SAUDI ARABIA - Energy & Mining
CEO, Saudi Water Partnership Company (SWPC)
Khaled Z. Alqurashi joined Saudi Water Partnership Company (SWPC) as CEO in 2017. He holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s degree in water treatment from universities in Saudi Arabia and the UK.
"Innovation means bringing something that has never been brought before by anyone, and this adds value to someone."
What challenges did SWPC have to navigate over the past two years, and what lessons were learned?
The pandemic presented a significant challenge and a big change in the market dynamics. Despite the challenges we went through, we successfully delivered every single project on time: flexibility and adaptation are part of our competitive advantages. A series of lockdowns paralyzed the construction sector, having a negative impact on the linear execution of many projects. We took charge to ensure the proper execution of many projects and took several actions even if they were not mentioned in the initial agreement: we coordinated all the facilities and perfectly respected all the requirements, putting together people, expertise, materials, and procurement. The result was seen in 2021, where we were able to commission two large projects with a capacity of 1,050,000 m3/day of water. In a nutshell, we have been taking charge, initiating special teams and ensuring everyone’s health. At the same time, we are also delivering the service on time and not impacting our stakeholders. Our company never stopped any project, either during the tendering phase or projects under construction. We were able to facilitate and manage all the requirements and successfully overcame the pandemic.
How do you carry out innovation in your daily activities and projects?
Innovation means bringing something that has never been brought before by anyone, and this adds value to someone. For example, our PPP desalination projects, we put certain new mandates that helped enable technologies specifically focused on energy consumption. The second innovation is that we are asking for zero sludge discharge. In addition, we have been promoting the initiative of allowing renewable energy to be on a cap of 20%: it was a milestone, as that led to reduction of specific energy consumption generating a significant reduction of the tariff. The fourth innovation is when we moved from non-storage tanks on the production to storage tanks. We promised to encourage innovation, and with all the projects that we have been involved in, we have always kept our promises. We have gained the trust of financial institutions and all the stakeholders involved.
The water utilities market is set to grow 40% in Saudi Arabia over next three to four years. What role do you see SWPC contributing in this process?
When we started in 2019, the contribution of PPP towards the desalination sector was 23%, and the target was 100%. Since 2019 to date, we have contracted more than 3.5-4 million m3/day a day. And we have another 3 million plus, so a total of 7.5 million m3/day will be contracted through PPP by 2025. In addition, we recently signed water purchase agreements with a public desalination player that has turned us into the largest procurer of water(s) in the region. Our final ceiling is more than 10 million m3/day per day. Plus, we have transmission lines that we will start tendering, and we are talking about more than 3,600 km. There are strategic reservoirs and almost nine ISTP projects as well. These are all opportunities for the market that includes lenders, EPC, consultants, and developers among others. We contribute to the development of a new market full of potential that did not exist prior to 2016. In less than five years, we completed and signed agreements for projects valued at SAR11 billion comprising five desalination projects and six ISTPs. In total, we will tender more than 60 projects, worth over SAR35 billion. That’s why I say we are generating real opportunities in the market and the sector.
Where do you see other opportunities coming with all these new projects in the Kingdom?
There are many opportunities in the water sector and the value chain is large and attractive, opportunities vary within the value chain as well as within the different phase of a project. For existing production projects, they are located on the coastal of the Red Sea or the Arabian Gulf. For environmental project like sewage treatment, they are everywhere in the Kingdom. Transmission pipelines stretch from the coastal regions to the center of the Kingdom. Storage projects are built at strategic locations and are essential to water strategy. In addition to the current project portfolio, we are also exploring opportunities that would add value to the water sector and investors. SWPC is studying the possibility of adding the development of dams to complement our existing PPP portfolio and we have identified several models that might be of interest and we will take this forward once we have concluded our studies and engaged all the relevant stakeholders.
What is the main objective on your agenda for this year?
We have clear targets: around 11 projects are targeted to be tendered including transmission systems, STPs, IWPs and Strategic Water Reserves. Two IWP projects have been commissioned, and we are working towards commissioning a STP project as well. We are also targeting to activate more options—higher in content—that we want to launch in the market, as well as increase our Saudization and local content targets. We will not forget about the ESG and we are focusing on how to reduce CO2 emissions in the industry. That is one of our main priorities for 2022 and 2023.
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