Another milestone as desalination plant opens

Another milestone as desalination plant opens
PM Lee at the opening of Tuaspring on Wednesday. Beside him is Hyflux executive chairman Olivia Lum. The $1.05 billion plant can supply up to 70 million gallons of water a day, and has an attached power plant.

SINGAPORE - Singapore's second and largest desalination plant was opened on Wednesday, more than tripling the nation's capacity to turn seawater into fresh water to meet up to a quarter of its total demand.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who opened the Tuaspring Desalination Plant at Singapore's far south-western edge, called it the latest milestone in the city state's decades-long water journey.

At its start, people queued for water and lacked basic sanitation, he noted.

But pricing water right, working with academia and industry to develop water infrastructure, and having national agency PUB manage the entire water cycle from supply to recycling, have given Singapore a clean, reliable supply of water.

"What was once our strategic weakness is now a source of thought leadership and competitive advantage," he added.

Singapore plans to extend a deep tunnel sewerage system to the west to reuse more of its wastewater, and to have Newater and desalination meet up to 70 per cent of demand by 2030.

Tuaspring, like its neighbour SingSpring, is designed, owned, built and operated by Singapore- listed water firm Hyflux.

It can supply up to 70 million gallons of water a day, while SingSpring, which opened in 2005, can supply up to 30 million.

Singapore uses 400 million gallons of water a day, but that could nearly double by 2060. By then, it aims to have Newater and desalination meet up to 80 per cent of demand.

Water agency PUB has a 25-year agreement to buy desalinated water from Tuaspring, starting at 45 cents a cubic metre for the first year.

The $1.05 billion Tuaspring also has an attached power plant fuelled by liquefied natural gas, to provide a secure energy supply for desalination operations.

This makes it the first water project here to be combined with energy generation.

This will ensure that "Tuaspring is not just self-sufficient in its energy requirements" but "also allows us to produce desalinated water at a competitive cost", said Hyflux executive chairman Olivia Lum.

With greater dependence on energy-intensive technologies like water reclamation and desalination, it raises the question of whether water prices will rise for the consumer.

Not necessarily, said PUB chief executive Chew Men Leong on the sidelines of a water utility leaders' conference organised by the agency.

Improvements in technology have lowered the costs of desalination and water reclamation, he said, while other energy-efficiency improvements mean that the reclaiming and de-salting of water use less energy than they used to.

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