Desalination
Membranes
Middle East
Thursday, 31 March 2022

Saudi claims the world's largest (RO) desalination plant title, for now

ACWA Power’s Rabigh 3 Independent Water Plant (IWP) in Saudi Arabia has become the world's largest reverse osmosis (RO) desalination plant, according to the Guinness World Records.

Into the record books

ACWA Power’s Rabigh 3 Independent Water Plant (IWP) in Saudi Arabia has become the world's largest reverse osmosis (RO) desalination plant, according to the Guinness World Records.

The plant, which can produce 600,000 m3/day of desalinated water, received the certification after a three-week process by Independent Records Management.

"Driving public-private partnerships enabled the Vision’s goals and aspirations through pioneering projects.”

Capable of fulfilling the water demands for almost one million households in the Makkah Al Mukarramah and Jeddah regions, the RO desalination plant cost $750 million to build.

"This global achievement we are witnessing today is a result of what the ambitious strategic Vision 2030 is tangibly accomplishing in advancing the desalination sector in the Kingdom,” said Mohammad Abunayyan, chairman of ACWA Power.

"Driving public-private partnerships enabled the Vision’s goals and aspirations through pioneering projects that globally stood out in terms of size, cost, operational and environmental efficiency," he added.

The Rabigh 3 commenced operation on 31 December 2021 and sees ACWA Power finally get an official verdict of its claim to being the world's largest RO desalination plant. Yet, it has been a long journey to get there.

Desalination destiny

In 2009, ACWA Power started its desalination destiny with the Shuaibah Expansion IWP.

Capable of supplying 150,000 m3/day of desalinated water, the facility was one of the first to use RO desalination technology on such a large scale.

Following this, ACWA Power built the Shuqaiq IWP in 2011, still using the RO desalination technology but this time able to produce 212,000 m3/day of desalinated water.

The Rabigh 3 was built by ACWA alongside the Saudi Brothers Commercial Company (SBCC), a collaboration that falls in line with Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 plans to drive public and private partnerships.

Recently, ACWA Power partnered with Water Global Access (WGA) to develop its green desalination technology - Hydraulic Injection Desalination (HIC) that removes the chemical process of desalination.

While the Rabigh 3 may now be the world's largest membrane-based desalination plant according to Guinness World Record, some desalination professionals might question the status.

Notable desalination projects

So, is it actually the largest? Well, that depends.

The Ras Al Khair desalination plant in Saudi Arabia produces a staggering 1,036,000 m3/day using RO, which would make it the largest. But it does also use thermal multistage flash (MSF) alongside RO, meaning technically, it would not be the world's largest RO only desalination plant.

Other notable developments also suggest Rabigh 3 may not hold the title for long.

When complete, the Taweelah desalination plant in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be able to produce 909,200 m3/day from RO desalination.

Located 75km northwest of Jubail and serving Riyadh, the site will also have a substantial power generation component, with a capacity of 2,400MW.

The Ras Al Khair desalination plant in Saudi Arabia produces a staggering 1,036,000 m3/day.”

Slated for completion by the end of 2022, this would become one of the world’s largest RO desalination projects.

Finally, the Umm Al Quwain (UQA), as an independent water project (IWP) in the UAE, is set to be one of the largest pure-play RO desalination plants with a capacity of 682,900 m3/day. And with the plant set to finish construction in the third quarter of this year, the Rabigh 3 IWP might not hold its title for long.

 


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