The plant is to be built in two stages. The first will involve installing capacity of 2,400 MW and 66 million gallons a day (mg/d) of water. The second stage will involve the capacity addition of a further 1,000 MW and 22 mg/d. It is still unclear whether the project is to be publicly funded or whether it is envisaged as an independent water and power project (IWPP).

Proposals for a desalination plant with capacity of 160 MW and 100,000 gallons a day were dropped in the third quarter of 2001 after only one company bid for the project, which had been tendered by the Royal Commission for Jubail & Yanbu (RCJ&Y). However, there are a number of IWPP proposals in the pipeline. Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority announced early last year that about 20 international and local companies had applied for licences to build IWPPs in the kingdom. Another three have been proposed under the gas initiative.

Marafiq was set up to assume responsibility for utility services in the industrial cities of Jubail and Yanbu. It has four equal shareholders: RCJ&Y; Saudi Aramco; Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Company (Sabic); and a private investment fund comprising private sector companies active in the cities (MEED 23:3:01).