SALT OF THE EARTH

Saudi Arabia 2017 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ali Al-Hazmi, Governor of the Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC), on the introduction of new technology, privatization plans, and Vision 2030.

Ali Al-Hazmi
BIOGRAPHY
Ali Al-Hazmi was appointed Governor of SWCC in November 2016. He had previously been president of Sasref, the Aramco/Shell joint venture that runs the refinery in Jubail. Prior to that, he was general manager of the Ras Tanura refinery, the largest facility of its kind in the country.

What have been some of the major operational achievements of SWCC over the past three months?

SWCC continues to fulfill its strategic obligation to meet the demands placed upon it as the largest producer of desalinated water in the world. In doing so, we have worked on improving our core capabilities through executing a number of initiatives and programs related to enhancing our operational capabilities accompanied by developing the capabilities and performance of our workforce. Recently, we have revamped our strategic workforce plan to ensure its alignment with our cooperate strategy and be able to anticipate our surplus/demand of required manpower, thus redeploying and recruiting our workforce in an effective and productive manner that ensures the sustainability of operations. Furthermore, tracking the cooperate performance through the SWCC Performance Management System has enabled us to better identify and diagnose weak areas and issues, thus taking proactive decisions that lead to enhancing our operational performance and productivity. In addition, one of the major achievements over the past three months has been the launch of the Ras Al-Khair desalination plant by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman in November 2016. Located in the Ras Al Khair Industrial City, 75km northwest of Aljubail, the desalination plant will supply Riyadh and the surrounding provinces using both the Multi Stage Flash (MSF) and Reverse Osmosis (RO) technologies. As noted in the Guinness Book of Records, Ras Al Khair constitutes the world's largest dual-purpose plant with a capacity to produce 1.025 million cbm of potable water per day and 2,400MW of electricity. The megaproject represents a significant step forward in line with Saudi Vision 2030.

The company has outlined plans to undergo full-scale privatization as it looks to double production capacity over the next 15 years. Why is it such a crucial time for SWCC to expand its scope, and how do you expect privatization to impact your long-term capabilities?

The privatization program represents a significant opportunity for the evolution of the water sector and opens the door for improving efficiency, eliminating current headwinds, monitoring operational key indicators, and increasing the flexibility of SWCC plants. As part of the privatization, investment opportunities will arise for building new desalination plants.

How has interest from foreign investors been in terms of the local water sector?

Saudi Arabia is located in one of the world's most arid regions characterized by low rainfall and high evaporation rates. As a result, desalination represents the major source of potable water in Saudi Arabia with rapid demand growth driven by the rising needs of the population. This in turn explains why future investments in water desalination are so attractive to the private sector. In an effort to promote and facilitate investment opportunities in the Kingdom, SWCC organized The Water Investment Forum 2016, which successfully took place recently and was attended by investors and key national and global water players. It has become clear that foreign investors understand both the rationale and investment opportunity for the development of these essential resources throughout the Kingdom. The opportunities are exemplified by key success stories in the sector including the construction and operation of Shoaiba Phase III and Shuqaiq Phase II, which together represent the potential for the private sector.

In what ways do you expect the local water industry to contribute to the government's Vision 2030 reforms?

Currently, the private sector contributes less than 40% of GDP in Saudi Arabia. One of the key aims of Vision 2030 is to increase the private-sector contribution to the Saudi economy through the privatization of some government services and entities. To increase the role of the private sector in the economy, the privatization program will help to facilitate investment, encourage innovation, and introduce healthy competition. Water sector infrastructure investment and sustainability are key to achieving Vision 2030 and the government's role will transition from being focused on providing services to concentrating on monitoring and regulation.