BASF: Managing scale build-up

BASF antiscalants help DEWA keep its desalination plants running.

Khaldoun Bouacida: With the right chemicals and the right maintance, plant life can be prolonged.
Khaldoun Bouacida: With the right chemicals and the right maintance, plant life can be prolonged.

Scale build-up in plant equipment is an unavoidable part of the desalination process and needs to be constantly managed. If scale fouls the heat transfer surfaces in the vapour compression system, it can impact performance, reducing heat transfer efficiency and decreasing water output.

That is why using the right chemicals can be crucial to maintaining and enhancing the lifespan of multi-billion dollar desalination facilities, which are vital to meeting fast rising water demand in the GCC.

“If you use the right chemicals combined with the right maintenance, the lifespan of a desalination plant is really high, 20 to 30 years,” explains Khaldoun Bouacida, head of sales & industry of BASF, which has just beaten off competition from rivals to supply its latest generation antiscalant to Dubai’s newest desalination plant.

“Many desalination plants are BOT (Build, Operate and Transfer), which means they are operated for 20 years and then handed over to the government so even after 20 years they should still be very efficient,” Khaldoun says.

Under the deal signed in March, BASF will supply a total volume of 3,360 MT of Sokalan PM 15I to the M Station power and desalination plant which was commissioned last year. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) floated the tender in December and awarded the supply contract in March following a rigorous pre-qualification process that involved a six-month trial in a real scale desalination pilot project.

The Independent Water and Power (IWPP) plant in Jebel Ali is the largest power and desalination plant in the UAE with the capacity to generate 2,060 MW of electricity and 140 million gallons per day (MIGD) of desalinated water. “DEWA is one of the biggest water providers in the Middle East with a capacity of more than 470 million imperial gallons per day of desalination capacity, a huge amount, and the new desalination plant in Jebel Ali is one of the biggest worldwide,” says Bouacida.

“It’s a jewel of technology and efficiency and so that’s why we are very proud at BASF to offer our products because they are state of the art and it really matches the philosophy of DEWA to have a state of the art facility working with the latest chemicals.”

Sokalan PM 15l is currently used in plants in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Abu Dhabi and this is the second contract for this particular chemical with DEWA. “We were delivering other sort of chemicals to DEWA but this one is the latest generation antiscalant which can be used with both the multi stage flash (MSF) and the multiple effect distillation technologies,” says Bouacida.

“It has dual use so if you have two different plants you can use it in both and there is no need for two chemicals,” he adds.
With the exception of Kuwait, which sometimes awards three-year tenders, one-year contracts for antiscalants are typical in this region and worldwide because prices can fluctuate and because technology can quickly move on.

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BASF’s reputation as a world leader in the chemicals business as well as its ability to meet stringent delivery requirements was the key to winning the contract, Bouacida says. “We respect our competitors but I think the main differentiator is our state of the art production facilities in Germany, and good logistics, because we have our warehouse in the Jebel Ali free zone where we have our stocks and can deliver on the spot.”

BASF developed the product with the Middle East in mind because 90% of global water desalination capacity is based in this region. 

According to a recent report by analysts at Price Waterhouse Coopers-owned Strategy&, on an average day, GCC countries produce more than 12 million cubic metres of desalinated seawater, accounting for a quarter of all the water consumed in the region and 70% of the water used for domestic purposes.

On a per capita per annum (pcpa) basis, GCC countries consume about 65% more water than the world average — 816 cubic metres pcpa, versus 500 cubic metres pcpa, the report says. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consume between 10 and 39 times the amount of renewable water available to them. Only Oman comes anywhere close to having enough water from renewable sources to meet its domestic demand, the report says.

And demand for water in the region is rising fast due to burgeoning economic and demographic growth. The population of the region is forecast to rise from 320 million inhabitants currently to an estimated 400 million sometime between 2020 and 2022.

“An additional 80 million people over the next decade is equivalent to the population of a country the size of Germany, so imagine the increase in the consumption of water in a region known for water scarcity,” Khaldoun says.

BASF is already producing some products in the Middle East mainly for the construction business and is active in the region’s water treatment plants. It developed a fluidifier especially for the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, to enable concrete to be pumped to great heights without it getting stuck.

Currently desalination chemicals are produced at the company’s global headquarters in Ludwigshafen in Germany before being shipped to the Middle East but that could change in the near future, Bouacida says. “We have future plans to have further investments in the region, not only in delivering but most probably having some production facilities here.”

The contract
- Total volume for the year is 3,360 MT of Sokalan PM 15l
- Duration of the tender contract is for period of one year

The product
- Sokalan PM 15l performs at low dosage rates
- Smooth operation at low
- Longer operation time and higher output

M Station
- Officially opened by DEWA in April 2013
- Cost over AED 10 bn ($2.7bn) to develop
- Produces 2,060 MW of power
- 140 MIGD of desalinated water

- Operates the world’s largest integrated chemical complex at Ludwigshafen, Germany


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