Symphony in the desert - Tapping the sea to provide water for a growing nation

The Al Ghubra Seawater Desalination Plant is one of the largest reverse osmosis plants in the Persian Gulf region. Its challenge: to get fresh water to a growing population and developing nation. The even bigger challenge: the nation is Oman, which is for more than 80 percent covered by desert.


ABB Ability™ Symphony® Plus digital control technology improves efficiency at the plant, which has just finished its first year of operation, making the production of precious fresh water affordable.

The Al Ghubra desalination plant is located at the port of Muscat, which offers a prime view on the Gulf of Oman, the source that feeds this facility. Located on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman is a fast developing nation on a journey to diversify its economy away from oil. The Gulf State needs resources to support its emerging businesses, a growing population and an increasing number of tourists.

A rise in global urbanization amid an ongoing growing population has made fresh water one of the most precious resources. The United Nations have made fresh water as one of its Sustainable Development Goals. Although 70 percent of the planet is covered by water, 97.5 percent of it is undrinkable saltwater. But growing demand has driven a boom in a production process called desalination as a source of fresh water.

The Al Ghubra plant, which has a potable water production capacity of 191,000 cubic meters per day, equivalent to supplying a population of 800,000, is using a production process via Reverse Osmosis (RO), which is gaining in popularity. This is partly because prices of RO membranes have dropped and maintenance costs are also declining. Initial investments are also lower and projects can be completed faster. After only one year in operation, the Al Ghubra plant will meet Oman's increasing demand for drinking water, which is currently at around 827,000 cubic meters per day. It is expected to increase at an average rate of six percent annually in the coming years.

Keeping pace with a changing energy landscape

Electrical power consumption is one of the biggest single running costs of desalination, so making the process more energy efficient directly translates into affordable potable water. ABB Ability Symphony Plus increases safety, reliability and output of plants and processes while reducing cost and risk.
Moreover, the changing energy landscape results in greater complexity across the power infrastructure. As a result, power systems and plants are making increased use of digital technologies for such tasks as monitoring, diagnostics, maintenance, protection and optimization of assets. With over 100 years of control technology innovation and deep domain expertise, ABB Power Generation & Water can help customers harness the opportunities of this changing energy landscape, while drawing on its roots to the future.

It was after a detailed study of the system functionality and interconnectivity requirements at Al Ghubra that ABB decided to provide Symphony Plus Operations as the human-machine interface (HMI) solution. Overall, the Symphony Plus system at Al Ghubra seamlessly integrates and communicates with field devices and electrical equipment via HART, MODBUS and IEC 61850. Furthermore, the system utilizes its extended operational features such as the rich graphical user interface, advanced trend analysis and user privilege control. Users can also rely on a recently signed Water Care service contract, if required, which offers them support from the region itself.

Quenching the thirst of millions

ABB has delivered instrumentation, automation and electrical solutions for some of the largest and most complex desalination projects around the world such as the Magtaa plant in Algeria, which is one of the largest RO desalination plants in the world. Another example is Salalah, the largest Independent Water and Power Producer (IWPP) in Oman.

Located at Oran, Algeria's second largest city, the Magtaa RO seawater desalination plant produces up to 500,000 cubic meters of drinking water a day, enough to meet the daily requirements of about five million people. Meanwhile the Salalah IWPP project, located at Taqah in southern Oman, consists of a gas-fired power plant and an RO seawater desalination plant which produces 68,000 cubic metres of water per day.

ABB Energy Industries ABB is writing the future of safe and smart operations for industry, with ABB Ability™ delivering integrated and secure digital solutions that deliver value for customers with increasing autonomy, sustainability and optimized performance. ABB Energy Industries brings deep domain knowledge and technical expertise in energy and water, oil and gas, specialty chemicals and primary pharmaceutical industries. Building on our heritage, a spirit of collaboration and innovation inspires our digital leadership as we engineer and provide products, services and solutions that support our partners for success, both today and tomorrow as we look ahead to a new energy future.

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a pioneering technology leader with a comprehensive offering for digital industries. With a history of innovation spanning more than 130 years, ABB is today a leader in digital industries with four customer-​focused, globally leading businesses: Electrification, Industrial Automation, Motion, and Robotics & Discrete Automation, supported by its common ABB Ability™ digital platform. ABB’s market leading Power Grids business will be divested to Hitachi in 2020. ABB operates in more than 100 countries with about 147,000 employees.


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