Abu Dhabi

Private sector push

An aerial view of Yas Island ...constantly evolving.

The past year has been a tough one for Abu Dhabi, which along with the rest of the world, has been contending with the challenges of an economic slowdown brought about by the coronavirus.  However, despite the fact that oil prices too were down for most of the past year, the emirate has been making concerted efforts to keep its ambitious AED50-billion ($13.6 billion) Ghadan 21 economic stimulus programme on track.

In light of the global pandemic, the government has launched a number of stimulus packages to soften the blow of Covid-19 on businesses and citizens. In addition, to help the economy rebound amid the virus-induced slowdown, Abu Dhabi in June completed a $2-billion bonds issuance.

The emirate is also turning to the private sector to help accelerate its diversification plans and push ahead with the Ghadan 21 programme, which was launched in 2019. Early this year, the Abu Dhabi Executive Council embarked on an initiative to spearhead the development of capital projects worth AED45 billion ($12.25 billion) in the emirate by establishing a public-private partnership (PPP) framework.

Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant ... the 1,400-MW Unit One is now operational.

Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant ... the 1,400-MW Unit One is now operational.

As part of this decision, Aldar Properties was given charge to develop these capital projects and manage AED30 billion worth of major developments, including Riyadh City, Baniyas North and those in the Al Ain and Al Dhafra regions. Together, the projects are expected to deliver around 25,000 homes for UAE nationals as well as associated infrastructure over the next five years. In addition, Aldar will provide management oversight of AED10 billion worth of Musanada’s projects in education, healthcare, infrastructure, social services, and facilities management.

Abu Dhabi is now aiming to launch two major infrastructure PPP projects: the procurement of three new schools in Zayed City and Phase Two of its streetlighting upgrade programme.

The Zayed City Schools PPP project calls for the design, build, finance, maintenance and transfer of three schools with a capacity of 5,360 students in Abu Dhabi, with a concession period of 22 years, inclusive of a construction period of 24 months.

Phase Two of the streetlighting LED PPP programme will see about 140,000 of the streetlights in Al Ain City and the Al Dhafrah Region replaced with energy-efficient LED technology, resulting in a reduction of approximately 76 per cent in power consumption – equivalent to cost savings of AED705 million – and will be structured as a 12-year concession agreement with Abu Dhabi Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT).

According to Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) Director General Dr Tariq Bin Hendi, the emirate is launching new major infrastructure projects “as part of a pipeline of PPP projects that will strengthen sustainable private sector-led economic growth in the emirate”.

The ADIO was launched in 2019 under the Ghadan 21 programme to oversee foreign direct investment and private sector development in the emirate (see also UAE Focus, Page 17).

As part of measures to diversify its economy away from oil, Abu Dhabi intends to invest $6 billion in the cultural and creative sectors in the next five years, including the construction of museums. A significant portion of these new funds is expected to be earmarked for building cultural institutions on Saadiyat Island – already home to the Louvre Abu Dhabi – where work is under way on the Shaikh Zayed National Museum and a contract for the construction of Guggenheim museum is on the cards.

Saadiyat’s cultural district will also host the Abrahamic Family House, a facility for interfaith dialogue comprising a mosque, church and synagogue (see Page 34).


Al Mughira Housing Complex ... mega development.

Al Mughira Housing Complex ... mega development.


Providing social housing and ensuring a high standard of lifestyle for citizens continues to be a priority for the government.  Among the projects completed late last year in line with this strategy is the 520,000-sq-m Al Samha housing project featuring 250 residential villas built at a cost of AED674 million. A key project completed this year was the AED1.26-billion Al Mughira Housing Complex spread over a 2-million-sq-m area in Al Mirfa City, Al Dhafra region, and comprising 410 villas.

These projects were completed by Abu Dhabi Housing Authority (ADHA) in collaboration with Abu Dhabi General Services Company (Musanada).


Airport & Ports

The much-awaited AED10.8-billion Midfield Terminal Building at Abu Dhabi International Airport continues to be plagued with delays, despite being 97.6 per cent complete. According to a Reuters report published last month, the state-owned airport operator has cancelled a contract with a consortium led by Turkey’s TAV Insaat, and including UAE-based Arabtec and Greece-headquartered Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC), for the construction of the terminal at the airport. The deal for the showpiece terminal was scrapped after the group over-ran project costs, said the report, citing sources (see UAE Focus, Page 17).

In the ports sector, Abu Dhabi has been spearheading the redevelopment of a number of ports, with the largest and most ambitious of these being the plans for Mina Zayed, which has served as the emirate’s main port for over 40 years.

As part of Phase One of this development, the masterplan has been completed as has the design for the new fish market, and construction is now under way. Last November, Abu Dhabi’s DMT launched the second phase of a plan to redevelop designated zones of the Mina Zayed area and transform it into a new tourist, commercial and residential destination. As part of these plans, the UAE-based Modon Properties successfully razed Mina Plaza towers in the Mina Zayed area, setting a new Guinness World Records title for the ‘Tallest building demolished using explosives (controlled demolition)’. With a total of 144 floors, the four high-rise towers were demolished in approximately 10 seconds. Plans also include a complete overhaul of some of the existing suqs.

According to DMT, Aldar Properties will also play an active role in this urban regeneration project, where it will develop prime land plots spanning a gross floor area (GFA) of 1.5 million sq m, as a seafront destination. 

Among other projects, Abu Dhabi Ports has completed the second phase of the expansion work at its Delma Port, Al Dhafra’s premier multi-purpose port.  The ports authority is now working on expanding Khalifa Port, which aims to attract new business and significantly boost capacity. Phase One of the South Quay development has been completed.


Etihad Rail ... major developments have taken place on the network over the past year.

Etihad Rail ... major developments have taken place on the network over the past year.


Etihad Rail has made impressive progress over the past year on the UAE’s national rail network, with work currently under way on the second stage. The developer and operator of the UAE’s national rail network in April recorded 34 per cent overall progress on this stage since construction works began in January last year. Stage Two stretches over 605 km from Al Ghuwaifat on the UAE’s border with Saudi Arabia in the west to the port of Fujairah on the eastern coast.

Track-laying is in progress on the 139-km package 2A from Ghuweifat to Ruwais and Package 2B, the 216-km route from Liwa to Saih Shuaib, including links to Khalifa Industrial Zone, Khalifa Port and Industrial City of Abu Dhabi. The 94-km Sharjah-Jebel Ali package 2C, comprises a 74-km line in Dubai and a 20-km branch to Jebel Ali port.  This stage has involved the excavation of the longest tunnel in the Middle East.

Stage One, which is operational, extends 264 km from Shah to Ruwais.


Power & Water

Abu Dhabi has been a pioneer in the region in renewable energy, spearheading efforts in multiple fields including nuclear, solar and even waste-to-energy (WtE) projects.

When the first unit of its Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant began commercial operations in April this year, the UAE became the first Arab country to operate a nuclear power plant. The 1,400-MW Unit One is now providing constant, reliable, and sustainable electricity around the clock, while the three further units at the plant are expected to begin generating in the coming years, according to Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), the UAE government entity mandated to deliver the nuclear programme. Enec is a part of ADQ, one of the region’s largest holding companies. Unit 2 has also been issued the operating licence by the UAE’s independent nuclear regulator, Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).

In the solar energy sector, Abu Dhabi currently hosts the world’s largest stand-alone operational solar photovoltaic (PV) plant and is now initiating efforts to develop yet another, larger such project.

In May, the record-holder located in the Sweihan region, marked the successful completion of its second year of commercial operations. The 1.2-gigawatt (GW) power plant has more than 3.3 million of solar panels in a single site and since it began operations in April 2019, it has been providing with enough clean energy to power 90,000 individuals through a long-term power purchase agreement with the Emirates Water and Electricity Company (Ewec).

Meanwhile, the Al Dhafra Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Independent Power Producer (IPP) project, which is expected to steal the title of being the world’s largest single-site solar power plant, marked a milestone when its developer Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa) – in co-ordination with key partners Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar), EDF Renewables and JinkoPower – announced the successful financial closing of the project.

The project will have a capacity of 2 GW and will supply power to Ewec. Once operational, the Al Dhafra Solar PV IPP will use 4 million solar panels to generate enough electricity for 160,000 homes across the UAE. Upon full commercial operation, the plant is expected to reduce Abu Dhabi’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by more than 2.4 million tonnes per year, equivalent to removing approximately 470,000 cars from the road.

Abu Dhabi also intends to build one of the largest WtE projects in the region. A competitive tender process was initiated in January for the greenfield WtE independent power project (IPP) by Ewec. To be located near the existing Al Dhafra landfill, it will have an expected processing capacity between 600,000 and 900,000 tonnes of waste per year, and will generate enough electricity to power up to 22,500 UAE households. In addition, the WtE plant is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 1.5 million tonnes per year.

In the water desalination segment, Ewec invited expressions of interest (EoIs) early this year from developers/developer consortiums for the Mirfa 2 (M2) reverse osmosis independent water project (IWP). M2 will supply up to 150 million gallons per day of water when it begins commercial operations in Q1 2024.


SeaWorld Abu Dhabi ... scheduled for completion next year.

SeaWorld Abu Dhabi ... scheduled for completion next year.


In line with Abu Dhabi’s focus on sustainability and clean energy, Taqa and Abu Dhabi Ports last month announced plans to develop a green ammonia project. The green ammonia export facility, expected to be based in Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (Kizad), will also feature a storage facility at Khalifa Port (see UAE Focus, Page 19). 

Earlier in May, two major clean ammonia projects were announced within a day of each other. These include an AED3.67-billion facility powered by green hydrogen, also to be located in Kizad, and a much larger blue ammonia plant using blue hydrogen derived from fossil gas with carbon capture and storage.

The AED3.67-billion facility, which would produce 200,000 tonnes of green ammonia per year, will be developed by Helios Industry, a privately owned special project vehicle company. The plant, to be developed in two phases, will be powered by a dedicated 800-MW solar power plant within Kizad in the near future with capacity of 100 MW in Phase One. Upon completion, the plant is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by an excess of 600,000 tonnes annually.

The blue ammonia plant will be set up by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), which has appointed the UK engineering and consulting group Wood to conduct the initial front-end engineering and design (pre-Feed) work on a world-scale production facility. The plant will be developed at the new Ta’Ziz industrial ecosystem and chemicals hub – which will include a new port, utilities, infrastructure, feedstock supply and shared services at a total cost of over $2 billion – planned by Adnoc and ADQ at Ruwais Derivatives Park.

In parallel, Adnoc said it will undertake a feasibility study on the supply of blue hydrogen to the project from its operations in Ruwais. The final investment decision for the project is expected in 2022, and start-up is targeted for 2025. Adnoc is already a major producer of hydrogen and ammonia, with over 300,000 tons of hydrogen produced per annum at the Ruwais Industrial Complex.

Meanwhile, Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA), the largest industrial company in the UAE outside oil and gas, recently announced the start-up of the first section of an expansion to its Al Taweelah smelter. The 26 new reduction cells at Potline One will now ramp up to produce some 30,000 tonnes of aluminium per year. In total, EGA is building 66 new reduction cells to extend all three potlines at Al Taweelah. The project will increase production capacity by some 78,000 tonnes of hot metal per year. The start-up of these extensions is expected later this year.

EGA has also completed the ramp-up of Al Taweelah alumina refinery. Construction of the refinery took 72 million hours of work and cost some $3.3 billion.  The alumina refinery has the capacity to produce some 2 million tonnes of alumina per year, enough to meet 40 per cent of EGA’s needs.


Real Estate

Abu Dhabi’s island developments such as Al Reem, Yas Island and Saadiyat Island continue to enjoy high demand, gauging by the data released by the emirate’s Department of Municipalities and Transport.

Yas Island, in particular, has been constantly evolving with a number of developments taking shape. Notable among the latest developments is the world’s first Warner Bros branded hotel being set up by Miral, Abu Dhabi’s leading creator and developer of entertainment and leisure destinations, in collaboration with Warner Bros Themed Entertainment at a total investment of $112 million (see Page 41).

Another striking project being built on Yas Island is SeaWorld Abu Dhabi, being developed by Miral in collaboration with SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. This landmark project will bring the next generation of marine life theme parks to the island and will be home to the UAE’s first dedicated marine research, rescue, rehabilitation and return centre. Once complete, the park will feature one of the world’s largest indoor aquariums, an immersive ride that takes guests on a thrilling and visually stunning journey from pole to pole, and countless interactive exhibits, according to Miral. The theme park is scheduled for completion next year.

Work is also in progress at Miral’s premier waterfront destination, Yas Bay – part of its $3.26-billion portfolio of diverse leisure and entertainment developments in the UAE capital.  Yas Bay encompasses three distinct areas – The Waterfront, The Residences and twofour54 – and is expected to attract 15,000 future residents and over 10,000 business professionals.

The Waterfront will also feature entertainment and nightlife attractions, including a Pier with 37 cafés and restaurants as well as 19 retail outlets.   

The iconic Etihad Arena, the epicentre of Yas Bay’s Waterfront and Abu Dhabi’s first-of-its-kind multi-purpose indoor entertainment venue, opened in January this year with the $326-million Hilton Yas Bay Hotel, also within The Waterfront, having followed suit in February.

Meanwhile, Aldar continues to boost the island’s residential offering which includes Noya, Yas Acres, Water’s Edge, Lea, Ansam and Mayan, and the latest launch at Al Gurm development (see Digital Edition, Real Estate, Page 69).

In April this year, the developer unveiled Noya Viva, the next phase of its premium Noya development on Yas, which was sold out within hours of its launch last November. Offered on a freehold basis, Noya Viva will bring a further 480 homes to the Noya development. Construction work on the project is due to begin in Q4 2021, with handover expected in Q1 2024. 

Aldar’s mega projects at Saadiyat Island include Saadiyat Lagoons District, a 6-million-sq-m nature-inspired, mixed-use development, where infrastructure work is currently under way. The district features residences, extensive parks and lakes, and diverse community facilities including pathways for walking, running, cycling, and horse riding.

Meanwhile, ideally positioned between the two popular areas – Yas Island and Saadiyat Island – is the AED5-billion Jubail Island development, where construction work is under way on the first phase of 300 villas, following the appointment of Arabian Construction Company (ACC) as the contractor.

Jubail Island sprawls across 4,000 hectares of mangrove forests and coastal estuaries with more than 30 km of waterfront. It will be home to six distinct village communities with bespoke, picturesque residential areas and community facilities. More than 60 per cent of the infrastructure work has already been completed and is due for completion in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Leading design expert DLR Group is drawing up the designs for the mixed-use community town centre, worth an estimated at Dh750 million. The developer Jubail Island Investment Company (JIIC) recently launched a new range of spacious and elegant townhouses within the development.

Among other landmark projects, Abu Dhabi Municipality’s first-ever build-operate-transfer (BOT) project Al Qana, is gearing up for completion this year.

Being developed by Al Barakah International Investment, the billion-dirham waterfront social dining and entertainment destination will also host a new Riviera-style marina. Featuring seven anchor destinations spanning over 2.4 km of scenic and picturesque waterfront walkways, Al Qana offers a wide collection of attractions with leisure facilities from waterside eateries, the largest standalone cinema in Abu Dhabi, the Middle East’s largest aquarium, the first-of-its-kind lifestyle hub including wellness facilities, first-to-the-UAE VR zone, E-Sports arena, standalone exciting kids’ zone, and innovative landscaped community spaces (see Page 38).