash MED” process. Flash MED is a development of MED by Shanghai Electric, which improves the technical potential of MED while remaining economically competitive. At the Zhoushan Refinery project, the F-MED process uses hot water that exits refining processes as its heat source.

The site is set up to easily switch between TVC and F-MED operating modes at short notice, making it perfectly set to react quickly to changing environmental conditions.


Combined with HWTT’s SWRO capacity serving the same client, this project will bring the total desalination capacity on Zhoushan Island to 605,000m3/d. This will make it the world’s largest individual desalination centre outside the Middle East, just ahead of Singapore’s Tuas facility.


The Global Water Awards 2021 is proudly sponsored by:

Dupont Water Solutions

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