Moroccan phosphate solution hinges on desal

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A new desalination plant will reduce groundwater extraction on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. It will be powered by excess energy from fertiliser production.

Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP), Morocco’s state-owned phosphate producer, is planning to launch a request for proposals for the construction of a 200,000m3/d desalination plant in Jorf Lasfar during the first quarter of 2010.

The company is soliciting statements of qualification on a rolling basis for the EPC contract, and a number of companies have already prequalified, including Veolia, Degrémont, Befesa and Hyflux.

The SWRO plant will be built in conjunction with OCP’s new fertiliser factory on the Atlantic coast near the city of El Jadida, and will be powered by excess energy generated during the fertiliser manufacturing process. Construction will be funded by OCP, and will take place in four stages, with the first 50,000m3/d set to go online in 2012, and an additional 50,000m3/d being added every two years until 2018. Works for the supporting infrastructure (civil engineering, network connections and pre-treatment) will be carried out in two phases in 2012 and 2016, covering half the total capacity each time.

“This staggered approach allows us to spread our investment and work according to our needs,” Ahmed Segten, director of the water programme at OCP, told GWI. Should OCP elect to go down the DBO route, the operating contract is expected to run for 20 years.

Approximately 40,000m3/d of Jorf Lasfar’s total capacity is earmarked to meet the water needs of El Jadida municipality. OCP will deliver the produced water to Morocco’s bulk water supplier, ONEP, in exchange for an additional reservoir capacity allowance upstream in Khouribga and Gantour, where OCP has its mining operations.

Studies are also underway to explore the possibility of OCP building a second 68,000m3/d SWRO plant in Safi in 2014.

OCP’s increased desalination capacity should allow it to stop using groundwater resources (the company currently uses 20 million m3 each year). “This will have a very positive environmental impact,” says Segten.