Two joint ventures are to build four sewage treatment plants in Abu Dhabi and Al-Ain in a bid by the emirate to overhaul its waste services.

The contract awards come in the wake of problems in the neighbouring emirate of Dubai. The city is discharging contaminated water into Dubai Creek as it is unable to cope with the growing volumes of sewage from development in the emirate (MEED 14:12:07).

Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company (ADSSC) has selected a joint venture of the UK’s Biwater Group, Kuwait’s Mohamed Abdulmohsin Kharafi & Sons and the local Al-Qudra Holding for one of the two contracts.

It will develop the 300,000-cubic-metre-a-day (cm/d) Al-Wathba plant in Abu Dhabi and the 65,000-cm/d Al-Saad facility in Al-Ain, under a build-own-operate-transfer contract.

A French/Belgian joint venture of Veolia and Besix has been selected for a further two plants at Al-Wathba and Al-Saad, with the same capacity.

ADSSC tendered the first two plants in 2007, but later decided to fast-track plans for additional plants to deal with the volume of sewage (MEED 21:9:07).

Biwater was the low bidder for the original tender, at AED1.52 ($0.41) a cubic metre, followed by Veolia/Besix, with a price of AED1.62 a cubic metre.

The groups are now finalising contract details. Financing for the four plants is expected to be in place in the second quarter of 2008.

Both groups will take a 40 per cent stake in project companies, which will then sign 25-year agreements with the government to develop the plants. The remaining 60 per cent of the project firms will be held indirectly by Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority.

Australia’s Cardno is advising Adwea on the technical aspects of the privatisation programme for its wastewater treatment plants. US law firm Dewey Ballantine and French bank BNP Paribas are advising on the legal and financial aspects respectively.

An award is also pending for a programme to supervise ADSSC’s AED4bn ($1.1bn) strategic investment programme to upgrade Abu Dhabi’s sewers.

The main component of the programme is a AED2bn, 45-kilometre sewer tunnel, from the northern part of Abu Dhabi island to the mainland.

The tunnel will relieve pressure on the existing system serving Abu Dhabi island and allow for the eventual removal of existing pumping stations. It is hoped the scheme will reduce operating costs.

Other works planned as part of the programme involve upgrading treatment plants at Mafraq and Zakher, and the rehabilitation and upgrading of major trunk sewers and pumping stations. The entire scheme is expected to take seven years to complete.

US-based firms CH2M Hill, MWH and Parsons International have submitted bids for the contract, which are being evaluated by the Abu Dhabi Executive Council. An award is expected soon (MEED 11:12:07).