The 14 MIGD Nawabshah Ultrafiltration (UF) plant was installed and commissioned by PakOasis, a Pakistani OEM owned by UAE-based RJ Trading. By Anoop K Menon
If the residents of Nawabshah in the Sindh province of Pakistan aren’t bothered anymore by drinking water issues, related to health or supply shortages, they have Asia’s largest ultrafiltration (UF) project to thank for. The 14 MIGD Nawabshah UF plant was constructed and commissioned by PakOasis, an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) in Pakistan owned by UAE-based RJ Trading. The UF membranes as well as technical support for this landmark project were provided by Dow Water & Process Solutions Middle East (DW&PS).
Irshad Hussain, Chief Operating Officer (COO), PakOasis Industries pointed out that membrane-based treatment systems have huge scope in his country where potable water treatment plants mainly rely on rapid gravity sand filtration. “Not only do these plants have high operation and maintenance costs, the water quality cannot be guaranteed,” said Hussain. “In fact, a majority of the potable water plants based on sand filtration technology in Pakistan are not functioning due to poor maintenance. As a result, un-filtered water is often discharged directly into the distribution network from the sedimentation tanks.”
When one also factors in the extensive biological contamination of surface water, it is easy to understand why water-borne diseases have become a huge public health issue in Pakistan. “Sand filters can remove particles down to around 10 μm, while UF membranes with pore sizes in the range of 0.01 – 0.10 μm have a high removal capability for bacteria and most viruses,” said Hussain.
The plant was completed in six months through the use of skidmounted packages of One MIGD capacity each, which were then integrated on-site. “This approach saves a lot of time in engineering and installation,” explained Hussain.
“With the help of our technical partner Dow Water & Process Solutions Middle East, we designed the plant for handling very high TSS levels up to 35 mg/l, which covers maximum levels of suspended solids and turbidity while the UF membranes remove the bacteria and viruses.” To protect the membranes, the plant uses continuous backwash systems.
PakOasis honed its integration skills by installing and commissioning small to medium scale Reverse Osmosis (RO) projects for government and industrial sectors in Pakistan. Hussain elaborated: “This helped us accumulate a skilled human resource pool as well as expertise in installing, testing and commissioning RO systems, which stood us in good stead when we entered UF segment two years ago. In fact, we have designated specific teams for the different segments of our water business.” The PakOasis COO also credits the commercial and technical support extended by DW&PS Middle East as a key factor behind the Nawabshah project’s successful operations.
Sanjeev Unni, Technical Service Manager for the Middle East and Africa, DW&PS said: “PakOasis has been a Dow customer for past two to three years. Previously, they would purchase small quantities of RO membranes through a local distributor. In 2010, they decided to do business with us directly, and specifically requested technical and design support from our Middle East office.” Unni pointed out that Dow is also supplying the UF membranes for PakOasis’ 6MIGD Khairpur UF project, and is helping company deploy nanofiltration technology to treat arsenic-contaminated ground water and provide clean drinking water for small villages.
Hussain noted that the cost of operation for the UF plant has been calculated at Rs 2 per 1,000 gallon (approx. 2 US cents), whereas the cost for a similar size rapid gravity sand filtration plant is Rs 9 per 1,000 gallon (approx. 9.5 US cents). “You also get water quality of a very high standard,” he added.
As the project was executed using existing staff of engineers, many of whom have been with the company from the beginning, the company didn’t have to incur more overheads. Staff costs were also kept low through local hiring and training. “When you have local hiring and training, there is project ownership and dedication,” said Hussain. “We have always taken a low profits maximum turnover approach in our water treatment projects. These are factors that our international competitors will find hard to beat. Moreover, we have also offered a seven-year comprehensive warranty for this project.”