Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa) plans to grow its water business via new projects and acquisitions across the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) as well as India by creating an independent operation, a company executive said on Tuesday.
Currently, the firm's power and water businesses operate together as in many of its markets water desalination and power generation plants are situated in close proximity.
The state-owned utility has investments in the energy and power sector from India and the Middle East and Africa to the United Kingdom and north America. Its desalination assets, however, are all located in the UAE.
As its sets up a separate water business within the company later this year, Taqa aims to boost its water output by at least 120 mgpd (million gallons per day) in five years by building new desalination plants or through acquisitions. That would mean about four plants each with a capacity of 30 mgpd.
"We are looking at doing some projects in the UAE and some across the Mena region and India where the market is huge," Ahmed bin Abbod al Adawi, head of Taqa's global water operations, told Reuters at an energy conference.
Taqa may invest in Ghana's water sector after the African state sought the UAE's expertise in this field, he added.
Taqa is among bidders for a 46 mgpd independent water project in Qurrayat, Oman.
"There is a local and regional market shift to independent water projects, a decoupling from power generation," al Adawi said.
This is in part due to the new Reverse Osmosis (RO) technology, an alternative desalination technique that is cheaper, needs less energy and can be sited anywhere along a country's coast.
Also, most countries in the region have huge power capacity serving a highly seasonal demand (mainly in summer) that makes it expensive and wasteful to ensure steady water production using power plant-based thermal technology.
Taqa, majority-owned by the Abu Dhabi government, has launched its first RO technology project at its existing Fujairah 1 power and desalination plant, investing $186 million to add 30 mgpd of water. The project is due for completion in 2015.