Saudi Arabia meeting water scarcity challenge with innovation

Saudi Arabia meeting water scarcity challenge with innovation
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Spanish firm Acciona last year completed the construction of the Al-Khobar I desalination plant in Saudi Arabia, and since Dec. 26, it has produced 210,000 cubic meters of drinking water per day. (Supplied)
Saudi Arabia meeting water scarcity challenge with innovation
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Spanish firm Acciona last year completed the construction of the Al Khobar I desalination plant in Saudi Arabia and since Dec. 26 produces 210,000 cubic meters of drinking water per day, which will supply a population equivalent of 350,000. It is one of the biggest desalination plants in Saudi Arabia in terms of capacity. (Supplied)
Saudi Arabia meeting water scarcity challenge with innovation
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Bruno Sousa, a partner in the Energy Practice at Oliver Wyman. (Supplied)
Saudi Arabia meeting water scarcity challenge with innovation
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Julio de la Rosa, Acciona Middle East director for water solutions. (Supplied)
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Updated 27 January 2021

Saudi Arabia meeting water scarcity challenge with innovation

Saudi Arabia meeting water scarcity challenge with innovation
  • Kingdom is third biggest consumer per capita in the world, after US and Canada

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Water Company (NWC) this month signed a $5.36 million two-year contract with a French utilities company to reduce the amount of water lost during the Kingdom’s water production process, known as non-revenue water in the industry.

This is a positive step forward, as a report released late last year by global consultancy firm Oliver Wyman found that while water usage is rising, supply is diminishing. The study estimated that 25 percent of the world’s population lives in areas that suffer extremely high water stress, and by 2050 that portion of the population will more than double.

“With water resources becoming increasingly scarce globally, the Middle East region is addressing the critical issues, with governments increasingly adopting new strategies for balancing their scarce water resources and growing demand for fresh water,” said Bruno Sousa, a partner in the Energy Practice at Oliver Wyman.

“This has led some countries in the Middle East to turn to options such as desalination and treatment, and reuse of wastewater,” he added.

Saudi Arabia is the third biggest consumer of water per capita in the world, after the US and Canada. The Kingdom has implemented a series of measures to rationalize water consumption as part of its Vision 2030 program, with the aim of reducing consumption by 24 percent in 2021 and by up to 43 percent by the end of the decade.

Saudi chemical company SABIC in 2019 committed to reducing its energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and water usage intensity by 25 percent by 2025, from 2010 levels.

As part of this drive to address this issue, the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture has developed a unified water sector reference framework that includes a comprehensive water strategy that integrates national water sector trends, policies, legislation and practices with the main objective of addressing these key challenges and restructuring the sector.

Dr. Ibrahim Aref, director of the rehabilitation of agricultural terraces initiative at the ministry, told Arab News that most of the Arabian Peninsula’s water resources comes from rainfall. Yet, rainfall in the Kingdom, especially in the center of the Arabian Peninsula, is very weak compared to any other place in the world, thus causing water scarcity.

New technology has been developed over the years to minimize the environmental impact of desalination.

Bruno Sousa

Aref pointed out that even though the Arabian Peninsula in general experiences dry seasons that last for two, four or up to seven years, the Kingdom has been blessed with a strong economy and therefore has been able to work on many solutions that might be unusual elsewhere in the world, such as desalination.

According to Oliver Wyman’s Sousa, desalination can be achieved through two main technologies: Thermal and electric.

He told Arab News that thermal technology consists of heating water and collecting the resulting evaporated pure water. “This is a very energy-intensive process, requiring both electricity and thermal energy to heat the water. As part of the process, electricity is also generated that can be injected into the electric grid.

“Electric consists mainly in reverse osmosis, where water is forced through membranes that remove salt ... it is also an energy-intensive process, but only requires electricity to run,” he said.

“Although thermal desalination is still used, reverse osmosis is the mainstream technology, adopted mainly because of lower costs (including with energy) and a higher rate of potable water conversion from seawater,” he added.

Independent of the technology used, Sousa said that the desalination process will result in potable water and a high-concentrated saline effluent (brine), that requires disposal.

“Brine is commonly discharged back to the ocean, in case of seawater desalination, but other applications can be applied, such as use in agriculture in saline-tolerant crops, making building materials, or further treatment can be done to recover valuable products in the brine, including sodium, lithium and bromine.”

Sousa said that new technology has been developed over the years to minimize the environmental impact of desalination.

Spanish firm Acciona last year completed the construction of the Al-Khobar I desalination plant in Saudi Arabia, and since Dec. 26, it has produced 210,000 cubic meters of drinking water per day, which will supply a population of 350,000. It is one of the biggest desalination plants in Saudi Arabia in terms of capacity.

Acciona completed the testing program and the commissioning of the plant remotely through a team in Madrid, using digital twin technology.

According to Julio de la Rosa, Acciona Middle East director for water solutions, a digital twin is a full virtual model of a process, product or service with the capacity to replicate with accuracy what outcome will be obtained under certain conditions.

“This pairing of the virtual and physical worlds allows analysis of data and monitoring of systems to head off problems before they even occur, prevent downtime, develop new opportunities and even plan for the future by using simulations,” he added.

He said that the technology allowed the commissioning of the plant to remain on schedule in spite of the travel restrictions in force because of the pandemic.

“Using advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence, the desalination plant’s start-up equipment, control system programs, water and electrical circuits were tested and put into operation with remote supervision,” la Rosa said.

He believes that artificial intelligence and robotics has a lot of potential applications within the desalination sector. “Perhaps repetitive, checkup or inspection tasks can be developed by robots designed for industrial environments,” he said.

Desalination is not the only way the Kingdom is looking to address the issue of water shortages. One of the largest programs being undertaken by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture is the rehabilitation of agricultural terraces in the southwest of the Kingdom.

The project aims to increase the efficiency of water use for agricultural purposes and to rely on renewable sources that contribute to food security, rural development and increased productivity of strategic crops.

Aref, who is in charge of the project, said rainfall was the focus of attention. “This is one of the important means in the field of agriculture and water security. We take advantage of every drop that falls from the sky … to make sure that farmers continue to farm and families can live.”

The Oliver Wyman report said that addressing this issue has direct economic benefits and can impact gross domestic product by up to 6 percent, making initiatives such as the Suez and Acciona deals ever more important.


Mubadala to invest $100m in a Chinese on-demand trucking startup before IPO

Mubadala to invest $100m in a Chinese on-demand trucking startup before IPO
Updated 14 min 47 sec ago

Mubadala to invest $100m in a Chinese on-demand trucking startup before IPO

Mubadala to invest $100m in a Chinese on-demand trucking startup before IPO
  • Mubadala to take part in private placements before IPO
  • Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board also investing $100 million

NEW YORK: UAE sovereign investment vehicle Mubadala plans to invest $100 million in Full Truck Alliance Co., a Chinese trucking startup that styles itself as “Uber for trucks,” Bloomberg reported.
Full Truck Alliance (FTA) said on Tuesday it is aiming for a valuation of over $20 billion in its US initial public offering, marking another high-profile Chinese stock market listing in New York this year.
This coincides with a private placement in which the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board and Mubadala will each purchase $100 million worth of Class A ordinary shares, Bloomberg said.
FTA, more popularly referred to as Manbang in China, said it is offering 82.5 million American Depositary Shares (ADS) at between $17 and $19 per ADS. Each ADS represents 20 Class A ordinary shares.
At the top end of the price range, FTA could raise as much as $1.57 billion from the IPO,which would make it the largest US listing for a Chinese company this year, according to data provider Refinitiv. Chinese vaping firm RLX Technology Inc. raised $1.4 billion in its US IPO in January.
Those figures are expected to be dwarfed in the coming weeks when China’s largest ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing launches its IPO, which is expected to be the biggest share sale of the year. Reuters has previously reported that Didi could raise as much as $10 billion from its stock market flotation.
A spate of richly valued Chinese tech startups have targeted IPOs in the US in recent years, as they can tap into the deepest capital pool in the world and avoid tighter regulatory scrutiny in major Asian exchanges like Hong Kong.
Last year, Chinese companies raised $12 billion from US listings, nearly triple the amount raised in 2019, according to Refinitiv data. This year is expected to comfortably surpass last year’s tally.
Chinese companies have so far raised $5.82 billion in the United States this year, according to Refinitiv data.
FTA, formed out of a merger in 2017 between two digital freight platforms, Yunmanman and Huochebang, is led by former Alibaba executive Peter Hui Zhang.
The company runs a mobile app that connects truck drivers to people that need to ship items within China. It was the world’s largest digital-freight platform by gross transaction value last year, according to research from China Insights Consultancy that was commissioned by the company.
In November, FTA was valued at nearly $12 billion after a $1.7 billion investment, Reuters reported. That investment round was led by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank’s Vision Fund, Sequoia Capital, Permira Capital and Fidelity.
China’s tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. is also one of the company’s backers.
Morgan Stanley, CICC and Goldman Sachs are among the underwriters for FTA’s offering in New York. The company plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “YMM.”


Saudi Arabia dominates slow MENA IPO market in Q1

Saudi Arabia dominates slow MENA IPO market in Q1
Updated 25 min 35 sec ago

Saudi Arabia dominates slow MENA IPO market in Q1

Saudi Arabia dominates slow MENA IPO market in Q1
  • MENA IPOs lagged the global market in Q1, which was the best first quarter in terms of both deal numbers and proceeds for the 20 years

DUBAI: Saudi Arabian companies accounted for two of the three initial public offerings in the Middle East and North Africa region during the first quarter of 2021, representing 96 percent of the amount raised, according to consultancy EY.
The two listings on the Tadawul in Q1 raised $281.6 million. That compares with $1.45 billion from four listings for the whole of 2020, which represented a 78 percent share of the MENA IPO market, EY said in a report.
Alkhorayef Water & Power Technologies raised $144 million after its retail offering was oversubscribed by 1,511 percent and the institutional offering by 6,320 percent. Theeb Rent a Car Company collected $138 million from its IPO, which was oversubscribed by 6,010 percent for the institutional tranche and 3,385 percent for the retail offering.
MENA IPOs lagged the global market in Q1, which was the best first quarter in terms of both deal numbers and proceeds for the 20 years, generating $105.6 billion from 430 offerings, EY said. MENA IPOs raised $294.8 million, a 64 percent decline from the same period in 2020 and down from $925 million Q4, 2020.
“The MENA region’s IPO market was off to a slower than expected start in 2021, despite expectations for an increase in IPO activity after an uptick and stronger performance in Q4 of 2020,” said Matthew Benson, EY MENA strategy and transactions leader. “We expect IPO activity to bounce back over the coming months while economic conditions in the region continue to improve, aided by the accelerated vaccine rollouts and the possibility of reaching herd immunity against COVID-19.”


Aramco’s entrepreneurship arm launches $27m roadshow to find KSA’s next big startups

Aramco’s entrepreneurship arm launches $27m roadshow to find KSA’s next big startups
Updated 46 min 33 sec ago

Aramco’s entrepreneurship arm launches $27m roadshow to find KSA’s next big startups

Aramco’s entrepreneurship arm launches $27m roadshow to find KSA’s next big startups
  • Wa’ed has up to SR100 million ($27 million) at its disposal to hand out in loans and venture capital investments to commercially feasible ventures

DHAHRAN: Saudi Aramco’s entrepreneurship arm Wa’ed on Wednesday launched its first roadshow event to unearth and fund the next generation of Saudi entrepreneurs.

Wa’ed has up to SR100 million ($27 million) at its disposal to hand out in loans and venture capital investments to commercially feasible ventures that would fill existing gaps in the Kingdom’s economy.

Aiming to support game-changing ideas that will create new jobs, the Wa’ed entrepreneurship roadshow will hold a series of events in six Saudi cities from September to December.

Jubail, Yanbu, Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah, and Madinah will play host to the tour being organized in association with some of Wa’ed’s key partners, including the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu, Monsha’at, the Saudi General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, development firm Namaa Almunawara, and investment company Wadi Makkah.

“These shows are a coordinated effort with our partners to find and fund new entrepreneurs who will add value to the Saudi entrepreneurial ecosystem and accelerate the pace of economic diversification in the Kingdom,” said Wassim Basrawi, Wa’ed managing director.

Wa’ed’s aim is to seek bold ideas with potential to positively contribute to the development and diversification of the Saudi economy.

“Seventy out of over 100 startups we supported were the first of their kind and received their first-ever investment from us, and this is what we are targeting now; distinguished and not yet supported startups and ideas,” Basrawi added.

Online applications for all Saudi-based entrepreneurs were due to open on Wednesday. After two selection rounds, successful applicants will be invited to participate in the roadshows in their cities, where events will include startup pitch competitions in the style of TV’s “Shark Tank,” and industry discussions and debate.

The tour will focus on sectors such as financial, agricultural, and environmental technology, industrial applications, reverse engineering, drones, petrochemicals, supply chain, and tourism.

In addition to Wa’ed’s incubation and mentoring services, participants will either earn fast-track funding, including loans for up to SR5 million or venture capital investments with up to SR19 million, and non-refundable grants of SR25,000, SR50,000, and SR75,000.

Amin Nasser, chief executive officer of Aramco, said: “Wa’ed has come a long way since 2011 to support talented Saudis to help them turn their business ideas into real drivers for growth and innovation.

“But the next 10 years will be even more crucial for our entrepreneurial ecosystem as the pace of transformation in-Kingdom accelerates with opportunities emerging in new business growth sectors such as technology, e-commerce, and renewable energy.

“That’s why the roadshows by Wa’ed in six cities across the Kingdom are important to make the most of these opportunities to nurture and enable a more vibrant entrepreneurial culture in Saudi Arabia.”

All those taking part in the roadshow will be able to join and benefit from Wa’ed’s Innovation Ecosystem Society which has more than 1,500 local and international members and around 400 mentors.

Enrichment events and meetings with inspirational speakers, as well as interview-based podcasts, workshops, and webinars will start ahead of the competition and will continue until the end of the program in order to provide value to as many potential beneficiaries from the initiative as possible.

Through the scheme, Wa’ed intends to expand its portfolio more evenly throughout the country. Currently, around 60 percent of its investments are in the Eastern Province, with the remainder distributed around the Kingdom.

Wa’ed has also set a goal to double its annual loan and venture capital deal volume by 2023 in a bid to support the Kingdom’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and keep up with the pace of transformation and emerging opportunities in crucial sectors including technology, e-commerce, and renewable energy.

Wa’ed currently supports more than 100 entrepreneurial businesses in Saudi Arabia by providing the necessary financial support, guidance, and tools for entrepreneurs with creative ideas and startups.

Saudi Aramco’s entrepreneurship center was established in 2011 with a mission to nurture Saudi entrepreneurs and their businesses to strive and help develop the Saudi economy. Since its inception, Wa’ed has invested more than $100 million.

It is the only no-collateral lender and largest institutional venture capital investor in Saudi-based startups.


Indonesia lists three Islamic bonds worth $3bn on Nasdaq Dubai

Indonesia lists three Islamic bonds worth $3bn on Nasdaq Dubai
Updated 16 June 2021

Indonesia lists three Islamic bonds worth $3bn on Nasdaq Dubai

Indonesia lists three Islamic bonds worth $3bn on Nasdaq Dubai
  • The new listings bring Indonesia’s total value of listed sukuk to $19.75 billion

DUBAI: Three sukuk tranches, amounting to $3 billion, have been listed on Nasdaq Dubai by the Indonesian government.
The new listings bring Indonesia’s total value of listed sukuk to $19.75 billion, the Dubai Media Office reported.
“This mounting presence of international issuers clearly underscores Dubai’s active role in promoting Islamic economy, shariah-compliant financial markets as well as supporting sustainable economic development across the world,” Hamed Ali, CEO of Nasdaq Dubai, said.
The three sukuk tranches include one of $1.25 billion yielding 1.5 percent on a five-year maturity; a $1 billion bond with a coupon of 2.55 percent yield and 10 years maturity; and a $750 million green sukuk yielding 3.55 percent yield over 30 years.
Many central banks and sovereign wealth funds in Southeast Asia and the Middle East have expressed strong interest in the paper, with a combined order book exceeding $10.3 billion.


Saudi Electricity approves Apple Pay for settling bills

Saudi Electricity approves Apple Pay for settling bills
Updated 16 June 2021

Saudi Electricity approves Apple Pay for settling bills

Saudi Electricity approves Apple Pay for settling bills

RIYADH: The Saudi Electricity Company has made it possible for its subscribers to pay their electricity bills through Apple Pay, SPA reported.

The Kingdom’s electricity provider already offers payment through credit and debit cards through its website, through a bank account, by phone, certified bank check and through point-of-sale locations.

Apple Pay launched in Saudi Arabia in February 2019.