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Singapore officially opens fifth desalination plant

SINGAPORE (CNA) – Singapore yesterday officially opened the country’s fifth desalination plant, which is about five per cent more energy efficient than conventional desalination plants.

Due to its co-location with an existing power plant, the Jurong Island Desalination Plant can save about 5,000 megawatt hours per year, equivalent to the annual power needs of nearly 1,000 Housing and Development Board households.

The new facility, which has been operational since earlier this month, was officially opened by Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu yesterday.

The 3.7-hectare plant can produce up to 30 million gallons of fresh drinking water per day, equivalent to 55 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water or up to seven per cent of Singapore’s daily water demand.

Constructed under the Design, Build, Own and Operate model, the Jurong Island Desalination Plant will be operated by a consortium formed by Tuas Power and ST Engineering for a 25-year period.

The consortium was picked as preferred bidder for the project in 2017.

The new desalination plant is co-located with Tuas Power’s Tembusu Multi- Utilities Complex (TMUC), which has been up and running since 2013 and houses a power plant.

An aerial view of the Jurong Island Desalination Plant. PHOTO: CNA

Being located in close proximity and integrated with TMUC’s power plant allows the new desalination plant to “derive synergies in resources”, such as sharing of sea water intake and outfall structures, as well as energy from in-plant generational facilities, said PUB.

Another energy-saving aspect comes from how the power required for the new desalination plant is drawn from the embedded generator in the power plant, explained Tuas Power’s Tan Chek Jiang, who is the plant manager for the Jurong Island Desalination Plant.

Building a full-fledged desalination plant on existing infrastructure required “innovative” engineering solutions, its builders said.

This included creating modular systems in different areas of the desalination process and the pre-fabrication of equipment, such as the reverse osmosis units to simplify and speed up the assembly process.

“The design and construction of the Jurong Island Desalination Plant has provided ST Engineering the opportunity to leverage our expertise in large-scale engineering projects in the marine sector to deliver complex environmental engineering solutions,” said ST Engineering’s president for marine Ng Sing Chan.

Apart from being one of the more energy efficient plants in Singapore, the Jurong Island Desalination Plant is also equipped with the latest proven water-treatment equipment and membrane technologies, such as dissolved air flotation, ultra-filtration and reverse osmosis.Given how it is highly automated, it needs just a three-man team to run the entire plant’s operations from a control room.

The country’s four other desalination plants are the SingSpring Desalination Plant, Tuas South Desalination Plant, Tuas Desalination Plant and the Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant, which began operations in 2005, 2013, 2018 and 2020 respectively.

Desalination, which involves converting sea water to drinking water, is one of Singapore’s “four national taps”.

The other three sources are water from local catchments, imported water from Johor and NEWater, which is treated used water.

“Although seawater desalination is the most expensive way to produce water, due to the energy required, it is nevertheless an essential source of drinking water for Singapore,” said PUB’s Chief Executive Ng Joo Hee in the press release. Desalination is immune to the vagaries of weather, he added, noting that that the efficiencies of the Jurong Island Desalination Plant “make the energy-take for desalination that much more palatable”.

Desalination is an energy-intensive process. At the moment, desalinated water in Singapore is produced via reverse osmosis, which involves pushing sea water through membranes to remove dissolved salts and minerals.

Singapore consumes about 430 million gallons of water a day, with the industrial sector accounting for more than half of this demand.