Assessment of Water and Electricity Policy Impacts on CO2 Emissions in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  • Pei-Yun Sherry Lin

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The demand for freshwater in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirate (UAE) has grown rapidly in recent decades due to population growth, socioeconomic development and increased standard of living. The levels of groundwater table, the traditional source of freshwater supply, have dropped substantially because of decades of unregulated exploitation mainly for agriculture. The gap between water demand and natural water supply has currently been bridged by desalination. Seawater is in principle an unlimited water resource; however, desalination is an energy intensive process and contributes significantly to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, one of the greenhouse gases contributing to global climate change. Most of the seawater desalination plants in Abu Dhabi employ Multi-Stage Flash (MSF) distillation, and they are integrated with power production systems. Cogeneration provides economical benefits because some of the devices can be shared; from energy point of view, the processed heat from power generation can be recovered to provide thermal energy to water production. However, the ratio of power to water production (PWR) impacts the operational efficiency of the cogeneration plants which in turn influences fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. This research presents a novel framework for evaluating the impact of water policies and strategies on CO2 emissions in regions utilizing power and water cogeneration, and it allows decision makers to compare the impacts across various scenarios. The objective is to meet water demand whilst constraining CO2 emissions. A 'variable PWR' approach is introduced to account for the efficiency change in operation due to a significant change in PWR of the cogeneration system. The results show that expansion of MSF cogeneration for the future desalination capacity is sensitive to a range of water and electricity demand scenarios. On the other hand, adopting Reverse Osmosis (RO) for new desalination capacity is a robust supply policy for mitigating CO2 emissions. However, the maximum reduction in CO2 emission is achieved in the case when no new desalination capacity is required, which emphasizes the importance of water conservation in the cogeneration system. With significant water conservation, water conservation policy can potentially achieve greater reduction in CO2 emissions than the clean energy policies. Finally, as the penetration of renewable energy and nuclear power increases, decoupling power and water cogeneration and increasing the RO capacity is the supply strategy to minimize CO2 emissions.
Date of Award2011
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorScott Kennedy (Supervisor)


  • Air-Pollution - Abu Dhabi
  • Water Utilities
  • Electric Utilities

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