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world’s first solar thermally operated water desalination plant

Pörner and Heliovis develop industrial plant for drinking water production

The innovative HELIOtube® technology - core part of the water desalination plant - offers significant cost advantages

The Austrian solar technology company Heliovis developed an innovative solar thermal process to operate emission-free water desalination plants and to treat drinking water. Supported by the “Pörner Water” competence center, the world's first plant using this process is currently being built in the Sultanate of Oman on behalf of the energy company ARA Petroleum, a subsidiary of Zubair Group. 

Unlike conventional water desalination plants using seawater or brackish water as raw water source, this project treats produced water, which is naturally occurring water in oil reservoirs that is co-extracted during oil production. Due to the high concentration of mineral salts, heavy metals, and contamination with hydrocarbon compounds, produced water is traditionally either pumped back into the deep geological layers from where it was extracted or it is discharged into evaporation ponds.

The first-of-its-kind plant will have a treatment capacity of 140 cubic meters of drinking water per day and will be located in Qarat al Milh, Oman. At the site, ARA Petroleum operates a 1.5 square kilometer oil field under a contract with Petroleum Development Oman (PDO).

Omar al Jaaidi, General Manager of ARA Petroleum Exploration & Production, said, “We are excited about working with HELIOVIS to enhance our environmental stewardship in Oman and strengthen ARA’s position in a lower-carbon economy. This is a strategic opportunity for us to tap into solar as a sustainable source of energy in order to minimize the carbon footprint of our operations.”

Water desalination powered by the sun

This is the first large-scale project using Austria’s patented and cost-efficient solar thermal technology.

The solar thermal energy is used to power a water desalination plant with forward osmosis (FO) to convert produced water being three times saltier than seawater into drinking water.  

The core part of Heliovis’ innovative solar thermal process is the HELIOtube technology, which uses recyclable inflatable tubes and mirror foils to collect and concentrate sunlight to generate emission-free industrial process heat.

The technology provides major cost advantages in manufacturing, shipping/logistics, installation, cleaning, maintenance, and freshwater usage compared to conventional parabolic troughs that employ bent glass mirrors,” says Felix Tiefenbacher, CEO of Heliovis.

Robert Vranitzky of Pörner Water considers this cooperation opportunities to facilitate the breakthrough of cost-efficient technologies for decarbonization of industrial heat generation. The erection of emission-free desalination plants for drinking water treatment, even at larger scale, is just one example of the great potential of the technology, which can also be used for numerous other applications where industrial heat is needed.

Pörner prepares the basic and detail engineering in this project, which is scheduled to be completed at the end of 2023.


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Mag. Lydia Brandtner

Head of Marketing
Pörner Group
Tel.: +43 5 05899-718