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Water sustainability high on the agenda in Bahrain

Saudi Aramco team introduce techniques to achieve water sustainability

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Countries in the region need to build up their water reuse capabilities to avoid clean water shortages. (GETTY)
Countries in the region need to build up their water reuse capabilities to avoid clean water shortages. (GETTY)

In the Middle East - as around the world - water is a precious resource. At the recent Water Arabia 2011 Conference in Bahrain, the focus was protecting those precious reserves and ensuring an adequate supply for future generations.

Saudi Aramco executives and employees also attended the conference with the goal of sharing the company’s expertise with businesses and municipalities throughout the GCC.

More than 850 wastewater and water-treatment engineers and service providers attended the three-day event, which included design workshops along with a two-day exhibition and technical programme.

Water sustainability

Executive director of Community Services Nabeel Al-Jama’ headed the organising committee and opened the conference with a welcome speech to the plenary session.

“Water Arabia 2011 was organised to highlight the magnitude of the water sustainability problem and to provide solutions,” Al-Jama’ said. “We hope to promote communication between all water industry leaders and professionals to better address the vital issue of water sustainability. Together, we can use sustainable technologies and policies to help prevent future water shortages.”

“The Middle East’s population is growing, yet water resources are increasingly stressed due to climate change,” said former WEF president Dr. Mohammad Dahab, who chairs the Department of Civil Engineering at University of Nebraska. “Climate change is not about global warming but about changes in the hydrologic cycle.”

Dahab noted that wastewater reuse will become increasingly important and that the region must build its reuse capacity. He said human resources, policies and the regulatory framework as well as institutional, financial and societal buy-in to ideas about water scarcity all must be addressed if we are going to solve the problems.

Better water management and recycling technologies and techniques

Dr. Gary Amy of the KAUST Water, Desalination and Reuse Center discussed new ideas in transforming wastewater into high-quality drinking water.

He said new membrane bioreactor (MBR) technologies were key to a sustainable future, noting filtration systems use less energy than existing thermal technologies. He also said that using ultraviolet disinfection methods created far fewer byproducts than older technologies.

Amy said the region should start considering recharging of its underground aquifers as well as membrane, oxidation and absorption technologies. In the future, he said, reclaimed water markets might be developed and we must think about capturing storm water, which would also benefit communities hit by flooding.

Mohammed Al-Hajri of the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) laid out Saudi Aramco’s water conservation strategies.

He said the company’s goal was to reduce current freshwater consumption by 70% before 2020 through maximising reuse of wastewater streams and optimising water consumption. He said Saudi Aramco would improve monitoring throughout its operations and promote conservation awareness among employees and their families.

Membrane bioreactors were a popular topic throughout the event, and engineer Subhi Al-Aama of EPD detailed Saudi Aramco’s significant experience with the new technology. He said the company has designed 17 MBR wastewater treatment plants in the past five years in accordance with the Kingdom’s conservation and reuse policies.

Al-Aaama said the new plants reduce what had been a five-step process to a two-step process and that they offer increased efficiency, easier automation and better adaptability for remote areas. He said MBR plants were the company’s preferred solution and delivered better-quality water for 20% less cost.

Saudi Aramco is continuing its membrane research and exploring new uses for wastewater. Al-Aama said existing traditional water-treatment plants could be converted to MBR plants and he expected at some point, the operation of the plants could be outsourced to vendors that meet the strict international standards the company maintains.

Engineering consultant William Conner of EPD gave a presentation on oily wastewater-reuse technologies and described the research that led to a patented new membrane bioreactor technology that has been pilot plant tested and will be commercialised in partnership with Siemens Water Technologies.

Conner said the patented process improves recovery, minimises costs and has applications for refineries, inland gas plants and marine terminals.

Conservation

Engineer Subhi Jeshi of Consulting Services shared the company’s experiences with water conservation through water pinch analysis, in which water use is evaluated by source and end use by computer modeling to optimise its use and treatment.

He said ideas generated through the programme resulted in a 31% savings in terms of groundwater usage.

Engineer Fahad Senayin of Abqaiq Plants Operations discussed his department’s efforts to simplify steam generation water treatment. The system recycles 85% of the steam back to condensate, which is then processed and sent through the system again.

Since 2010, the department has been involved in the three-phase programme to optimise the process, which will result in a system using less chemicals, more automation, improved monitoring and better stability of control.

Dhahran’s North Wastewater Treatment Plant was a highlight at the event as Mahmoud Moaikel of the Utilities Department and Alfa Laval contractor partner Desmond Chan detailed the construction of the plant that serves the wastewater needs of Dhahran, Doha and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.

They discussed the challenges of putting a treatment facility in a populated area and how the use of decanter centrifuges ensure improved air quality for area residents.

Utilities engineer Rabea Manakhah and engineer David Evans also discussed the North Wastewater Treatment Plant and the study that led to the installation of mechanical aerators that have reduced maintenance and energy consumption as well as costs.

The event was organised by the Saudi Arabian Water Environment Association, the International Desalination Association, and the Water Environment Federation under the patronage of the Bahrain Electricity and Water Authority.

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