Bahrain is hoping to finally solve its sewage crisis over the next five years with $1bn-worth of investments that aim to reduce the pressure on its overburdened treatment facilities.

“We have a number of projects in the planning and early tendering stage to increase the capacity of our wastewater plants and infrastructure,” Khalifa al-Mansoor, assistant under-secretary for the sanitary engineering sector at the Works Ministry, told MEED’s Bahrain Energy Forum in April.

Under strain

The overloading of wastewater facilities is acute, with the main Tubli plant receiving in excess of 300,000 cubic metres a day (cm/d) of sewage, despite only having capacity to handle 200,000 cm/d. “The current plants are [suffering from] overcapacity,” said Al-Mansoor. “They are not able to handle all of the waste, so we are expanding and building new [facilities].” The strain is such that untreated effluent is regularly discharged into the sea.

The current plants…are not able to handle all of the waste, so we are expanding and building new [facilities]

Khalifa al-Mansoor, Works Ministry

The problems faced by Bahrain’s wastewater sector are the result of years of underinvestment and a growing population. The last major increase in capacity was completed in 2009 with the 4,000-cm/d expansion of the North Sitra plant. Bahrain’s population is estimated at 1.2 million, which is significantly higher than the 820,000 people that the existing treatment capacity was designed to serve.

A project to develop a new sewage treatment plant (STP) at Muharraq as a public-private partnership was launched in 2008, but the tender process was extremely protracted and contracts were only signed in 2011.

Planned wastewater investment
  ($m)
Sewage treatment plants 450.9
Transmission system/sewers 397.8
TSE networks 106.1
Sewer network rehabilitation 66.3
TSE=Treated sewage effluent. Source: Works Ministry 

In 2010, a National Masterplan for Sanitary Engineering Services was completed; it identified serious shortcomings in wastewater treatment capacity, sewer transmission capacity, and treated sewage effluent (TSE) network production and capacity. The masterplan called for major rehabilitation work in the sector. That year, Bahrain’s treatment plants were receiving a combined average sewage flow of 365,000 cm/d, despite only having a total capacity of 265,000 cm/d. And the situation has worsened in the interim.

Financial assistance

Due to the urgency of the situation, Manama is now receiving funding from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to enable it to push ahead with investment projects.

The Works Ministry has set a target of achieving a total treatment capacity of 650,000 cm/d by 2020 to handle an expected total sewage flow of 500,000 cm/d. Bahrain has had a centralised wastewater collection and treatment system since the mid-1970s, when its first plants were commissioned, with about 95 per cent of the population now connected to sewerage networks. The Works Ministry is aiming to reach 100 per cent coverage by 2020.

Some relief will be provided when Bahrain’s first privately backed 100,000-cm/d STP at Muharraq is commissioned later this year, but until the expansion of the Tubli plant, the largest planned STP project, goes ahead, the system will remain under strain.

Tubli overloaded

The existing sewage treatment infrastructure is dominated by the Tubli STP. First commissioned in 1982 with a capacity of 54,000 cm/d, it was expanded in 1989 to 124,000 cm/d and then to 200,000 cm/d in 2005/06. Like much of the ministry’s treatment capacity, Tubli is seriously overloaded, regularly handling inflows of 300,000-350,000 cm/d.

The project to double the capacity of the Tubli STP to 400,000 cm/d has been in the pipeline for several years. The expansion was originally planned to follow the model of the Muharraq wastewater treatment plant, currently being developed as a public-private partnership by a consortium led by South Korea’s Samsung Engineering.

Bahrain’s Finance Ministry invited companies to submit expressions of interest for the scheme in late 2010, but the Works Ministry re-evaluated the plans and will now develop the project using traditional procurement methods. The expansion is being funded by the governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Prequalification entries from 25 groups are presently being evaluated and tender documents for the main construction contract are expected by the end of June. Germany’s P2mberlin is the consultant on the scheme, which is scheduled to be carried out between 2015 and 2018.

The Works Ministry is also planning to invite companies to bid for the contract to build the Al-Madina al-Shamaliya STP by the end of the second quarter. It is currently evaluating prequalification entries from 17 groups and is looking to issue tender documents to qualified firms by the end of June. The 40,000-cm/d STP is scheduled to be commissioned by 2017. The Works Ministry plans to further expand the capacity of the plant to 60,000 cm/d after 2020. The project is being funded by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.

The under-construction Muharraq STP is also scheduled to be expanded from 100,000 cm/d to 160,000 cm/d by 2018. Two new plants with a combined capacity of 35,000 cm/d will be built at Al-Madina al-Janoubiyah.

In addition to building new treatment capacity, Bahrain is preparing to tender several deep gravity sewers (DGS) and network connection projects in the coming years.

The construction of a 16-kilometre DGS to the new Muharraq STP is expected to be completed this year. The Works Ministry plans to expand the network and tender contracts next year for a DGS to connect the Amwaj, Delmonia and Diyar al-Muharraq developments to the under-construction Muharraq DGS. The contract is scheduled to be tendered in the fourth quarter of 2015, with construction work due to be completed in 2017.

Another major project involves decommissioning existing pumping stations and connecting sewer lines to the Tubli main pumping station, which will service the plant following its expansion. The ministry is planning to tender the Tubli DGS contract in the second quarter of 2015, with construction scheduled to take place between 2016 and 2017.

Other DGS projects will be tendered and commissioned to service the Isa Town, Seef and Juffair areas of Manama between 2015 and 2019.

Transmission networks

In addition to the DGS projects, Bahrain will also push ahead with TSE transmission lines to connect with the planned new STPs. The first of the proposed projects will involve developing and constructing a TSE transmission network from the Muharraq STP to Muharraq Island. Construction of the network will take place between 2015 and 2017.

The overloading of Bahrain’s wastewater facilities has had a major impact on the environment and TSE production. The dumping of raw or semi-treated sewage into the Gulf, especially from Tubli, has increased in recent years, hitting the marine environment and fuelling growing complaints from residents.

At the same time, the actual amount of TSE delivered to customers has fallen, despite inflows rising. In 2010, the latest year for which data is available, the distribution of TSE averaged 86,000 cm/d, down from 94,500 cm/d in 2008. This not only represents lost revenue, but means additional desalinated water is consumed at greater expense. If Bahrain is able to solve its sewage crisis by 2020, the benefits will be manifold.

Power sector also set to benefit from investment

While the Works Ministry is pushing ahead with plans to expand Bahrain’s treatment plants and sewerage networks, the Electricity & Water Authority (EWA) is assessing the requirements for new projects in the power sector.

The current installed capacity of 4,000MW was more than capable of dealing with the peak demand of 2,917MW recorded in 2013, but population growth and ageing infrastructure have increased the need to invest in new generation and transmission facilities.

To assist in its efforts, EWA has appointed the UK’s Mott MacDonald to update and expand Bahrain’s electricity and water strategy up to 2030. The consultant will draw up a masterplan for the utility sector for 2015-30, to replace the current document, which covers the period up to 2020.

The new masterplan will include population and load forecasting and an assessment of the projected life of existing production facilities. It will also outline requirements for new electricity generation and water production facilities and plans for increasing the kingdom’s 220Kv, 66Kv and 33Kv transmission networks. In addition, it will consider strategies for developing optimum high-level electricity.

At MEED’s Bahrain Energy Forum in Manama, Adnan Mohammed Fakhro, deputy chief executive for distribution and customer services at EWA, said that new power generation capacity was required by 2017 to avoid a shortfall.

By 2016, peak demand is forecast to reach 3,736MW and it is expected to exceed 4,000MW in 2017.

EWA is planning to build a second phase of its Al-Dur power plant. The authority is currently assessing whether the $1.5bn project will be developed as an independent power project or tendered as a standard engineering, procurement and construction contract.

The second phase will have a power generating capacity of 1,200MW-1,500MW and is planned to be a combined-cycle gas turbine plant, which will be commissioned between 2017 and 2019.

EWA also intends to invest heavily in its transmission and distribution infrastructure. It is planning an estimated $860m development of its 220kV and 66kV transmission networks between 2016 and 2018. A 440kV network to optimise the ability to transmit power from the Al-Dur plant will also be built at a cost of about $740m.

Key fact

The Works Ministry aims to achieve a total treatment capacity of 650,000 cm/d by 2020

cm/d=Cubic metres a day. Source: MEED