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Firm constructs desalination and power plants in Fujairah, Sohar

By Kim So-hyun - The Korean Herald

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - With its emergence as a world business hub as well as a tourist attraction, the ritzy trade port of Dubai is often called the "Hong Kong of the Middle East."

This sandy city turned green years ago with constant tree planting thanks to the massive supply of water from desalination plants nearby. Sprinklers water palm trees lined along the roads and small plantations are not hard to spot. Like underground heating pipes in Korea, water hoses meander under the turfs, trees and gardens.

Just a mere two-hour drive across the Hajar Mountains from Dubai lies a desalination plant built by Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co. in Fujairah, one of the seven emirates or territory under each sheik of the United Arab Emirates.

Doosan`s desalination and power-generation plants in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates Doosan Heavy

Facing the Gulf of Oman with a backdrop of stony mountains, the plant pumps out 450,000 metric tons (100 million gallons) of fresh water everyday. It boasted the world's biggest production capacity until the Shuaiba project (880,000 tons per day) in Saudi Arabia kicked off. The water from the Fujairah plant is delivered nearly 300 kilometers south to Al Ain, the country's fourth largest city adjacent to the border with Oman. The commercial hub of Dubai and the capital of Abu Dhabi are supplied partly with water from another desalination plant built by Doosan last year in Jebel Ali.

The Fujairah desalination plant was completed in June 2004 along with a powerhouse. Doosan Heavy received the $800 million order in 2001 from the government of UAE and built the plants with its own engineering technologies. It took only 22 months before the initial production of desalted water in April 2003.

"The Fujairah plants account for 8.9 percent of UAE's total electric power production and 26.5 percent of the country's desalinated water," said Byun Hee-tae, a managing staff of Doosan's Fujairah facility. "UAE's desalination market is expected to double or triple in the coming years."

The "one-module" method was applied to the Fujairah facility where the evaporators, the core of desalination plants, were entirely produced and shipped from the company's headquarters in Changwon. Instead of assembling parts of the gigantic evaporator at the plant site, Doosan carried the equipment on a football-field-sized barge, reducing the duration of construction by more than six months.

Another unique feature of the Fujairah plant is that it was the world's first hybrid utilizing two methods - evaporation and filtration. The evaporation or multi-stage flashing facility is expensive to build but its maintenance costs little. It is vice versa for filtration. The demand for a hybrid system is increasing because it is efficient and economic. In the summer, when the demand for electricity is high, the heat generated from the powerhouse can be used for desalination via the evaporation method. The filtering method can be used during the winter when the power plant doesn't have to be in full operation.

MSF involves the heating of seawater in a container known as a brine heater and condensing the steam to produce fresh water. Filtering is achieved by reverse osmosis or a process of pushing a solution through a filter that traps the solute on one side and allows the pure solvent to be obtained from the other side. It basically forces a solvent from a region of high solute concentration through a membrane to a region of low solute concentration by applying pressure in excess of the osmotic pressure.

Another two hours' drive across the barren lands from Fujairah takes one to Doosan's desalination and power generation plants under construction in the port city of Sohar, Oman, located 250 kilometers northwest of the capital Muscat.

Sohar, traditionally a fishing town, is burgeoning into an industrial town with a refinery. Doosan Heavy won the $410 million order two years ago for engineering, procurement and construction of both plants on a 120,000-square-meter site in the Sohar industrial enclave.

The desalination facility is capable of desalting 150,000 tons of seawater per day, enough for 500,000 people to use. The 596-megawatt thermo electric power plant is slated for completion in April next year.

"It is the first EPC project run by a single contractor with its own technologies," said Kim Sang-baek, a Doosan manager at Sohar. "An EPC requires high technology and know-how as it involves supply of equipment in addition to building."

Thirty-four Korean staff including Kim and 130 local workers are sweating away at the site which has seen 95 percent of the construction completed. A sign at the site reads "The Safe Way Is the Right Way."

"Daewoo and Hyundai built the breakwater and walls of Sohar port in early 2000 and Doosan and GS Caltex came in October 2004," Kim said. "Officers of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. are asking for our advice as they consider building a shipyard in southern Oman."

Doosan is the world's No. 1 desalination plant builder with 1.38 million tons per day in total capacity contracted.

"Power generation ($220 billion) and desalination ($80 billion) plant orders worth $300 billion are expected to come from UAE, Oman, Qatar, Saudi, Kuwait and Jordan until 2025," said Ahn Hyun-sang, Doosan Heavy's vice president and regional head of the Middle East and Africa. "Even if Doosan continues to cover just 40 percent of the desalination market, it would be $40 billion in new orders."

Ahn added that more financing support by the Korean government is necessary in order to win larger deals.

"The size of the plant projects have become much bigger so we need more bond guarantee from state-owned banks," Ahn said. "Then we can lead the Middle Eastern plant market - which was dominated by Japanese companies in the 1980s - for the next 10 years without being chased by the Chinese."

Bosco Giuseppe, superintendent of the Sohar plant, said that Doosan rivals its Japanese and European counterparts in terms of technology and operating capabilities.

"Doosan will enjoy good business because the Middle Eastern desalination market is expanding," he said.

Korean companies won 16 percent of the plant orders ranging from desalination to petrochemicals in the region in 2005, according to data released by the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy.




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