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Hydrating the Middle East: The future of Desal

Dow's Dr. Ilham Kadri discusses the future of desalination technology

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Desalination is critical to keeping the Middle East watered and fed.
Desalination is critical to keeping the Middle East watered and fed.

Dr. Ilham Kadri, commercial director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Dow Water & Process Solutions discusses the future of desalination technology

What key issues are facing the desalination industry?
Regional water scarcity is certainly a growing challenge. One way to address this challenge is to recycle waste water.

Our company is continually exploring new technologies and looking to utilise the existing technologies we have in a more innovative way. Dow technology is already making water recycling a reality in the region, and a top five-star hotel in Dubai has installed a system with DOW™ Ultrafiltration technology to safely and effectively recycle water from Dubai Municipality to use as irrigation for its gardens and landscaping.

This proved to be a very cost effective investment for the hotel, and they were able to save on their energy consumption as well. Treated water helps conserve scarce water resources efficiently, responsibly and intelligently; there are benefits for businesses concerned about profit and environmental footprint.

Which desalination technology method do you see as being the most common in future projects in the Middle East?
The plants that were built in the 1970s and 1980s are still serving us today. When we build plants today, we need to consider our future environmental responsibility and how we can best provide for generations to come.

The plants we commission and build today have to be built with technology that can handle the sustainability requirements that will be in effect 30 or 40 years down the road.

Our industry should look at the best-in-class technology in terms of energy efficiency and sustainability because their lifetime will be anywhere from 25 to 40 years. When many of the region’s plants were built 30 or 40 years ago, thermal technology was the best available technology at the time.

Today, that best-in-class technology is Spiral Wound Reverse Osmosis (SWRO). Additionally, relying on the more energy-intensive thermal technology translates into lost profits by wasting oil resources, and those profits could be spent in various other ways by regional governments.

We are also promoting a combined UF and RO desalination solution that offers pretreatment for RO, thereby extending the life service of RO assets.

What new technology are we likely to see coming up in the industry?
We’re educating our customers and end-users about the advantages of large diameter elements for desalination.

As systems are getting bigger, the industry is realising that the standard eight-inch is not large enough. 16-inch is an innovation that is slowly gaining attention, and there are benefits to be realised such as a reduced plant footprint. We are confident that this segment will grow as companies look to bid with bigger systems.

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Is continually increasing capacity a sustainable answer to the Middle East’s water security issues?
Today, the Middle East is in a growth mode. Economies are booming, populations are growing, and we need to keep up with this demand by investing in more capacity.

However, we need to be more efficient. Another factor to keep in mind is that plants are also being decommissioned, and eventually the demand will taper off. Right now, however, the market demands that we continue to invest in desalination and deliver the best-in-class technology to facilitate expansion in terms of cost, sustainability and plant life cycle.

Which areas of the Middle East do you see being the biggest commercials areas for Dow in the next ten years?
The Middle East is a key growth region for Dow Water & Process Solutions. With their growing populations and increased investments in infrastructure, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are the strongest economies in the region. Additionally, Iraq and Qatar are showing strong demand and are moving in the right direction by investing in the right solutions.

In what capacity does Dow work in the desalination industry?
Dow Water & Process Solutions is the only manufacturer today to offer a full portfolio of water treatment technologies.

Our ion exchange resins, reverse osmosis membranes, ultrafiltration membranes and electrodeionization products continue to set an industry standard for quality and reliability, and play a leading role in delivering high purity water across major use sectors, including residential water, power, wastewater and water reuse, industrial process water and ultrapure water and desalination and municipal water.

Seawater desalination using Dow Water & Process Solutions reverse osmosis elements has spread globally because of their consistent reliability, long-life, high salt rejection capability and resistance to bacterial attack.

Water purification facilities from the Caribbean to Spain, and the Middle East to the Pacific are taking advantage of Dow Water & Process Solutions elements to meet growing demand and limited availability of freshwater resources.

Dow Water & Process Solutions offers integrated process schemes, composed of multiple technologies such as DOW FILMTEC™ reverse osmosis membranes, DOW™ Ultrafiltration for pretreatment and AQUCAR™ microbial control.

Iapplication in potable and agriculture schemes, Dow Water & Process Solutions seawater desalination technology is also used in power, industrial and mining as well as residential and marine applications.

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