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"Making projects more sustainable and saving on costs are key points for desalination"

  • "Making projects more sustainable and saving on costs are key points for desalination"
  • Desalination know-how: meet the industry leaders is an interview series with major players from the global desalination industry.

About the entity

Almar Water Solutions
Almar Water Solutions is a provider of specialist expertise and solutions in water infrastructure development, including financing, design and operation.

Almar Water Solutions is strongly committed to quality, innovation and sustainability. It produces water through new non-conventional water sources such as desalination, developing sustainable and efficient infrastructure that respect the environment and remain operational for longer.

Arantxa Mencía, Global Director of Business Development at Almar Water Solutions, tells us in this interview about the global outlook for the desalination sector, the need to invest in non-conventional water sources and where the company is positioned in this field.

Why is it important to invest in non-conventional water resources such as desalination?

Freshwater sources are scarce, and many of them are deteriorated and/or polluted due to human activities and climate change. As 97% of the planet's water is salt water, there is a great opportunity in desalination technology to provide clean fresh water for different uses: domestic, agricultural or industrial.

Population growth, economic and industrial development and climate change make desalination more necessary than ever. If we continue with fresh water withdrawals at the current rate, we will soon find ourselves with a widespread depletion of natural water sources, something which is already a reality in certain areas of the planet. Desalination presents itself as a real and viable alternative to water supply problems, at the same time that it can give the environment a break.

At Almar Water Solutions we are committed to this technology, together with reuse, to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and ensure water for all.

Could you tell me about the company's desalination experience and key data?

Almar Water Solutions and its team have extensive experience in this sector. We have all worked in large multinationals in the water sector and have developed projects in a variety of countries and regions. We know the market and its regulation well, and we are at the forefront in terms of technology and project schemes.

"Almar Water Solutions and its team have extensive experience in this sector"

We currently have the Shuqaiq 3 desalination plant which has a rated capacity of 450,000 cubic metres per day of production. We also have smaller plants in Latin America and North Africa ranging from 75 cubic metres per day to 35,000 cubic metres per day. We have not been a company for many years, but we are working and being awarded projects at a very good pace. We hope to expand these figures in the near future.

What are your most important projects in this area at the moment?

Our most emblematic project is Shuqaiq 3, in the province of Jizan, in Saudi Arabia. This desalination plant uses reverse osmosis technology and has been designed for high energy efficiency. In addition to being one of the largest desalination plants in the country and the world, serving a population of nearly four million people, the remarkable thing about this project was the time at which it was developed. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the issues it caused for travel, logistics and suppliers, this project has not suffered any delays. All deadlines were met and it was launched on the agreed date. We are very proud of the way everything went.

Shuqaiq Desalination Plant (Credit: Almar Water Solutions)

On the other hand, we have smaller desalination plants in Latin America and North Africa, which mainly serve industrial customers and the services/tourism sector. These are smaller projects, but they are just as important, as they produce water for the production processes of many companies and their activities, which otherwise would not be possible.

What are the latest innovations in desalination?

In terms of innovation we can talk about technology, where membranes are the field where most progress has been made. Membranes are becoming more efficient and more durable. On the other hand, the use of renewable energies with desalination processes is another point to highlight, since it solves one of the typical problems with desalination, which is having a continuous and cost-effective power supply to make the desalination process viable.

Making projects more sustainable and saving on costs are two key issues in this industry. The energy cost of desalination plants has been the most critical issue in these projects, and great progress has already been made in this field.

How do you see the current outlook for desalination worldwide?

Globally, the Middle East is leading the way in terms of projects and capacity. In this region, where water is so scarce, desalination is a main driver of economic development, to support the daily needs of the population. They firmly believe in the technology and the professionalism of the companies in this sector. I believe that this region will continue to invest in desalination in the coming years.

The desalination sector will also continue to grow in the United States, due to the major droughts in the west coast, and in the north of Africa, due to the increase in demand and climate change, especially led by Egypt, Morocco and Algeria.

In Latin America, mainly in Peru and Chile, desalination is very focused on mining and industrial activity, so there is and will be important activity in the region, as there is an urgent need to free up existing water resources for domestic consumption and to use non-conventional water sources for industrial and mining use, and even for the large investments in agriculture that are being made.

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