A new desalination plant powered 100 per cent by renewable energy is set to be built in Saudi giga project Neom.

Enowa, the energy, water, and hydrogen subsidiary of Neom, has signed an MoU with Japanese trading company Itochu, and water, waste, and energy management solutions provider Veolia for this project.

The entities will collaborate on the first-of-its-kind selective desalination plant which will be located in Oxagon.

Oxagon, announced in November last year, will be a carbon emissions-free industrial city “floating” on the Red Sea as part of the Neom mega-project.

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The initial phase of the desalination plant is set to open in 2024 and the plant will be fully operational by 2025.

It will have a production capacity of 500,000 cubic metres of desalinated water per day by 2025, meeting approximately 30 per cent of Neom’s forecasted total water demand for residential, industrial, and commercial use.

“We will be producing, treating, and reusing water in one of the most water-stressed regions in the world, through sustainable, innovative and integrated solutions. This new desalination plant is one example of the type of sustainable infrastructure and circular economy we are developing to meet our zero-carbon footprint and zero-waste goals,” said Peter Terium, CEO of Enowa.

As part of Neom’s circular economy, the new plant will use advanced membrane technology to produce separate brine streams.

It will enable Enowa to produce brine-derived products, which will be developed and monetised downstream, according to state-run Saudi Press Agency.

Brine, which is usually considered a waste output of desalination, will be treated by Enowa to feed industries utilising high purity industrial salt, bromine, boron, potassium, gypsum, magnesium and rare metal feedstocks.

The brine would therefore be classified as a product, rather than waste, and is expected to therefore minimise the plant’s environmental impact and present a potentially new business model for upcoming desalination facilities around the world.

Gavin Van Tonder, executive director of Enowa Water Sector, added: “Enowa aims to provide a blueprint for green, sustainable water production, management, and treatment, which can be scaled throughout the world. The technology developed as part of this MoU and used in Neom to provide water could be exported to other countries to tackle global water scarcity.”