Desal Ambitions

Christian Wee talks about the local and global desalination market

Christian Wee, sales and marketing director, Aqualyng
Christian Wee, sales and marketing director, Aqualyng

Christian Wee, sales and marketing director, Aqualyng, talks about the local and global desalination market.

Is the desalination market bouncing back?
The desalination market hasn’t yet reached the level it was at before the financial crisis but it is gradually bouncing back and thus the whole industry is quite optimistic about 2014. There are several new emerging markets on the desalination horizon such as India and Latin America.

However, some traditional desalination markets like the North Africa and Australia are saturated, so companies will need to shift their current focus to ensure future success.

Whilst 2013 was a good year for Aqualyng as we signed another 50,000 m3/day project in China’s Changzhou region, we believe 2014 will be Aqualyng’s breakthrough year, with several promising projects on the radar.

Aqualyng focuses only on medium and large scale BOOT projects. So we are in a niche market really, but we think this market will grow because a lot of companies and municipalities need water, but prefer not to invest themselves.

What kind of demand do you see for desalination products and services in the Middle East region?
For a long time, desalination has been a key source of water in the MENA region, especially in the GCC. Therefore we cannot see many large municipal projects on the horizon. What we are looking at though is a very strong potential for small to medium-sized projects from private companies and industrial development zones.

Oman probably is the most interesting market in the region, as it continues to deliver industrial projects. And of course Saudi Arabia will continue to be one of the largest global markets, but due to the size of projects and the choice of technology, this is not a key market for Aqualyng.

Sometimes I also wonder if 2014 will be the year when the combination of solar and desalination will finally make a breakthrough?

How much is the global desalination market expected to grow by?
Globally, the desalination market will see a 30 to 40 per cent growth rate, but the region-wise growth rate gives us a different story. India, China and Latin America will see a higher growth rate than the global average, whereas the growth in this part of the world probably will be more modest.

In many markets I think there isn’t any more scope for really large projects, with capacities of 100,000m3/day and above. However, more decentralized plants with capacities between 10,000m3 and 30,000m3/day will be much sought after.

Tell us about Aqualyng’s latest innovations?
Aqualyng is the only desalination supplier with its own patented energy recovery system - The Recuperator. This device makes it possible to recycle as much as 98.5 per cent of the energy used in reverse osmosis desalination.

With our own proprietary ERD, we have complete control over the process and guarantee record low-energy consumption for BOOT projects. We work only on projects where lowest life cycle cost is important, rather than the lowest capex. This is also the reason why we exclusively work on water sales projects and not EPCs.

What’s on the horizon for Aqualyng in the next 12 months?
Our key focus will be on BOOT projects in India and China, where the role of the Dubai office is to design and develop the projects, which will then be executed locally. I expect 2-3 new BOOT projects for our company this year.

At the same time, I have high expectations for the industry as a whole, for I believe this will be the year when desalination finally bounces back, reiterating that it is an industry with a good growth potential for years to come.

What are the main challenges you encounter while doing business in the region?
The challenge for desalination in the GCC is the fact that this region is a mature desalination market with a limited number of new project opportunities.

Globally, desalination will steadily grow in the coming years, but in the GCC, desalination has been around for so many years that one cannot expect a big growth. In addition to this market-related challenge, technically as well, GCC poses some serious challenges- such as coping with raw water salinity and red tide.


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