GDF Suez kicks off giant Mirfa desalination project

Paris-based GDF Suez has begun work on the desalination component of its Mirfa gas-fired power and water project, the French firm said.

Deputy chief executive at GDF Suez subsidiary, Suez Environnement, Marie-Ange Debon, said construction would start in February but engineering and procurement for the desalination plant had already begun. “It took time for the final decision and we were granted the project about six months ago, so now we’re really in the process [of getting construction underway],” she said. She estimated that the plant could be complete in 2017.

Suez said in October that the reverse osmosis desalination part of the project, which includes the design and construction of the plant, and a seven-year operating contract, was worth Dh 677 million (US$ 184 million).

Mirfa is a key component of Abu Dhabi’s efforts to up power and water output amid a reduction in subsidies to quell growing demand. From January 1, energy and water tariffs will be increased in the emirate, in a bid to rein in consumption.

The UAE is expected to double water and power bills by 2020 to quell the country’s consumption rates which, according to government figures, run at about about 550 litres of water and 20-30 kWh of electricity a day compared to an international daily average of less than 300 litres and 15 kWh.

Meanwhile oil prices have slumped by as much as half since June. Nevertheless Suez Environment sees the GCC as a growth area in 2015. Debon said “The economy today is not as good as it was, but I still believe that the fundamentals are very strong.”

The Mirfa deal demonstrates that reverse osmosis continues to gain ground against other desalination systems. It now accounts for the bulk of new projects in the Arabian Gulf region.