Finalist picked in Texas for power, desalinated water feasibility study

SEGUIN, Texas, May 29, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Officials with the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) and its partners, the General Land Office (GLO), and the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) named a team led by MWH Global as the preferred finalist to conduct a feasibility assessment study for developing ocean water desalination as a regional water supply including the option of co-located power generation facilities.

This kind of project is more commonly referred to as an Independent Water Power Project (IWPP).

The MWH team was one of 16 teams representing 64 national and international firms to initially respond to GBRA’s request for qualifications (RFQ), which was publicly posted in September 2012. Eventually, the proposal evaluators narrowed the teams down to seven finalists. Those finalists made presentations during in-person interviews held at GBRA headquarters in Seguin, Texas, during the month of May. “Evaluators used a comprehensive performance criteria matrix to rate the teams with MWH ultimately earning the highest ranking,” explained William “Bill” E. West, Jr., GBRA general manager.    

MWH is a global strategic consulting, technical engineering and construction services firm headquartered in Colorado with offices in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. The MWH point of contact is Matt B. Garcia at (214) 346-4314.

“This isn’t just a study — this is the kind of long-term thinking that will meet the needs of South Texans for generations,” said Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. “This effort will be an important step in meeting the water and power needs of South Texas through the year 2060.” The Texas General Land Office agreed to partner with GBRA and will contribute toward funding the study.

“This feasibility study will have to consider and evaluate many factors, such as plant location, most effective and efficient water conveyance system, fuel source, safe brine disposal and other environmental issues, economic issues, and construction timelines,” GBRA Executive Manager for Water Resources and Utility Operations James L. Murphy said.

“We anticipate that this feasibility study could take up to 20 months to complete,” said Gary Asbury, GBRA’s manager of project engineering and the client project manager for water on the IWPP. “While we will have to wait to see what the feasibility study determines, it is anticipated that the fully expanded project could yield up to 250 million gallons per day (mgd) of desalinated water to serve the region,” he added. The quantity of 250 mgd is the approximate equivalent of 280,000 acre-feet of water annually or enough to supply about 350,000 households per year.

In order to develop the RFQ for this project, GBRA consulted with the director of the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute, led by Les E. Shephard , Ph.D., who also holds UTSA’s Robert F. McDermott Distinguished Chair in Engineering.

Shephard, who will serve as client project manager for the overall project said the IWPP could potentially generate as much as 3,000 megawatts of electricity at full capacity that will help mitigate impacts from growing power needs across Texas. Already power officials are predicting potential “brown-outs” across the state in the face of prolonged triple-digit temperatures that could hit this summer.

Now that the finalist has been selected, project representatives will begin contract negotiations with MWH to reach an agreement on costs, timeframes and other parameters of the project.

“Once the feasibility study has been completed, bringing an actual IWPP to fruition could be one of the most important infrastructure projects undertaken in the continental United States,” West said. “Outside of the Middle East, there is one in Singapore. A desalination plant located in Carlsbad, California, just north of San Diego, is located adjacent to a power plant, but it is designed specifically to generate desalinated water.”