The award in late July of contracts worth about £2,000 million on the great manmade river (GMR) project is clear evidence that, even after 21 years of construction, there has been no let-up in Tripoli’s desire to continue with the world’s biggest water scheme.

The scale of the project is awesome. Once complete, it will convey some 6 million cubic metres a day (cm/d) of water from a number of wellfields in the desert through a 4,400-kilometre network of large-diameter underground pipes to huge reservoirs and irrigation networks in the north. The final cost of construction is estimated at $25,000 million-32,000 million.

The GMR project is currently split into four segments. Phase 1, which will transport about 2 million cm/d of water from wellfields in Sarir and Tazerbo in the southeast to the coastal regions around Sirte and Benghazi, is virtually complete and was inaugurated in 1991. The second phase, to convey about 2.5 million cm/d of water from the Jebel Hasouna region in the southwest to the Tripoli region, was inaugurated in 1996. The original second-phase network was completed by the now-bankrupt South Korean firm Dong Ah in the mid-1990s. A completion certificate for phase 2 was due to be issued by the project client, the Great Manmade River Authority (GMRA), in June and is expected imminently.

The July awards mark the start of construction work on phases 3-4. Canada’s SNC Lavalin was awarded a $1,100 million, four-year extension to its contract to operate the concrete pipe manufacturing plant at Sarir. The plant, together with its sister facility in Marsa al-Brega, has been the principal source of pipes on the first two phases of the GMR project. SNC Lavalin’s contract extension covers the supply of pipes on the third phase.

New wellfields

GMR phase 3 involves the development of new wellfields in the Al-Kufra basin in the southeast and the construction of a 383-kilometre pipeline from the new wellfield to Sarir. The UK office of Japan’s Nippon Koei has completed designs for the pipeline, which will link up with the existing phase 1 GMR pipeline between Tazerbo and Sarir. The second July award saw Turkey’s Tekfen awardedthe $660 million-700 million engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract to build the pipeline.

GMRA is preparing two major follow-on EPC contracts on the conveyor. The first, which will be tendered before the end of the year, involves the construction of three pumping stations to increase the conveyor’s capacity. One station will be at the wellfield, while the other two stations will be along the route of the pipeline. A further contract to develop the wellfield and transfer water from the wells to the conveyor will be tendered in 2006.

GMRA’s decision to push ahead with the Kufra conveyor has delayed indefinitely a second phase 3 package, covering the development of a new wellfield south of Al-Jaghboub in the northeast and construction of a 300-kilometre pipeline linking the Al-Jaghboub wellfield with Tobruk. Nippon Koei has carried out preliminary designs on the package. However, a project to connect GMR phases 1 and 2 between Sirte and Sedada, originally to be a fifth phase of the project, has now been bundled up with the third-phase work.

Also awarded in July was a four-year project management consultancy (PMC) contract to UK-based Brown & Root North Africa (BRNA) to supervise the construction of GMR phase 4, which involves the development of a new wellfield in the Ghadames area in the west and construction of a 620-kilometre pipeline from the wellfield to Zuara, on the coast between Tripoli and Tunisia. The local Al-Nahr Company has the contract to procure, supply and install the pipeline, which will transfer 250,000 cm/d of water to the coastal region.

Although partly in operation, GMRA is continuing to develop phases 1 and 2. In late July, GMRA awarded