Inaugurated an advanced technology desalination plant for Masdar in Abu Dhabi

Abengoa and Veolia today inaugurated a desalination pilot plant that uses its most advanced reverse osmosis and membrane distillation technology, in collaboration with the company Masdar, in order to demonstrate and improve these technologies.

The project based in Ghantoot, 90 kilometers northwest of Abu Dhabi, covers the design, engineering, procurement, construction, commissioning, operation, maintenance and evaluation of the pilot plant, over a period of 18 months. The pilot plant’s inauguration is initiating the operational phase. Suez has successfully passed the water production and water quality tests, in terms of performance and compliance with Masdar’s requirements. Suez ‘s plant reaches the potable water production of 100 m3 per day with an electrical energy consumption of less than 3.6 kWh/m3, thus offering more energy-efficiency than the current state-of-the-art desalination systems.

As technology partners, Veolia and Masdar have shared the costs to build and operate a pilot plant with the same characteristics as future large scale, innovative and low energy consumption desalination plants. The pilot plant, built in the Ghantoot area, has been producing potable water since August, abiding by the same operation constraints as a large plant and capable of handling very harsh seawater conditions (salinity up to 52 g/l, temperature which may exceed 42°C and harmful algal blooms).


Abengoa will be responsible for the engineering and construction work and the subsequent operation and maintenance of the pilot plant in Abu Dhabi. The plant uses an ultrafiltration pre-treatment phase, reverse osmosis and an innovative membrane distillation system designed by Abengoa, which will optimize the advanced reverse osmosis process. This system will also improve the sustainability and environmental aspects of the entire desalination process. The pilot plant is currently reporting excellent results in optimizing the drinking water production process.

The results obtained so far are extremely promising: Veolia has already lowered the electrical consumption performances by 7% compared to the contractual target initially required by Masdar, and is still improving on that every day. These energy cost savings can be added to those generated by a new pretreatment design which can save 25% on civil works and, therefore, reduce the footprint of the plant as well as its CAPEX.

The innovative technologies that Veolia has developed and implemented at Masdar include high performance seawater pretreatment combining air floatation and filtration, as well as a new osmosis membrane feed configuration able to deal with high treatment fluxes. A Swiss company which Veolia has been partnering with has also been developing new Energy Recovery Devices (ERD) which are implemented on the pilot. Although these are all new technologies, their development is advanced enough to consider them ready for large-scale implementation. The upcoming optimization phase will allow Veolia experts to push the limits of their system in order to further enhance the design and processes, in the pursuit of even better power efficiency while extending the lifetime of the plant.