WATER WORKS

Abu Dhabi 2019 | ENVIRONMENT & GREEN ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Eng. Omar Husain Al Hashmi, Acting Managing Director of Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company (ADSSC), on its successes with STEP, helping Abu Dhabi to reduce its carbon footprint, and its successful Emiratization policies.

Eng. Omar Husain Al Hashmi
BIOGRAPHY
Eng. Omar Husain Al Hashmi has a degree in electrical engineering from United Arab Emirates University. He began his career as an electrical engineer at the Engineering Department of Abu Dhabi Municipality and Urban Planning. He was eventually promoted to Manging Director of the Sewerage Sector at Abu Dhabi Municipality. He then joined ADSSC and occupied a number of roles before becoming Acting Managing Director. He is also an active member on the Infrastructure and Environmental Committee at the Abu Dhabi Executive Office.

What is the progress on the Strategic Tunnel Enhancement Programme (STEP) as the project reaches completion?

STEP is currently operational, although there have been some challenges. Effectively, we have operated STEP from the start of August 2017 on one side of the pumping station. Sewage flows through the tunnel and is being pumped into the treatment plant for processing. However, we still need to go through the full commissioning process. Although we hoped it would be complete by the end of 2017, certain complications mean the official opening will be later in 2018. At that point, we will have the project fully operating on both sides of the pumping station, with the tunnel flowing fully. Over the next two years, STEP will be increasingly used as we decommission 34 other pumping stations. The ongoing capacity that we have built into the system will safeguard Abu Dhabi's collection system for 80 years, taking into account a tripling of the population, based on figures from 2010.

What lessons have you learned over the course of addressing the challenges of this megaproject?

The principles, technology, and design have all been proven, and one of the great successes of STEP has been the branding. Our approach in terms of the contracting work has also proven to be correct; the choice to use a shared risk model with our partners was extremely effective. Building underground structures at such great depths is extremely complicated. In order to get the best cost for Abu Dhabi's government, we made a commitment to share the risk of what we call unknown physical conditions (UPCs). That worked out well in our favor, as we were able to get a lower contract price with minimal risk.

What has ADSSC further done to assist Abu Dhabi's plans regarding its carbon footprint?

We now have schemes designed and ready to bring the recycled use of wastewater up to 100%. The original target for this achievement was 2018, though it will likely take another year or two before full completion. In Al Ain, we already reuse 100% of the wastewater, and Abu Dhabi is moving toward 100% reuse as per the government target. We also work with the environmental agency and some of the forestry agencies to look at the reuse of biosolids and testing their safety. The treated sewage effluent (TSE) is currently being used for irrigation in golf clubs, central reservations, and parkland. As for industrial applications, our approach is to treat it to the standard currently in use for irrigation.

ADSSC has achieved a very high level of Emiratization within the organization. How did you achieve this?

We have had a focused Emiratization policy over the years. We have brought in well over 100 trainees across the business, from engineering to administration, finance, and everything in between. Our aim is to develop younger nationals into management streams so they eventually take over the business from the few remaining expatriates. One challenge is to ensure proper succession planning in order to ensure that high potential trainees and post-development managers can take over the leadership of the business. The challenge is to get them motivated and trained in the right way. We have a focused development program. Once they come out of it, there is still further specialization. Getting them interested in some of the more technical elements of the business is where we need to work harder. Engineers are fewer in graduate numbers, with the oil business taking in more of the engineering graduates. We have to compete with that business to attract candidates into the wastewater business; however, we have been successful, and we have many young nationals now taking part in running the business. Among the number of expats that we have, in total about 60 in the entire business, there are only two in senior management, including myself. Most of our leaders are nationals.