First Dual-Mode Desalination Plant Helps Tackle Water Scarcity in Singapore

Daily production set for up to 30 million gallons of fresh drinking water

  • by ABB Ltd
  • August 26, 2021
  • ABB's WaterMaster electromagnetic flowmeters reliably monitor water flow rates and help to lower OPEX
    ABB's WaterMaster electromagnetic flowmeters reliably monitor water flow rates and help to lower OPEX
  • Aerial view of the Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant (KMEDP)
    Aerial view of the Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant (KMEDP)

The United Nation’s (UN) World Water Development Report recently stated that nearly six billion people will suffer from clean water scarcity by 2050.

So it’s time to turn our attention to the global water crisis facing cities around the world struggling with increasing demand for water, reduction of water resources and increasing water pollution, all driven by dramatic world population growth which is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050.

Singapore is using desalination as part of the solution to their water supply issue to provide enough clean drinking water for its ever-growing population of 5.5 million. Though surrounded by water, having enough drinking water has always been a challenge for this island state. Currently the demand for drinking water is up to 430 million gallons a day. The Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant (KMEDP) is the latest step of Singapore using advanced technology to help address their water challenge.

Processing the equivalent of 45 Olympic swimming pools – every day

In operation since June 2021, KMEDP is one of the most advanced desalination plants in the world and one of the first in the world with a dual-mode facility. The plant will produce 30 million gallons of clean water every day, enough to fill 45 Olympic-size swimming pools and 7 percent of Singapore’s daily water demand. It has also been designed sustainably in that the treatment facility is underground, freeing up 20,000m2 of green rooftop and community recreation space.

Singapore's water comes from four sources; reservoir water, imported water from Malaysia, ultra-clean, high-grade reclaimed water (branded NEWater in Singapore) and desalinated water. Desalination therefore plays a strategic role in Singapore's vision for a diversified and sustainable supply of water and is expected to meet up to 30 percent of water demand by 2060. Yet desalination is an energy-intensive process, so a modern method is needed to boost efficiency and sustainability.

Processing of reservoir and seawater for more flexibility

Located at the Marina East area of Singapore, the KMEDP, about twice the size of a football field, can either draw water from the surrounding sea during periods of dry weather or treat water from the Marina Reservoir during periods with heavy rain. With the plant’s dual intakes, when the water level in the reservoir is low, sea water can be pumped into the plant to be desalinated. When the reservoir water levels are high, the plant can treat water from the reservoir. The option to switch to treating reservoir water results in more effective water use, operational flexibility and optimized operational costs, as reservoir water treatment consumes only one-third the energy required for seawater desalination.

The plant is operating with a host of cutting-edge technology from ABB including automation and control systems as well as instrumentation and water analyzers. With ABB’s supply of energy efficient motors, variable speed drives and switchgears, together with process optimization aimed at increasing efficiency, the gains to be realized could potentially help reduce electricity consumption by up to 40 percent. A range of smart sensors and water-monitoring equipment is also being used in the plant.

Uniform procedures for improved operational processes

KMEDP’s plantwide control systems are unified under an ABB Ability™ System 800xA distributed control system, a user-friendly digital platform that gives engineers wide visibility and precise control from a central command center. The intelligent and integrated solution allows uniformity of procedures and helps improve quality of operational processes. Data is seamlessly transferred from field instruments to the control system for analysis and diagnostics. With its fully digital-ready control system, the plant’s operations can be extended from device to edge to cloud.

KMEDP is operated by Keppel Seghers Pte. Ltd, a subsidiary of Keppel Infrastructure Holdings Pte. Ltd. The Design-Build-Own-Operate project (DBOO) was initiated by Public Utilities Board (PUB), Singapore’s national water agency, which manages the country’s water supply.
“ABB has decades of experience in creating integrated solutions for desalination plants worldwide, and ABB’s products and systems are found in all of Singapore’s water plants in one way or another. We are proud to be a part of Singapore’s water story as we continue to develop our long-standing relationship with PUB,” said JianYuan Ling, ABB’s Energy Industries Division Manager in Singapore.

KMEDP became the first industrial plant in Singapore to be awarded the highest tier of PUB’s ABC Waters Certification (Gold) in 2019, which recognizes the public area’s creative ecological design and exceptional Active, Beautiful and Clean features. Recently, it was also named “Desalination Plant of the Year” at the Global Water Awards 2021.