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The Saline Water Conservation Corporation (SWCC) and King Saud University have signed a multi-faceted agreement involving water desalination, a process extremely vital to Saudi Arabia.
The agreement, fashioned to comprehensively address the process through research, consultation and education, was signed Monday by SWCC Governor Fehied F. Al Shareef and KSU Rector Abdullah Al-Othman.
"Our cooperation in the domain of water desalination is a milestone in the history of both institutions," Mr. Al Shareef said after paying tribute to KSU’s lofty international academic standing and its stellar commitment to the Kingdom. “[The University’s] Rector and his colleagues have been involved in desalination studies for several years and our agreement will benefit the corporation more than the university.
“KSU has established leadership in many technical domains and their expertise enables the corporation to continue. The Kingdom is a world leader in water desalination and in embedding and developing the vital desalination technology in the world.”
Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest producer of desalinated water, derived by the removal of salt and other minerals from sea water. Two years ago, the world’s largest desalination plant was opened along the Persian Gulf shoreline in an eastern Saudi province, a plant estimated to have cost $3.8 billion.
SWCC, operating under the authority of the Ministry, is in charge of the country’s older desalination plants, approximately 30 in all, while the remaining plants are privately owned. Desalination plants are responsible for more than 50 percent of the drinking water in Saudi Arabia, with the remainder coming from ground and surface sources.
Mr. Al Shareef explained that the research and consultation cooperation agreement covers seven branch projects: the establishment and transfer of multi-impact desalination technology, desalination through solar power, the study of sources corroding desalinated water tubes, the study of anti-deposit substances and foam, the manufacturing of spare parts, the manufacturing of membranes locally, and the use of unprocessed water in desalination.
The academic cooperation agreement will enable SWCC researchers to oversee the work of senior students at KSU and suggest academic programs compatible with the Kingdom’s requirements in the desalination process. The SWCC leader lauded KSU’s decision to establish an MS program in desalination, emphasizing that the program will benefit SWCC immensely because it will enable large groups to participate in research, operation and maintenance in desalination.
Dr. Al-Othman expressed his delight with the agreement for several reasons, foremost being the corporation’s extensive experience in the process of water desalination. He exclaimed that SWCC and KSU will work as a team in developing many concepts “for the sake of the Kingdom and KSU’s male and female students.”
The Rector said another major advantage of the agreement is that it will allow KSU to implement its strategic vision of moving to applied research. Topping the list of University priorities of applied research, he said, is water desalination.
“Happily, our agreement is comprehensive, involving cooperation in definite and time-limited projects, as well as open-ended teaching initiatives” Dr. Al-Othman said. “It is a distinguished initiative by KSU and the corporation to embed desalination industry.”
The primary element of the agreement, Dr. Al-Othman suggested, is the opportunity to establish an MS program devoted to water desalination engineering, an opportunity that will be shared by the mechanical engineering and chemical engineering departments.
Secondly, KSU will acquire knowledge from the corporation’s research and developmental information, as well as access to the SWCC’s numerous patents and to the association with international experts from many prominent international companies.
The third element cited by the Rector was consultation. “We know that the state has invested greatly in human resource, but has not reaped appropriate returns from its investment,” he said. “This agreement will allow the state to profit from these experts and from their potential.”
Finally, he said the agreement will enhance the learning and teaching experiences, a means to embed the technology and training of national forces.
Engineer Thabit Al-Lehaibi, SWCC’s deputy governor, also called for an intellectual merger in theory and practice between SWCC and King Saud University. He believes that the agreement will have a positive impact on students and the country as a whole, now and in the future, and will produce projects that will exceed anyone’s expectations in terms of economic and scientific rewards.
“Our objective, he said, “is to graduate engineers able to work and be productive as soon as they graduate,” he said. Graduates, he emphasized, will be able to join the corporation and immediately be productive without having to wait as much as five years before being appointed.
Dr. Hany Al-Ansary, head of the research team responsible for transferring a desalination plant model from Riyadh Techno Valley in KSU campus to Al-Jubail Industrial City, said the impetus of this model is to lower sweet water production costs using solar energy. In doing so, the cost of building and operating the solar power accumulator and the desalination plant will be lower, while retaining the acceptable efficiency of solar power in the desalination process. New designs were created and implemented, replacing high-cost internationally-produced equipment with locally-designed and well-constructed apparatus of simple design and maintenance. Construction was cheap using locally-available materials.
Al-Ansary said the model plant will be completed and transferred to Al-Jubail within a month. He has been assured that the SWCC research team was satisfied with model after inspection and even Spanish researcher Julian Blanco, an expert in solar power applications, endorsed the project during a recent visit to King Saud University.
An experiment in which sun rays are focused in the desalination unit was also deemed to be a monumental success.
The SWCC was formed in 1974 and is the world’s top producer of desalinated water, producing 27 percent of the world’s desalinated water from an assortment of 30 plants, 14 transmission systems, and 2,300 of pipeline. Every day SWCC supplies 3.5 million cubic meters of fresh water to residents of the Kingdom, along with 5,000 megawatts of electricity.
The extensive desalination experience that SWCC has accumulated, along with the research it conducts through its Saline Water Desalination Research Institute (SWDRI), continues to generate improvements in the science and worldwide practice of desalination.
Experts from SWCC frequently present their findings on best practices in desalination at conferences around the world to help people in other nations address crucial water supply issues.
Researcher Julian Blanco Gálvez is a visiting professor to KSU and an expert in solar power applications from the Plataforma Solar de Almería (PSA), a center for the exploration of the solar energy situated in the Province of Almería in Spain. He visited KSU inOct.2011.