1 Introduction

1.1 Status of Megaprojects

Megaprojects are a part of our everyday life as well as our history. The Great Pyramid of Giza, built almost 4700 years ago by the Egyptian civilization, was a megaproject. Six of the seven wonders of the ancient world were megaprojects at the time of construction (Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Colossus of Rhodes, Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, and Lighthouse of Alexandria, and Great Pyramid at Giza). Further historical examples of megaprojects are the Suez or the Panama Canals, the Pont du Gard, the Colosseum in Rome, or the cathedrals of the Middle Ages. As the initial debate among the Burj Khalifa and Masdar City

Administrators indicate that ancient and current megaprojects are connected with adoration and major obstacles.

At least one megaproject is under construction in almost every region on the planet. Trends toward urbanization and globalization are the primary drivers of megaproject demand. In 1950, 30% of the world’s population resided in urban areas; in 2014, this percentage increased to 54%; and by 2050, it is projected to reach 66% [1]. With a growing world population, approximately 7 billion people will live in existing or new cities by 2050. A primary facilitator of this is the relative abundance of capital to finance more megaprojects than ever before.

This massive movement from rural to urban areas entails construction demands: new cities or new quarters in cities (living, servicing, manufacturing, entertainment, and worshipping), new infrastructure (roads, rail, and utilities), and new logistical hubs (stations, ports, and airports). Globalization requires connections between hubs and shifts facilities from one country to another (e.g., manufacturing or servicing). There are also truly global megaprojects such as China’s New Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative).

Desjardins [2] provides a list of the seven most significant projects under construction in 2017:

  1. Al Maktoum International Airport (UAE, 82 billion USD): Once the airport is completed, it will be the largest in the world.
  2. South–to–North Water Transfer Project (China, 78 billion USD): Three canals transporting water from the Yangtze River to areas in the north.
  3. California High-Speed Rail (the USA, 70 billion USD): A high-speed rail link from Sacramento to San Diego, passing through San Francisco and Los Angeles.
  4. Dubailand (UAE, 64 billion USD): Theme park, hotels, and malls.
  5. London Crossrail Project (the UK, 23 billion USD): Expansion of London’s underground transportation system.
  6. Beijing Daxing International Airport (China, 13 billion USD): The second international airport in Beijing.
  7. Jubail II (Saudi Arabia, 11 billion USD). Jubail Industrial City with industrial plants, an oil refinery, and a desalination plant.

This list is most likely incomplete since nobody collects information about megaprojects systematically. However, these projects show what civil engineers do: planning and constructing the built environment. The built and the natural environments have a common border, and when we expand the built environment, the natural environment will suffer. There are trade-offs to pay while establishing the borderline; it would be naïve to admire the size and grandeur of megaprojects without thinking about their impact on the natural environment.

1.2 Historical Background of Jubail

The town of Al-Jubail on the Eastern Coast of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was established around 7000 years ago. The nearby presence of potable water wells ensures the continued viability of human settlement. Crude oil was found in Saudi Arabia in 1933. Jubail staked an even bigger claim to fame in 1983 by establishing Jubail industrial city project as the largest engineering and construction project ever attempted [3]. With more than 170 industrial enterprises and 75,000 inhabitants, Jubail Industrial City is the region’s largest industrial hub.

The Saudi government has widely employed massive oil resources to enhance municipal and industrial development during the last forty years. This was crowned by two giant urban & industrial projects, one of them in Jubail. The planning efforts attempt to provide the funds to control and manage the community’s industrial development and physical growth. The Saudi government employed an independent planning commission known as the Royal Commission for Jubail (RCJ) to achieve planning objectives. This commission undertook the responsibility to design, build and manage large-scale industrial cities. The system of Commissions and Higher Committees was followed and still practiced in the planning of seaports, airports, medical cities, universities, and residential neighborhoods.

In Jubail City, Saudi Arabia, primary industries produced 7% of the world’s petrochemicals, contributed 11.5% of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product and created 85% of the Kingdom’s exports when not considering oil. The Annual growth is sustained at 6%. Therefore Jubail had attracted over 50% of the Kingdom’s total foreign investment (2014 Annual report of the Royal Commission Jubail and Yanbu – RCJY). 87% of Saudi investment was in primary industries, which have reached about 613 billion Saudi Riyals, 68 % was invested in Jubail city [4]. Jubail’s primary industry companies consist of 25 companies.

Figure 1. Saudi petrochemical company (SADAF) complex in Jubail. Source: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0197-3975(01)00026-1

Jubail-1 Industrial City has three industrial sectors, viz., Primary, Secondary and support industries. At the same time, Jubail-2 has Primary, Secondary, support, value park and logistic area. The Primary industrial park in Jubail’s industrialization strategy with hydrocarbon-based and heavy mineral installations. The Secondary industries include products, such as petrochemical intermediates, plastics, steel, agrochemical, etc. Industrial Wastewater treatment network is available in the Primary and Secondary industrial sectors.

The Industrial Area in Jubail envisaged 19 primary industries and 136 secondary industries, and 100 ancillary industries to operate under the capital concentration method. These industries created more than 100,000 jobs by the beginning of the millennium. The industrial city utilizes an estimated 4 billion US dollars’ worth of natural gas, recently considered an expendable product. It also produces steel, aluminum, plastics and fertilizers for local and international markets.

1.3 World’s Largest Civil Engineering Project

Jubail Industrial City, built more than three decades ago, will double its size once completed upon integrating a second part. With $80 billion for infrastructure works only, Jubail II is allegedly the largest civil engineering project globally [5]. Jubail Industrial II construction is a multi-billion-dollar industrial city aiming to strengthen the petrochemical industry and create social benefits. This project will double the size of the former Jubail Industrial Complex by 6,200 hectares.

Investing more than $4 billion in infrastructure and with more than 20,000 workers during its peak season, the area will be turned into an even larger industrial park, if you couldn’t tell. The work encompasses hundreds of miles of roads, water & wastewater, utilities, and all required infrastructure. At least 18 billion dollars are being intended to build the industrial city, extending from the existing industrial park to the Kuwait-Ras Tanura corridor. The construction process is so extensive that the project has been broken into four phases. Over 50,000 residential units will be appended by 2026 as part of the expansion process. The RCJY has requested Bechtel, who handled Jubail 1, commit to Jubail II.

Over 1,900 hectares will be industrialized during the process, and a combination of highways, tunnels, and superstructures will craft an unobstructed path to development and the mining industry. The earthwork procedure will involve moving more than 30 million cubic meters of aggregates, in conjunction with the installation of almost 4.8-meter diameter pipelines to carry water from the Arabian sea into the industrial facilities at a rate of 200,000 m3 per hour.

Another one of the astounding structures is the desalination plant that will treat 800,000 m3 for cities in the Eastern Province and generate 2,750 megawatts of electricity. The area includes two large seaports built on an artificial harbor protected by 17 kilometers of the breakwater. Bechtel, acting on behalf of the managers of the project, specified that the development also comprises a 9 -by-0.3- kilometer causeway, with a module-import facility, a four-berth open-sea tank terminal, a dry-bulk terminal with nine berths, and a service quay ―all built under contracts to the Saudi Ports Authority.

2 Description of Facilities

2.1 Overview

On a historical scale, Jubail required strategic planning and project management. The workforce peaked at 20,000 per month, completing huge, demanding projects such as:

  • the Ras Al Khair Industrial City covering an ever-expanding area above 200+ sq. km;
  • a major urbanized area for more than 120,000 people;
  • Jubail Industrial City Airport, covering 47 sq. km, and which is anticipated to open to civilian flights in due course; and
  • expansion of the King Fahd Industrial Port for both industrial and commercial business, including in-demand metals like iron ore and aluminum, and general cargo for the whole industrial complex and a large surrounding region of Saudi Arabia.

Figure 2. The massive Jubail-II industrial city accounts for over 7 percent of Saudi Arabia’s GDP. Source: https://www.bechtel.com/projects/jubail-industrial-city/#gallery-11

2.2 Rails and Roads

The proposed transportation system entails a six-lane highway between Dammam and Jubail. This main road is considered the focal commercial area within the project, creating robust and efficient communication systems of all mission components. Hundreds of other roads and paths have been arranged to lead to smaller towns and areas associated with the project. More than 850 kilometers and 60 bridges were built during the construction phase.

The project was meticulously planned decades before, and it was built around large oil pipes erected years before industrial growth began. The total project cost might vary even higher to accommodate changes and requests to expand its operations.

2.3 Desalination Plants

Several countries use desalination, with most desalination plants in the U.S., the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, France, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. The largest desalination plant is the Jubail Plant, producing 1,401,000 m3/day of fresh water.

Desalination is expensive and energy-intensive, but it is relied upon in hot, water-scarce climates like Saudi Arabia and neighboring Gulf countries. A recent United Nations-backed global study of the desalination industry found the world’s around 16,000 plants produced on average 1.5 liters of brine for every liter of fresh water. Saudi Arabia produces the most amount of brine, at 22% of the world’s total.nAt al-Jubail treated waste brine plumes back into the Arabian Gulf.

Officials hope to be extracting magnesium at one desalination plant and at another to make sodium chloride for use in the petrochemical industry. As of 2020, the government’s Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) said it had completed the construction of seven new desalination plants, taking its total number of installations to 33. A few more plants are privately operated [6].

Saudi’s eastern coast hosts the record-breaking al-Jubail plant and the world’s largest plant using more modern hybrid technology at Ras al-Khair. These plants serve east coast cities and pipe desalinated water 400km into the desert to the 7 million residents of Riyadh’s capital.

Recently in 2021, the project for the design, engineering and procurement of the new 400,000m3/day Jubail II seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) plant by SEPCO Electric Power Construction Corporation has been awarded to Metito, a provider of choice for total intelligent water management and alternative energy solutions. The SWCC will commission this state-of-the-art project worth US$132M. The Jubail II SWRO plant is a 24 months project with a commissioning date set for February 2022. The plant will serve Jubail industrial city.

2.4 Propane Dehydrogenation (PDH) and Polypropylene(PP) Complex

McDermott International Inc has confirmed details of its scope of work on an earlier awarded contract by Advanced Petrochemical Co (APC) for subsidiary Advanced Global Investment Co’s (AGIC) proposed propane dehydrogenation (PDH) and polypropylene (PP) complex at APC’s existing operations in Jubail Industrial City.

McDermott’s Lummus Technology-alongside catalyst partner Clariant International Ltd will license its proprietary CATOFIN PDH technology process and provide the basic engineering package for a C3 CATOFIN unit to be installed at the new complex; the service provider said on May 21, 2020. Once in operation, the new unit will have a propylene production capacity of 843,000 tonnes/y.

McDermott, which reflected the order in its 1Q 2020 backlog, valued the contract at $1-50 M. This latest contract for the project follows AGIC’s contract award earlier inMay 2020 to Fluor Corp for delivery of project management consultancy (PMC) on the complex, which alongside propylene, also will produce 800,000 tonnes/y of PP that will be used for the production of specialty polymers by manufacturers in the facemask, automotive, pipes, food packaging, and textiles industries.

APC also previously confirmed AGIC haslet a contract to LyondellBasell Industries NV subsidiary Basell Poliolefine Italia SRL to license its proprietary Spherizone and Spheripol technologies for the complex’s two PP plants, each of which will have a capacity of 400,000 tonnes/y. Award of the technology and PMC contracts follow AGIC’s March 27, 2020, signing of a shareholders agreement with SK Gas Co Ltd subsidiary SK Gas Petrochemical Pte Ltd (SKGP) to establish a joint venture named Advanced Polyolefins Co (APC JV) for construction and operation of the proposed PDH-PP complex.

At a total estimated cost of about $1.8 bn, the planned PDH-PP project will be financed 25% by shareholders’ equity, while APC JV will fund the remaining 75% via borrowing from lenders, APC said. AGIC will hold 85% interest in APC JV, with SKGP to hold the remaining 15% stake. APC said APC JV expects to begin construction in 2021 on the new PDH-PPcomplex-which will receive its primary feedstock of propane from Saudi Aramco under a long-term contract for a targeted start-up of operations by 2H 2024. According to its website, APC currently produces 455,000 tonnes/y of propylene and 450,000 tonnes/y of PP at its existing Jubail Industrial City plants.

2.5 Residential Compounds

The localities are spacious, well-planned and built for Royal Commission employees. The electrical load profile of the residential compounds can be obtained from Saudi Electricity Company, SEC. This power utility company controls the generation, distribution, and transmission of electricity in Saudi Arabia, and it has more than 45 power generation plants in the country [7].

The scaled annual load demand and the peak load for the compounds have been studied, showing that the peak load can be observed in July. The maximum monthly load is observed in the peak summer months of July and August due to the high air conditioning load, while the minimum is in December and January [8]. The heating load is almost negligible in this part of the world.

Figure 3. Residential compounds site location. Source: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.117806

3 References 

[1] Brockmann, C. (2020). Introduction. In Advanced Construction Management, C. Brockmann (Ed.). https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119554721.ch1

[2] Desjardins, J. (2017). Nine of the world’s largest megaprojects are under construction. Business Insider, January 11, 2017.

[3] https://www.rcjy.gov.sa/en-US/Jubail/AboutCity/Pages/default.aspx

[4] Al-Ghamdi, M., ABDEL-RAZEK, R. E. F. A. A., & ABDEL-RAZEK, R. E. F. A. A. (2015). The Impact of Human Resource Management on Technological Innovation in Jubail Primary Industrial Sector, Saudi Arabia. International Journal of Business and Management3(2), 1-17.

[4] https://www.gbreports.com/files/pdf/_2020/AOG_2020_-_Web_Preview.pdf

[5] https://www.thebalancesmb.com/worlds-largest-civil-engineering-projects-844606

[6] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-water-desalination-idUSKBN26Y1HD

[7] https://www.se.com.sa/en-us/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx

[8] Baseer, M. A., Alqahtani, A., & Rehman, S. (2019). Techno-economic design and evaluation of hybrid energy systems for residential communities: A case study of Jubail industrial city. Journal of Cleaner Production237, 117806.