Mirfa power and water plant to begin construction in February

ABU DHABI: GDF Suez will break ground in February on its billion-dollar Mirfa gas-fired power and water project, expected to provide enough electricity for more than 1 million homes once complete, the French energy firm said.

According to Marie-Ange Debon, the Deputy Chief Executive and head of international activities at the utility unit Suez Environnement, the plant could be finished in 2017, as it “usually takes two years” from the start of construction.

“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 told the UAE daily, The National, adding that the engineering and procurement of the desalination plant had already begun.

The project, located 120 kilometres west of the capital, Abu Dhabi, will cost US$1.5 billion and generate 1,600 megawatts of electricity, with a seawater desalination capacity of 52.5 million gallons per day. The new plant will replace an existing 200MW plant that caters to local demand in Mirfa.

Suez said in October that the desalination part of the project, which includes the design and construction of the plant, plus a seven-year operating contract for its Degremont unit, is worth AED677 million.

The Mirfa desalination plant will use reverse osmosis, which removes salt and algae from seawater by using membranes and is cheaper than the other two main types of desalination used in the region; multi-stage flash and multi-effect distillation.

GDF Suez is one of the largest desalination plant operators in the world. It built and operates the reverse osmosis plant at the Fujairah 1 independent water and power plant – the largest of its type in the region. Fujairah 1 deploys a hybrid of reverse osmosis and multi-stage flash distillation.

As the Mirfa deal shows, the reverse osmosis technology continues to gain ground against other desalination systems and now accounts for the bulk of new projects in the Arabian Gulf region.

GDF Suez, the largest shareholder in Suez Environnement, signed a 25-year power and water purchase agreement with Adwea in July and reached financial close in October. Adwea holds an 80 percent stake in the scheme, with the remainder held by the French company.

“[The Mirfa project] is an important addition to the sector and once completed will play a key role in delivering power and water competitively to meet Abu Dhabi’s growing electricity and water demand,” Faris Al Dhaheri, the Adwea Director-General, said in October.