Commissioning the largest desalination plant in the Northern Emirates

In 2019, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was named as one of more than a dozen countries facing extreme pressure on its resources with groundwater reserves depleted through overuse. With water resources becoming increasingly scarce, the country is cutting its water consumption, building more efficient desalination plants and ending reliance on groundwater as part of its plans to conserve resources. The Umm Al Quwain independent water project (IWP), started up in 2022, will contribute significantly to addressing water requirements in the UAE’s Northern Emirates.

Located on the Arabian Peninsula, the UAE is famous for its luxurious resorts and attractions, creating the assumption that water scarcity is not a problem for these rich states. In reality, however, the country is confronted with a serious depletion of its available water resources and relies on desalination to supply water for drinking and industrial purposes.

The Umm Al Quwain IWP is one of the largest desalination projects in the UAE. Located at a coastal site in the Emirate of Umm Al Quwain along the border with the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, the project is part of the UAE’s effort to optimize water production and meet the increasing demand for water in the country. As part of a consortium, SIDEM — a Veolia Water Technologies subsidiary — took charge of engineering and procurement for the 682,000 cubic meters a day reverse osmosis plant while Chinese partner Gezhouba Group International Engineering undertook construction. The plant started commercial production in August 2022.

A Resourcer’s journey

At Veolia, wherever we work, whatever our role, our mission is to resource the world. We are a community of over 220,000 Resourcers determined to deliver solutions that make a positive impact.

Fabien Vergnolle is a process commissioning engineer at SIDEM and was part of the team in charge of carrying out the Umm Al Quwain IWP project. Engineering and procuring the largest desalination project in the Northern Emirates was no small feat, especially during a global pandemic.

He shares with us his journey as a Resourcer.

What were your main responsibilities as a process commissioning engineer?

"My main task was to work on the design details of the Umm Al Quwain plant, and I was lucky enough to join the team onsite to help commission the plant."

What do you like most about your work?

"What I like most about working for Veolia Water Technologies is working on very concrete and high-impact issues, both societal and environmental."

What is the most important skill to succeed in your work?

"Among the key skills needed to be a good process commissioning engineer are, of course, technical skills. We are dealing with very technological subjects. But I would add listening to our customers, and making sure to understand their needs and the purpose of the projects we carry out."

Veolia’s mission is Resourcing the World. What does that mean to you?

"For me, resourcing the world means transforming what used to be considered as waste, or rubbish, or things with no added value, giving them back the status of a resource, and being able to reuse them in an economic circuit."