Water for life: ABB’s measurement technology trailblazes water solution

Water for life: ABB’s measurement technology trailblazes water solution

Singapore is home to the world’s first desalination plant that can process both rain and seawater

Pioneering sustainable water supply with the world’s first dual mode desalination plant

Water shortages already affect more than 3 billion people globally, according to United Nations data. Climate change is expected to exacerbate this scarcity further, especially if water reserves are not better conserved. Finding sustainable ways to collect and recycle this precious resource stewarding it for future generations is now more important than ever. One potential solution can be found in Singapore, where the world’s first dual mode desalination plant can produce 30 million gallons of potable water from both sea and rainwater, powered by ABB’s state of the art automation, measurement and analytical technologies.


Singapore’s newest public recreation space is also home to the country’s fourth and most technologically advanced desalination plant

At first sight, the Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant (KMEDP) doesn’t look like a water facility. Camouflaged by trees, manicured turf, calming water features and public seating areas, the 20,000 square foot facility is designed for the purpose of providing 30 million gallons of potable water.

Continuing the duality theme, the plant is the first with the capability to process both sea and fresh water, depending on if weather conditions are wet or dry. Its internal dual flow chamber and valve allows for easy switching between the two, creating energy savings and operational flexibility. Harvesting ponds and storm water management systems also retain rainwater for reuse in irrigation and the facility water features, ensuring no drop is ever wasted.

The desalination plant, which was built and is operated by Keppel Seghers Pte Ltd, will reduce the country’s water costs, while also ensuring security of supply. This is of strategic importance to Singapore, which has the twofold challenge of no natural water resources and limited land to collect and store rainwater amid rising consumer and industrial demand. The desalination plant, which was completed in January 2021, will support national water company PUB’s wider water security strategy of ensuring 30% of supply comes from desalination.

Harnessing the power of smart instrumentation and water analyzers

ABB played a pivotal role in realizing this first of a kind dual water processing plant. Drawing on its long history and experience working on desalination plants, and high quality products and solutions, ABB was brought on to the project by PUB in 2018, with whom it has a longstanding working relationship. ABB technology can also be found throughout the PUB Choa Chu Kang water works, PUB Tuas desalination plant and the Ulu Pandan Wastewater Plant. For the Marina East project, ABB was tasked with designing, engineering, manufacturing, installing, testing, and commissioning the complete plant electrification, instrumentation, as well as water analyzers, automation, and control system.

Accurate monitoring and analyzing of water flow rates and quality is important for water plants to improve efficiency and reduce maintenance through early leakage identification. It can also accurately track volumes of water for revenue generating purposes and ensure quality to safeguard public health.


Accurately monitoring water flow rates to improve efficiency

The desalination plant required the most state-of-the-art water monitoring capabilities to deliver its water preservation purpose. To achieve this ABB Measurement & Analytics implemented its flagship WaterMaster electromagnetic flowmeters.

The meter has a self-calibrating transmitter with ultra-low temperature coefficient for highest accuracy flow measurement. At KMEDP, the meters reliably monitor water flow rates and provide accurate calculation of revenue, while improving efficiency and maintaining tight process control. This is important for the business case, as well as reducing waste by more quickly understanding when and where there is a leak.

The FSM4000 flowmeter series installed at the plant is built specifically for demanding work conditions. It masters critical applications and conserves valuable resources with highly accurate measurement of process parameters for a wide range of industries. It also reduces maintenance requirements, and in turn costs for Singaporean consumers. It does this by self-monitoring operability and processes, with limit values for the diagnostic parameters being set locally. When these are exceeded, an alarm is tripped and, if necessary, diagnostic error texts that follow established standards appear on the display, such as ‘Maintenance Required’.

Furthermore, the revolutionary data storage capabilities of the electromagnetic flowmeters enable transmitter interchange and commissioning without the need for reconfiguration, for further operational ease.

This is further supported by ABB’s VeriMaster software which ensures the system works as desired with constant data availability and accuracy.

State-of-the-art Swirl flowmeters equipped with digital signal processing and advanced filtering techniques also provide improved flow signal detection, which is ideal for demineralized water. These flowmeters also make sure measurements are not affected by hydraulic noise and pipeline vibration.


Safeguarding public health with state-of-the-art analyzers

In Singapore, fluoride is added to public water supplies to improve dental health. If levels are too high, the results can be hazardous. Precision analyzers are required to ensure fluoridation levels are carefully monitored and controlled.

At KMEDP, ABB’s continuous water analyzers work across the plant safeguarding public health by monitoring the purity of final drinking water providing real-time data on process conditions that can be used to improve efficiency, tighten performance and safeguard quality.

For this application, ABB supplied 3 Aztec AFM631 fluoride monitors that are easy to use, highly effective and require less maintenance than competitor products. Importantly, the range provides accurate on-line analysis of fluoride concentrations, allowing immediate process decisions to be made to help preserve the safety of the treatment process. Many of its features, such as automatic two point calibration which helps operators verify analyzer performance, allow for improved process reliability, safety and control.

Turbidity measurement is critical in drinking water as it is used to indicate the effectiveness of filtration and to determine whether disease causing organisms are present.

ABB's 4690 range of turbidity sensors were created specifically for the measurement of turbidity throughout the potable water treatment process. They are simple to use and maintain and possess automatic optical cleaning and dry standard calibration verification.

For potable water treatment applications, accurate and stable pH measurement is also important for optimum control at the coagulation stage of the process to minimize costs and maintain treated water quality.

pH is a measurement of the relative amount of hydrogen and hydroxyl ions in an aqueous solution. This can be challenging to determine in coagulation processes because high levels of suspended solids and significant precipitation can block the reference junction where analysis occurs. To overcome this problem, ABB’s AX400 conductivity analyzer includes an optional flowing reference junction and a simple reference junction replacement for low cost maintenance in samples that contain high levels of particulates.


Reducing operational costs with pressure, level and temperature sensors

To maintain smooth operations and avoid costly breakdowns at complex water plants, continually monitoring pressure is paramount. At Marina East Desalination Plant ABB’s 266 series pressure transmitters safeguard pressure performance.

The unique combination of several sensor systems in a single device permits simultaneous measurement of differential pressure, absolute pressure and process temperature, via an external sensor. This high performance technology can reduce costs by 30 to 40% compared with simpler single sensor technologies.

The latest generation of laser level measurement transmitters – ABB’s LLT100 also features at Marina East. It has a market-beating low divergence level and a range to 30 m (100 ft) for liquids, which enables it to perform level measurement in confined spaces, through protective cover grids, inside narrow deep wells and near walls with a beam divergence of 0.3°.

ABB’s ultrasonic level transmitters LST300 and LST400 have also been installed at the plant. They measure liquid level or solid applications up to 15 m (50 ft). They do this using an electronic pulse which combines the speed of sound through air and the “time of flight” of the pulse to accurately measure product level. Powerful software removes false echoes from the signal and electronic filters remove ambient noise.

Lastly, the TSP100 temperature sensors allow for measuring inset replacement during operation, with short response time and high vibration resistance, meaning they can operate in the most demanding process requirements.


Technical information

Industry: Water

Customer: Keppel Seghers, a subsidiary of Keppel Infrastructure

End User: Public Utilities Board, PUB – Singapore’s national water agency

Country: Singapore

ABB’s complete scope of work: Design, engineer, manufacture, install, test, and commission the complete plant electrification, instrumentation and water analyzers, automation, and control system, which includes:

  • Complete plant DCS, ABB Ability System 800xA
  • 66kV gas-insulated switchgears
  • Power and distribution transformers
  • MV & LV switchgears and drives
  • Remote terminal units
  • Field instruments and analytical systems
  • AC and DC uninterruptible power supply
  • Emergency diesel generator
  • Bus duct and cabling system
  • Local control cubicles
  • Earthing system

In October 2019, KMEDP became the first industrial plant in Singapore to be awarded the ABC Waters Certification (Gold) by PUB in recognition of its outstanding design features and exceptional Active, Beautiful, Clean (ABC) standards. PUB’s ABC Waters Certification Scheme, launched in 2021, recognizes developers who incorporate ABC Waters design features into their developments.

ABB Measurement & Analytics Field instruments and analytical systems:

  • Water Master Flow Meter (FEW 321)
  • Flow Meter (SE 41F)
  • Ultrasonic Level Transmitter (LST400)
  • Laser Level Transmitter (LLT 100)
  • pH Analyzer
  • Flouride Analyzer
  • ABB Turbidity
  • ABB Swirl flow meters - FSS 430
  • Pressure 266HSH/266 DSH


  • Integrated automation, and electrical systemsallow uniformity of information and operatingprocedures, thus improving quality ofoperational processes.
  • This allows supervision from the centralcontrol area (WSCC) for multiple sites/plantsthrough Radio Frequency wave, which is amore secured than conventional network(lease line)
  • Seamless transfer of data from fieldinstrument and electrical equipment to controlsystem, for analysis and diagnostics purposes
  • KMEDP’s Control system is fully digital-ready:having capability to extend the operation from device to edge to cloud

To find out more about desalination, the first part of our water campaign, please visit our webpage here >>


                                                                           Register here

The white paper focuses on the role that the latest measurement technologies can play in helping to optimize plant efficiency, maximize water quality and reduce the costs of operation and maintenance.


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