Israel opens largest desalination plant of its kind

Brine water flows into the Mediterranean Sea after passing through a desalination plant in the coastal city of Hadera May 16, 2010. REUTERS/Nir Elias

HADERA, Israel (Reuters) - An Israeli consortium unveiled the world’s largest reverse osmosis desalination plant on Sunday in the coastal city of Hadera, hoping to help alleviate the arid country’s water shortage.

Israel’s H2ID, which is jointly owned by IDE Technologies and Shikun & Binui, said its plant will supply 127 million cubic meters of desalinated water a year, or about 20 percent of the yearly household consumption in Israel.

It is the third in a series of five desalination plants being built over the next few years that will eventually supply Israel with about 750 million cubic meters annually as traditional water sources dwindle with a rising population and low winter rainfalls.

The Hadera facility was the first to be funded almost entirely from foreign funds, said IDE CEO Avshalom Felber.

IDE Technologies, co-owned by Israel Chemicals and the Delek Group, said it raised most of the 1.6 billion shekels ($425 million) from European banks.

Bigger desalination plants can be found in Saudi Arabia, Felber said, which use a thermal-based technology to desalinate sea water. IDE’s reverse osmosis technologies requires less energy and is friendlier to the environment, he said.

Israel’s main sources of natural fresh water are underground aquifers and the Sea of Galilee, which has seen dangerously low levels due to overdrawing.

Shmulik Shai, CEO of H2ID, said the plant will supply water at the cost of $0.57 per cubic meter and will demand 450 gigawatts of electricity each year.

IDE, or Israel Desalination Enterprises Technologies, has operations in 40 countries. Shikun & Binui is Israel’s largest construction firm.

Editing by Steven Scheer