Located in southwest Saudi Arabia, the geographic and geopolitical conditions were not the most convenient for the execution of a project like this one. The specific characteristics of the territory, relatively remote in the country, meant that logistics, which are already complicated to start with this type of project, posed enormous difficulties, reaching their most critical point with the COVID-19 pandemic. Mobility constraints poses a challenge, but the search for alternative suppliers and the reduction of delivery lots minimized the impact.
Thousands of hours of engineering and collaborative work with suppliers enabling the plant to achieve its energy consumption targets
The location also has a determining influence on water quality. Although the water’s turbidity and temperature are not extreme, there is high biological growth and recurrent red tides in this area of the Red Sea, which present a huge challenge for desalination plants. In the case of Shuqaiq 3, the technological solutions that have been applied, although they already existed in the industry, had never been implemented in plants of this magnitude. The best example is the pigging system. The pig is a ‘bullet’ of almost two meters in diameter that weighs more than one tonne. It is inserted into the marine pipelines and is propelled by pressurized water to clear out all of the marine growth that has been consolidating inside the pipelines. This growth is very detrimental to the plant because it gradually reduces the internal diameter, generating a potential risk of decreasing flow below the levels required for production.
Minimizing the volume of the controversial sodium hypochlorite, and the shock addition of sulfuric acid, further improve the performance of the membranes in this environment that is so prolific for marine life.
Reverse osmosis membranes
The Shuqaiq 3 plant has more than 7,000 reverse osmosis pressure tubes, which when placed end to end would measure almost 54 kilometers long, with more than 53,000 membranes working simultaneously to produce more than 18 million liters of pure water per hour.
For the water intake, there are three pipes, 2 meters in diameter and 1.5 km long, buried in the seabed and can take in 1 billion liters of water per day for treatment and purification.