Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation (Kahramaa) has awarded a contract to Serbian contractor Energoprojekt Entel to conduct a pilot study for the country’s first reverse-osmosis desalination plant.

The pilot plant will produce up to 2.5 million gallons a day (g/d) of desalinated water. Under the contract, Energoprojekt will recommend a suitable location for the plant, and issue the construction tender for the project. It will then supervise the construction of the plant and monitor its performance.

Kahramaa says it may decide to move from a pilot plant to a commercially sized plant at an unspecified date in the future.

The state-owned utility wants Energoprojekt to issue the tender for the construction of the plant by the end of February next year, and the plant to begin production before the end of October 2010.

Gulf desalination companies overwhelmingly rely on thermal desalination technology to produce drinking water.

Although thermal plants are more capital intensive and less energy efficient than reverse-osmosis facilities, they are better able to treat the seawater found in the Gulf, which is saltier and warmer than seawater in most parts of the world.

But reverse-osmosis technology has gained in popularity as the technology has become more efficient and cheaper.

The reverse-osmosis method involves passing seawater through a semi-permeable membrane at high pressure to separate fresh water from salt.