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.


Inflation in eurozone economies is transitory: IMF

Inflation in eurozone economies is transitory: IMF
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 07 December 2021

Inflation in eurozone economies is transitory: IMF

Inflation in eurozone economies is transitory: IMF
  • The reason the IMF gave this assessment is that the hikes in consumer prices didn’t turn into wage increases

Despite inflation hitting a record high last month in the euro area, the International Monetary Fund said that the rise in prices is transitory and not worrisome.

Annual inflation rate in the zone reached 4.9 percent in November, Reuters reported.

The reason the IMF gave this assessment is that the hikes in consumer prices didn’t turn into wage increases, also known as the second-round effect.

It pointed out that, meanwhile, monetary policy should remain loose.

The international lender also stated that governments in the euro area should continue backing their economies to overcome the adverse effects initiated by the pandemic. The organization added that fiscal consolidation is not urgent, but its plans should be readily available now.

“Policies should remain accommodative but become increasingly targeted, with a focus on mitigating potential rises in inequality and poverty,”the IMF said.

I took a quote from the source since it's reuters.


Bahrain aims to reduce government shares in listed companies

Bahrain aims to reduce government shares in listed companies
Updated 07 December 2021

Bahrain aims to reduce government shares in listed companies

Bahrain aims to reduce government shares in listed companies

JEDDAH: Bahrain aims to reduce government ownership in listed companies, the CEO of the Bahrain Bourse has said.

The country aims to list more governmental companies to encourage the private sector to follow the lead. 

At least two governmental firms are currently close to listing, including the Bahrain Airport Company,  Khalifa Al Khalifa added in an interview with Al Arabiya.

Bahrain Bourse has also reached an agreement with Abu Dhabi to facilitate direct trading between the two markets.

It is also implementing a four year strategy ending in 2026, to develop the financial market sector by listing more companies, including small and medium-size enterprises, Al Arabiya reported.


Oil prices exceed $70 pushing aside omicron concerns

Oil prices exceed $70 pushing aside omicron concerns
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 07 December 2021

Oil prices exceed $70 pushing aside omicron concerns

Oil prices exceed $70 pushing aside omicron concerns
  • Meanwhile, companies made offers on Monday to buy crude oil released from US strategic reserves

JEDDAH: Oil prices rose to $70 a barrel earlier on Dec. 7, as concerns eased about market demand and as fears of the omicron variant waned, Bloomberg reported.

Brent crude futures were up $1.66, or 2.3 percent, at $74.74 a barrel by 1005 GMT, after settling 4.6 percent higher on Monday.

US West Texas Intermediate crude was at $71.30 a barrel, up $1.81, or 2.6 percent, building on a 4.9 percent gain in the previous session.

At the weekend, Saudi Arabia increased the cost of its crude for buyers in Asia and the US, signaling that it still sees strong demand despite the wave of restrictions by various national governments in response to the latest variant of the COVID-19.

Meanwhile, companies made offers on Monday to buy crude oil released from US strategic reserves, according to Bloomberg.

The winning bids for the first 32 million barrels will be announced on Dec. 14. 


At least two oil refiners have expressed interests. 

The US release of crude is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to control gasoline prices, Bloomberg said.


UAE bank credit falls for first time since May; deposits rise

UAE bank credit falls for first time since May; deposits rise
Updated 07 December 2021

UAE bank credit falls for first time since May; deposits rise

UAE bank credit falls for first time since May; deposits rise

Gross credit in the UAE declined by a monthly rate of 0.8 percent in October to hit 1.76 trillion dirhams ($480 billion) on falls in both domestic and foreign credit, according to data published by the country’s central bank.  

The October decline in gross credit is the largest since March and is in contrast to September's performance, when it rose 0.3 percent month-on-month. 

Domestic credit went down due to drops related to the government, public, and private sectors. Credit provided to non-banking financial institutions rose by 2.7 percent, the central bank said in a press release issued Dec. 6.

In September, domestic credit increased by 0.2 percent to 1.6 trillion dirhams, while foreign credit, which includes loans, trade bills and advances to non-resident companies other than banks, grew 0.8 percent to 164.4 billion dirhams. 

Bank deposits in the UAE went up by a monthly rate of 1.3 percent in October to hit 1.97 trillion dirhams. This was the fifth consecutive month of growth and is the highest monthly rate since June.

This was mainly attributed to a 1.7 percent rise in residential deposits, offsetting a 1.7 percent drop in non-residential deposits. 

Outside of residential deposits, government and public sectors experienced the highest increases, jumping by 5.5 percent and 3 percent, respectively. At the same time, private sector deposits edged up slightly, rising by only 0.6 percent.

The monthly rate of growth in deposits accelerated from 0.7 percent recorded in September when resident deposits grew 0.3 percent to 1.7 trillion dirhams while non-resident deposits jumped 3.7 percent to 243.2 billion dirhams.    

The central bank also said that the gross banks’ assets increased by 0.7 percent in October when compared to the previous month. The balance stood at 3.27 trillion dirhams by the end of the month.

The UAE’s monetary base, which includes currency issued and bank reserves among others, grew by 1.3 percent month-on-month in October. This was driven by widenings in both issued currency and banks’ current accounts and overnight deposits with the central bank.

Moreover, M1, a monetary aggregate encompassing currency outside banks and short-term monetary deposits, underwent a 0.5 percent monthly increase in October. This was attributed to jumps in both of its components.

Additionally, a wider measure of money, M2, rose by 0.8 percent on more quasi-monetary deposits and a higher M1. Quasi-monetary deposits consist of residential time and savings deposits in local currency in addition to residential deposits in foreign currencies.

Similarly, M3 increased due to larger government deposits as well as higher M1 and M2.


High gas prices may delay energy transition: TotalEnergies CEO

High gas prices may delay energy transition: TotalEnergies CEO
Updated 07 December 2021

High gas prices may delay energy transition: TotalEnergies CEO

High gas prices may delay energy transition: TotalEnergies CEO

JEDDAH: High fossil fuel prices may affect the transition towards renewable energy sources, the leader of one of Europe’s largest oil companies has warned.

If fuel prices continue to remain high, this “might jeopardize the development” of alternatives, said TotalEnergies SE CEO Patrick Pouyanne, according to Bloomberg.

“Some Asian countries about to switch from coal to gas might be discouraged by too high energy prices,” he added, while speaking at the World Petroleum Congress on Monday. 

Pouyanne made the comments as Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser warned that renewable energy supplies are not yet strong enough to compete with fossil fuels. 

On Sunday, Aramco increased the cost of its crude for January in an indication that demand outlook will remain high, Bloomberg said.

On Tuesday, US crude oil rose $2 to hit $71.52.