Saudi Arabia’s Water & Electricity (WEC) is planning to begin the prequalification process for the planned 600,000 cubic metres a day (cm/d) Rabigh 3 independent water project (IWP) before the end of September.

MEED recently reported that the client had received expressions of interest (EOI) from 55 firms on 21 August for the planned Rabigh 3 scheme. The client has now confirmed it is planning to open the prequalification process for the IWP before the end of September.

The reverse osmosis (RO) desalination plant will have a capacity of up to 600,000 cubic metres a-day, expandable to 1.2 million cubic metres. The project will have a 25-year concession period, with WEC as the offtaker, supported by a payment guarantee from the government.

The lead adviser for the IWP is the local Banque Saudi Fransi. The client has appointed Germany’s Fichtner Engineering and Consulting as the technical adviser, the UK’s DLA Piper as legal adviser and the UK’s Alderbrook as financial adviser.

The client had originally been planning to tender and award a standard engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract to develop the plant. MEED reported in late 2015 that SWCC was planning to issue tender documents for the EPC deal by February 2016. However, as with the vast majority of the kingdom’s major upcoming utilities project, the plant will now be delivered through a public-private partnership (PPP) model as the kingdom seeks to reduce pressure on capital expenditure caused by lower oil revenues.

The Rabigh desalination facility will service the cities of Jeddah, Mecca, Taif and surrounding villages.

SWCC is increasing the role of private investment in the desalination sector as part of the kingdom’s Vision 2030. It is also preparing to privatise existing assets. SWCC forecasts it needs to increase the current desalination capacity of 5.1 million cm/d to 7.3 million cm/d by 2020 to meet growing demand.