The $632-million plant is being built at Magtaa, near Algeria's second-biggest city, Oran.

Completion of the world's largest desalination plant, in Algeria, will be delayed by nearly a year as a result of a fire that destroyed crucial equipment and other supplies meant to be installed at the 500,000-cu-meter-per-day facility.

Singapore's Hyflux Ltd., the contractor building the $632-million desalination plant at Magtaa, near Algeria's second- biggest city, Oran, said the July 28 blaze—the cause of which has yet to be established—destroyed a warehouse and stored equipment. As a result, the completion date for the project has been moved from August 2011 to May 2012.

“The warehouse [that] caught fire is sited a few hundred meters away from the construction site for the project and houses equipment [that is] required for the project,” said Cho Wee Peng, Hyflux's group chief financial officer.

Hyflux, through its subsidiary MenaSpring Utility, is part of a joint-venture team—Tahlyat Myah Magtaa SPA, formed with Algeria's state-owned Algeria Energy Co. (AEC)—that is building the facility to supply at least five million people with drinking water.

The team had procured various equipment from international suppliers for installation at the facility. Much of that equipment will need to be re-procured, Peng said.

The suppliers include Tokyo-based Toray Industries Inc., which supplied reverse osmosis membranes, and Energy Recovery Inc, a Californian energy-recovery products and technology solutions provider. Through its recently acquired Pump Engineering LLC, Energy Recovery supplied 25 HTCAT-7200 turbo chargers for the plant.

Earlier, Hyflux had awarded a $28-million supply contract to ABB for the design, engineering, supply, installation and commissioning of electrical systems for the desalination plant.

Hyflux could not confirm the type and the supplier of the destroyed equipment but, in a statement, estimated the damage and other related costs at $50 million. Peng noted, “The project is covered by [a] comprehensive construction all-risk insurance policy with internationally reputable insurers.”

Built on a design-own-operate and transfer basis, the desalination plant will be 51% owned by MenaSpring, with AEC taking the remaining 49% stake.

Construction of the desalination plant is critical to Algeria's infrastructure development. Key beneficiaries include the country's water utility, ADE, and the national oil company, Sonatrach, which are projecting increased supplies of drinking water and hydropower for the Mediterranean coastal town and its surrounding communities.