How solar-powered desalination allows Saudi Arabia to produce potable water sustainably

A view of the Al-Khafji Desalination Plant, the world's largest. (Vision 2030 photo)
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Updated 22 June 2024
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How solar-powered desalination allows Saudi Arabia to produce potable water sustainably

  • Desalination of seawater allows parched Gulf nations to access plentiful water for farming and human consumption
  • To cut emissions, the Kingdom is adopting renewable energy sources to power its filtration and treatment plants

RIYADH: In regions with limited rainfall, desalination is a practical means of sourcing plentiful water for farming and human consumption. However, the process of turning seawater into freshwater is notoriously energy intensive.

Indeed, desalination is a significant contributor to carbon emissions in the water-scarce Arabian Peninsula. That is why Saudi Arabia has been investing in green energy sources to power its desalination plants.

“Using renewable energies for desalination is crucial as it contributes to reducing the operation’s carbon footprint and water production costs,” Sultan Al-Rajhi, spokesperson for the Saudi Water Authority, told Arab News.

 

 

Due to the scarcity of freshwater resources in a region with a rapidly growing population, seawater desalination is essential to keep pace with demand, he added.

“Saudi Arabia depends on desalination of seawater due to the nature of the desert climate, in which the presence of surface water and natural rivers is rare,” Al-Rajhi said.

In fact, desalination accounts for about 75 percent of the Kingdom’s water supply.

“Therefore, investment is being made in desalination of seawater to meet the demand for population and economic growth witnessed in the Gulf region as a whole.”

Each year, the Kingdom requires an average of 5.5 billion cubic meters of freshwater. The need for water is especially high during the Hajj and Umrah seasons, when well over a million pilgrims arrive from around the world.

Home to more than 37 million people, the Kingdom is the world’s third-largest consumer of water per head of population. Agriculture alone accounts for around 84 percent of total water consumption.




An alfalfa farm in Riyadh region's Wadi Ad-Dawasir governorate. (Supplied)

Desalination is a complex process that involves removing salt and other impurities from seawater. Since the process requires a significant amount of energy, adopting renewables such as solar to power these facilities has become a top priority.

“To develop climate-resilient infrastructure for sustainable desalination, Saudi Arabia should prioritize innovative and renewable technologies,” Abdulaziz Daghestani, area sales director of water utilities and country director at Grundfos, told Arab News.

Grundfos is a Danish company that is working with regional states to provide innovative pumping solutions for water supply, wastewater management, heating and cooling, and industrial processes. 

According to Daghestani, integrating advanced monitoring systems can help optimize desalination operations and enhance efficiency.

“Using real-time data and analytics, we can improve water management practices and make timely adjustments to meet the varying increasing demand for human consumption and agriculture,” he said.

The Qatrah program, which means “droplet” in Arabic, was launched by the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture in 2020, and aims to reduce excess water usage by eliminating waste, and encouraging the conservation and reuse of existing freshwater.

Its objective is to lower daily per-capita water consumption from 263 liters to 150 liters by 2030. To do this, the ministry has created a unified framework, known as the National Water Strategy, for the country.

However, despite these efforts to improve the sustainability of water systems, desalination remains a crucial means of meeting water demand, making the adoption of clean energy sources and efficient production techniques a critical priority.

DID YOUKNOW?

• In 2023, Saudi Arabia had a desalination capacity of 13.2m cubic meters per day.

• 7 million cubic meters of desalinated water have been generated by the Al-Khafji plant.

• Desalination accounts for 60 percent of the urban water supply in Saudi Arabia.

• Agriculture makes up 84 percent of the Kingdom’s water needs.

Al-Khafji Desalination Plant, located in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, is the world’s largest solar-powered water desalination project, providing the region’s water requirements through an innovative and environmentally friendly approach.

The plant can generate up to 90,000 cubic meters of freshwater per day using innovative technology created by the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. 

Its new Solar Saline Water Reverse Osmosis method uses a process known as ultra-filtration during the pre-treatment phase.




A view of the Ras al-Khair water desalination plant, owned by the Saudi government's Saline Water Conversion Corporation, along the Gulf coast in eastern Saudi Arabia. (AFP)

The method involves forcing seawater through a semipermeable membrane that only allows water molecules to pass, while blocking the salt and other contaminants. The resulting purified water is then collected for distribution.

Since its launch in 2018, more than 7 million cubic meters of freshwater produced by the plant have already been utilized.

“Using reverse osmosis technology is considered to have the lowest rates of carbon emissions as a result of the increase in energy efficiency through the development of this field in recent years,” said Al-Rajhi.

“The rate of carbon emissions per cubic meter in some desalination systems has been reduced to 91 percent compared with thermal desalination systems.”

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Solar is not the only source of renewable energy that can be adopted to power the desalination process.

“This is in addition to the prospective use of hydraulic turbines to convert the kinetic energy resulting from the flow of water into electricity to generate clean energy,” said Al-Rajhi.

This shift toward renewables not only addresses the high energy costs associated with desalination but also supports Saudi Arabia’s commitment to sustainable development. 

Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, has praised the Kingdom’s water conservation agenda, which is part and parcel with its environmental mission, the Saudi Green Initiative.




A farm in Wadi bin Hashbal, Saudi Arabia, was recently recognized by the Guinness World Records as the largest sustainable farm in the world. (Supplied)

Saudi Arabia is correct to prioritize “not over-extracting and being very wise around environmental management.”

“That is why we are quite impressed by the Saudi Green Initiative,” she told Arab News.

This transition to cleaner energy sources reflects a strategic decision to enhance the Kingdom’s energy efficiency and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, while simultaneously addressing the challenges posed by climate change.

Integrating renewable energy into desalination processes marks a significant step toward achieving a more sustainable and environmentally-conscious approach to water production.
 

 


Saudi military industries authority to participate in Farnborough airshow

Updated 49 min 3 sec ago
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Saudi military industries authority to participate in Farnborough airshow

  • Participation in FIA aims to highlight the capabilities of the Saudi military and defense industries sector
  • GAMI welcomes investors from around the world who are interested in investing in the military industries sector

RIYADH: The General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI) will participate in the Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) 2024, one of the world’s largest and most influential defense and aerospace exhibitions.

The event will occur from July 22 to 26, 2024, in Hampshire, London, United Kingdom.

GAMI aims to showcase its efforts in developing the military industries sector in Saudi Arabia, with the goal of enhancing national military manufacturing capabilities and making the sector a significant contributor to the Saudi economy and its defense and security independence.

The participation in FIA aims to highlight the capabilities of the Saudi military and defense industries sector and the achievements made by GAMI in building industrial and service capabilities in the Kingdom, in line with its strategic role in localizing over 50 percent of government spending on military equipment and services by 2030.

GAMI welcomes investors from around the world who are interested in investing in the promising military industries sector in the Kingdom.

The authority will showcase the supply chains it has established for small and medium-sized local and foreign companies as part of its efforts to create numerous investment opportunities in the military industries sector, in addition to strengthening international partnerships to achieve strategic independence for the military industries.

This will enable the sector to develop military and security systems and industries.

This participation comes at a time of rapid development and localization in the military industries sector in the Kingdom, as well as an increase in investment opportunities and abundant local capabilities to meet the operational needs of military devices.

It is in line with the Kingdom’s focus on the sector by creating strategic partnerships and engaging with international investors interested in investing in Saudi Arabia.


AlUla forges ahead with prestigious accreditation award

Updated 17 July 2024
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AlUla forges ahead with prestigious accreditation award

  • Process required satisfying more than 100 performance standards
  • Phillip Jones: Completing the DMAP is a significant milestone for AlUla as we strive to develop a tourism industry and eco-system that is best-in-class and future-thinking

ALULA, Saudi Arabia: AlUla, with its seamless blend of ancient and modern, has been awarded a prestigious internationally recognized accreditation.

The oasis city has achieved a remarkable milestone by becoming the first destination in the Middle East to be accredited by Destinations International; the USA based global association for destination professionals, as officially announced today at the Destinations International Annual Convention in Florida.

The accreditation falls under the Destination Marketing Accreditation Programme (DMAP), an industry standard for quality and professionalism among destination organizations and comes a year after AlUla made history by becoming the first member of Destinations International from the Middle East.

Supported by a calendar of year-round events and authentic hospitality options, AlUla is as one of Saudi Arabia’s main tourism sites and has been operational and open to global tourists for four years. The latest accreditation is testament to AlUla’s vision and mission to spark a new wave of tourism excellence globally, centered around creating a sustainable, community-oriented experience economy.

Phillip Jones, chief tourism officer at the Royal Commission for AlUla, said: “Completing the Destination Marketing Accreditation Programme is a significant milestone for AlUla as we strive to develop a tourism industry and eco-system that is best-in-class and future-thinking. This recognition strengthens our commitment to ensuring the highest standards within our destination, and establishing trust among visitors, community, stakeholders and our partners. By being part of Destinations International, an incubator for best practices, we hope to share our unique methodology with the world and showcase just why AlUla is one of the most innovative and coveted luxury destination in the world right now.”

To receive DMAP accreditation, a destination organization must satisfy more than 100 performance standards in domains including governance, financial management, human resources, sales and marketing, stakeholder engagement and destination development. The standards are set by an independent panel of industry veterans representing a range of destination organizations. Standards are updated regularly to reflect the evolution of best practices in the industry.

For AlUla, this latest recognition adds to several recent accolades. In May, the 2024 World Travel Awards honored AlUla as Middle East’s Leading Festival & Event Destination, Saudi Arabia’s Leading Cultural Tourism Project and Middle East’s Leading Cultural Tourism Project. Also in May, RCU received a five-star rating for organizational excellence from the European Foundation for Quality Management and an award of excellence from the Middle East Facility Management Association.

With its bevy of regional and global accolades, AlUla continues to solidify its status as a leading luxury boutique heritage destination, where travelers can deeply connect with arts and culture, natural beauty, holistic wellness, and thrilling adventure.


RSG partners with Saudi Climbing and Hiking Federation to boost adventure tourism

Updated 17 July 2024
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RSG partners with Saudi Climbing and Hiking Federation to boost adventure tourism

  • Collaboration is set to revolutionize the tourism landscape by offering thrilling experiences while prioritizing safety and professionalism
  • Partnership will be spearheaded by Akun, RSG’s adventure sports brand, responsible for overseeing all hiking, climbing, and adventure experiences within RSG’s destinations

JEDDAH: Red Sea Global has recently announced a partnership with the Saudi Climbing and Hiking Federation aimed at enhancing adventure tourism activities across the Red Sea region.

According to the statement, this collaboration is set to revolutionize the tourism landscape by offering thrilling experiences while prioritizing safety and professionalism.

The partnership will be spearheaded by Akun, RSG’s adventure sports brand responsible for overseeing all hiking, climbing, and adventure experiences within RSG’s destinations, including The Red Sea and AMAALA.

Nicholas King, group chief development officer at Red Sea Global, emphasized the importance of combining adventure with luxury tourism, stating in a press release: “Our partnership with the Saudi Climbing and Hiking Federation is ensuring that Akun can offer invigorating experiences that complement the elegance of our resorts in a safe and professional manner. Together, we are propelling the adventure tourism industry across the Red Sea region.”

Through this collaboration, trainees from SCHF will have the opportunity to gain experience through internships with Akun, while also benefiting from training and support provided by qualified SCHF trainers.

Yasmin Gahtani, managing director at SCHF, highlighted the landscapes of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast and expressed the desire to showcase these stunning terrains through climbing and hiking experiences.

She said: “Saudi Arabia has some of the world’s most stunning landscapes, especially along the Red Sea coast. We want to help Saudis and the world discover this dramatic terrain by opening it to exhilarating, yet safe, climbing and hiking experiences. Through this partnership, we can make Saudi and the Red Sea a must-visit destination for the most avid climbers, hikers, and thrill-seekers.”

To promote the Red Sea region as a premier adventure destination, RSG and SCHF plan to host a series of local, regional, and international events, including climbing competitions, hiking events, and festivals.

According to the statement, the federation’s technical and safety assessments will help certify RSG’s developments as world-class adventure destinations.

Looking ahead, RSG and SCHF are exploring the creation of hiking and climbing content tailored to the Red Sea region. This resource will offer valuable information on trails, climbing sites, logistical details, and safety guidelines, positioning the Red Sea as a premier hub for outdoor enthusiasts worldwide.


Training for budding nuclear engineers launched in Saudi Arabia

Updated 17 July 2024
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Training for budding nuclear engineers launched in Saudi Arabia

  • Eight-week program will be held partly in Saudi Arabia and later at the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute in South Korea

RIYADH: The Kingdom has launched a summer training program for aspiring nuclear engineers, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

The initiative, spearheaded by the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, targets undergraduate nuclear engineering students.

According to the SPA, the eight-week program will be held partly in Saudi Arabia and later at the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute in South Korea.

The curriculum includes lectures and practical experiments, in addition to visits to nuclear facilities and reactors in South Korea.

According to the SPA, the initiative is a part of the Kingdom’s plan to develop an educated workforce for its nuclear energy industry.


Saudi crown prince congratulates Iran’s President Pezeshkian on his election win

Updated 17 July 2024
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Saudi crown prince congratulates Iran’s President Pezeshkian on his election win

RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has congratulated Iranian President Masoud Pezeshkian on his victory in the presidential elections, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday. 

During a phone call, the crown prince and the Iranian president praised the “development of bilateral relations between the two countries on several levels, stressing the importance of continuing to enhance cooperation in various fields,” SPA added.

The Iranian president expressed his thanks and appreciation to the crown prince for his good feelings.