Solid Gold Pearlby Adam Lane on Jun 7, 2012
Buoyed by LNG exports and the prospect of a World Cup in ten years, Qatar’s recent economic progress has been impressive. In 2010, the IMF assessed the country’s economic growth at 18.8% in real terms, and even with a comparatively moderate outlook of 6% growth predicted this year, the economy is clearly still on the rise. Money is evidently being spent too, with funds going into massive utilities projects such as the recently completed Ras Girtas Power plant and the US $3 billion Facility D IWPP under construction. With the spending though, comes a very particular Qatari view of procurement.
“In Qatar they don’t want it gold plated. They need it gold. They don’t really care about the price; Qatar is looking primarily for quality.”
So says Walid Oraby, general manager of Metito in Qatar. His company has been working in the country since October 2003, when Oraby was one of just four employees at the company’s newly established Doha office. Metito now has around 400 Qatar-based employees and has been involved in over 100 projects there in the last seven years. It is fair to say, I think, that Oraby is a passionate advocate for the country’s prospects.
“We landed in Qatar at the right moment, just as the economy took off. The timing from management was really good – they knew when and why we should start there. We started almost from scratch, but within six months we had landed three or four jobs. Now we know the country very well”.
This knowledge of the country is, no doubt, where the insight into Qatar’s focus on quality comes from.
“Qatar really does want the highest quality finish for all its projects. There are factories in the UK and in Germany where they have specific production lines solely for Qatar products. They are making products that are very expensive; made to a specification that nobody else is asking for”.
If this focus on quality at any cost is impressive, then the current developments underway are simply stunning. The Pearl Qatar has risen from the sea to become a 985-acre luxury island development with a population of nearly 100,000 when fully completed. Together with hotels, schools, shops and restaurants, the country’s first tilt at an international real estate venture is extraordinary in scale and presents some very singular infrastructure challenges.
Oraby says that the Pearl was abnormal in terms of desalination projects, with the size of the island presenting unusual constraints on plant design. Metito was contracted by Qatar’s United Development Company (UDC) to provide the Pearl with a sea water reverse osmosis desalination plant that would provide for potable needs, district cooling (DC) and irrigation. When operational, the plant will produce 35,000m3 per day, with 20,000m3 being used for DC, 10,000m3 for irrigation and 5,000m3 for potable purposes.
Because of limited space on the Pearl, the finished plant needed to have a small footprint and Metito’s solution was to build upwards rather than outwards. Pumps were sited on one level, controls on another and so on, with care being taken to limit the vibrating machinery’s effects on the structure. The resulting building, which also had to be aesthetically similar to surrounding structures, has pumps installed nine metres below sea level. A difficult undertaking then, but there are now plans to go further.