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The challenge: To treat water in the Holy City of Mecca

06/13/2013

 

ACCIONA Agua has won a 2-year O&M contract, with the possibility of renewal, for the Haddah-1 and Arana-1 wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in Saudi Arabia's Mecca province. The plants will service the provincial capital of the same name and offer a combined total capacity of 375,000m3/day.

Saudi Arabia is currently engaged in a program that sets out to transform and modernize the country's water sector. The program, backed by the country's state-run water agency, the National Water Company (NWC), is making considerable headway in improving the sector's workings and performance by incorporating leading international O&M players. As ACCIONA Agua's Middle East Business Development Manager, Jesus Sancho, points out, "this is a key strategic area for ACCIONA Agua, particularly the member countries of the socalled Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), comprising the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman. These countries all experienced economic recovery in 2011 and 2012, and that's led to more project tenders."

Haddah-1 and Arana-1

The 14 million euro Haddah-1 and Arana-1 contract is ACCIONA's second in Saudi Arabia in the space of a few months; the first, a Build, Design, Commission contract for a desalination plant with a total capacity of 100,000m3/day in Al Jubail, came in October 2012. As Jesus Sancho explains, "the GCC contracts represent around 10% of our turnover for 2013. However, we're growing quickly in this part of the world and we'll need to reach at least 25% of revenue in the short- to medium term."

In late 2012 ACCIONA Agua won a contract for a seawater desalination plant (total capacity: 136,000 liters/ day) in Fujairah, in the UAE. The Haddah-1 and Arana-1 project will be the first to be carried out as part of this program and will involve handling O&M at the two plants, both located on the boundary between the cities of Jeddah and Mecca (the sacred city of Islam), and both in Mecca province.

Built by the Saudi Arabian construction companies Aziz and Bin Jarallah, the Haddah-1 and Arana-1 plants first came into service in 2011. Until relatively recently the construction companies handled O&M at the plants; in July 2012, however, the NWC issued a tender. The winning bidder was a consortium made up of a local company, Miahona-part of the ACWA holding-and ACCIONA Agua (50% each).

The city of Mecca has a stable population of 1.5 inhabitants which increases considerably with the influx of pilgrims. The city receives an estimated 13 million visitors a year, of which 4-5 million arrive in the month of Ramadan (during the feast of Haji). This means that local water treatment plants have to cope with greatly varying demands.

Efficiency and technology

In Saudi Arabia water and sanitation is the responsibility of the Ministry of Water and Electricity (MOWE for short); the NWC is part of the Ministry structure and is responsible for the country's water and sanitation services, except desalinated water production.

"The NWC is aware of the country's considerable shortcomings concerning water and sanitation, production, technology, staff training, etc.; so since it was first set up in 2008 it has encouraged public sector participation by turning to private-sector specialists to help the country move forward", explains Julio Ratia, Agua's Arabia Manager and the man leading the Haddah-1 and Arana-1 project.

"This is ACCIONA Agua's first O&M contract in Saudi Arabia and its strategic importance is enormous; it will allow us to deploy all our expertise and experience in an effort to improve the overall functioning of two plants in a very special location: the sacred city of Mecca is of enormous relevance to our customer and to the Islamic world as a whole. This will mean considerable visibility for everything that we bring in the way of value-added: efficiency, organization, applied technology, working method, staff training and so on. Our customer, the NWC, will be able to see it all and appreciate it and we'll gain their trust. And we'll go on to become the benchmark for future contracts which will come along shortly."

In Saudi Arabia the need to improve and guarantee the water and sanitation services, and the political desire to achieve it align seamlessly. One of the pillars of this strategy is the quest for better technologies and the best and, above all, most reliable specialist operators. ACCIONA Agua fits the bill perfectly and is already operating in this part of the world.

Profiles

Jesus Sancho graduated in Aeronautical Engineering from the Polytechnic of Madrid (Spain) and holds a Management Development Program qualification from the IESE business school. ACCIONA Agua's Middle East Business Development Manager has worked in aeronautical companies, and in developing business in the water industry, as well as in wastewater treatment projects and large-scale seawater desalination.

Julio Ratia holds a Chemistry degree from the University of Alicante (Eastern Spain), a Masters' degree in Water Management and Treatment and an MBA from the Murcia School of Business and Administration. He has extensive experience in water management in Asia, the Middle East and LatAm. In 2103 he was named head of the Haddah-1 and Arana-1 project.

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