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Optimizing the Efficiency of Reverse Osmosis Seawater Desalination

Optimizing the Efficiency of Reverse Osmosis
Seawater Desalination
Uri Lachish, guma science
Abstract: A way is considered to achieve efficient reverse osmosis
seawater desalination without use of energy recovery or pressure exchange
1. Introduction
2. Basic scheme of desalination by reverse osmosis
3. Improving desalination: I. Modules in series
4. Improving desalination: II. Energy recovery
5. Summary of the energy balance
6. A spiral membrane module
7. Cyclic flow operation
8. Desalination energy, salinity and cycle time in cyclic flow operation
9. Comparison of continuous flow to cyclic flow
10. Difficulties with cyclic flow operation
11. Utilization of the energy accumulated within concentrated salt water
12. Summary and conclusions
1. Introduction
Seawater desalination requires minimal energy consumption equal to the
osmotic pressure times the volume of desalinated water [1]. The osmotic
pressure is nearly proportional to the salt concentration in the water. For a
seawater osmotic pressure of 27 bar the minimal energy is about 0.75 kW
hour / cubic meter and it varies according to the water salinity. This
minimal energy, derived by thermodynamic considerations, is general and
true to all desalination technologies and not only reverse osmosis.
Advanced reverse osmosis systems apply energy recovery or pressure
conversion devices and report higher energy consumption of above 2 kW
hour / m3 [2, 3]. Curiously, the energy may be easily reduced and approach
the theoretical minimum. Why this is not done?
Producing one volume of desalinated water with nearly minimal
consumption of energy requires the use of several volumes of seawater that
mostly go back to the sea. These volumes are prepared prior to desalination
by chemical treatment and filtering operations. The cost of the pre osmosis
water is then higher than the cost of the energy saved in the process, so
there is no advantage doing that.
The ratio of the desalinated water volume to the seawater volume used to
produce it is called the recovery ratio. High recovery ratio saves on the
cost of seawater preparation prior to the osmosis process, and low recovery
ratio saves on the energy cost of desalination. The optimal recovery ratio
depends on the relative costs of these operations and may vary under
different conditions.
The purpose of these pages is to consider a way to achieve efficient
seawater desalination by reverse osmosis in a system that does not apply
energy recovery or pressure conversion devices.
2. Basic scheme of desalination by reverse osmosis
Figure-1 shows the basic scheme of desalination by reverse osmosis:
Figure-1: Basic scheme of desalination by reverse osmosis.
High-pressure pump pumps seawater into a module separated by a semi
permeable membrane into two volumes. The membrane lets water flow
through it but blocks the transport of salts, so the water in the volume
beyond the membrane, called permeate, is desalinated, and the salt is left
behind in the volume in front of the membrane. The concentrated salt
water in this volume leaves the module via a pressure control valve.
The osmotic pressure Ps is given by van't Hoff equation:
Ps = c∙R∙T (1)
Where c is the ionic molar concentration, R = 0.082 (liter bar / degree
mole) is the gas constant, and T is the absolute temperature in Kelvin units.
T is equal to the Celsius temperature + 273.17. Thus, T = 300 K for 27o C.
Typical ionic salt concentration of seawater is: c = 1.1 mole / liter, and the
corresponding osmotic pressure is:
Psea = 1.1 x 0.082 x 300 = 27 bar.
The flow rate of water through the membrane Frate is given by:
Frate = Kf∙(Ppump - Ps) (2)
The membrane properties and its area determine the flow rate factor Kf.
Ppump is the pressure generated by the pump and controlled by the pressure
control valve. Ps is the osmotic pressure of the concentrated salt water in
the module.
The pump pressure must be higher than the osmotic pressure in order to
force seawater flow through the membrane and permeate water out of the
module. The flow rate is proportional to the difference between the two
pressures. When they are equal water does not flow through the membrane,
and if the pump pressure is lower than the osmotic pressure, permeate
water will flow back towards the concentrated salt water.
Consider an example where the water recovery ratio is 0.5. That is, for
every two volumes of seawater pumped into the module one volume will
come out as permeate water and one as doubly concentrated salt water. The
high-pressure pump consumes energy equal to the pump pressure times the
volume of water that it pumps. Since the pump has to pump two V
volumes of seawater in order to produce one V volume of permeate water,
the consumed work is:
W = P∙2∙V (3)
Since the osmotic pressure of the concentrated salt water is twice as much
as that of seawater, Ps = 2∙Psea, the required pump pressure will be:
P = 2∙Psea + ΔP (4)
ΔP is the overpressure, above the osmotic pressure, that drives water flow
through the membrane. The work then becomes:
W = (4∙Psea + 2∙ΔP)∙V (5)
It is, therefore, more than four times higher than the minimal theoretical
desalination energy (Psea∙V).
In summary, the practical desalination energy is higher than the theoretical
minimum for two reasons.
a. The feed volume of seawater is higher than the volume of permeate-
b. The osmotic pressure of concentrated salt water within desalination
module is higher than that of seawater.
3. Improving desalination: I. Modules in series
Figure-2 shows a desalination system where a number of modules are
connected in series. In practical systems there are six or seven modules in
Figure-2: Connecting membrane modules in series.
Seawater flows into a first module where about 10% penetrate through the
membrane and become permeate water. The rest more concentrated water
flows to a second module where again part of it penetrates through the
membrane and part of it continues to the next membrane.
The salt concentration and therefore also the osmotic pressure increase at
each consecutive module, while the overall pump pressure is nearly the
same in all of them. The flow rate through the membrane is proportional to
the difference between the pump pressure and the osmotic pressure
(equation 2). Therefore, the pressure difference and the flow rate through
the membrane are highest at the first module. They decrease at each
consecutive module, and are lowest at the last module.
In this system there is no need of overpressure to drive water through the
membranes if sufficient number of modules are connected in series. Most
of the permeate-water comes from the first modules and little water comes
from the membrane of the last module, where the osmotic pressure is
slightly below the pump pressure. For 50% water recovery the work of
desalination thus becomes (by equation 5):
W = 4∙Psea ∙V (6)
The semi permeable membrane is not perfect and about 0.5% - 1% of the
salt in the water penetrates through it. Series connection of modules is
advantageous since most of the water comes from modules with lower salt
concentration, resulting in lower salt concentration in the permeate water.
4. Improving desalination: II. Energy recovery
The mechanical energy consumed by the high-pressure pump is
transformed into heat within the desalination system. Part of the heat is
generated by dissipate water flow through the membrane and part by water
flow through the pressure control valve. Part of the (free) energy is
accumulated within the concentrated salt water that leaves the system. This
energy is not lost and in principle can be utilized, returned back to the
system and improve its efficiency. Is it worth doing? The question will be
discussed in a next section.
The energy loss within the pressure control valve can be avoided by
application of a variety of energy recovery devices. Figure-3 presents a
system where the pressurized salt water, that leaves the membrane
modules, drives a rotary turbine [4]. The turbine drives an auxiliary high-
pressure pump that supplies seawater to the membrane modules and
reduces the water supply and energy consumption of the first pump.
Figure-3: Energy recovery with a turbine and an auxiliary pump.
Water is practically incompressible and therefore cannot accumulate
energy. This property is the basis of a class of devices that exchange
pressurized concentrated salt water within the modules with outside
seawater [5 - 12]. There are many specific designs but they all operate with
the same "rotating door" principle presented in figure-4.
Figure-4: Exchange of pressurized concentrated salt water with seawater.
The "rotating door" has two compartments, one filled with pressurized
concentrated salt water, and one filled with seawater. The "door" rotates
180 degrees and exchanges the positions of the two compartments (as seen
on the left of figure-4). By that it introduces seawater to the high-pressure
line of the modules and relieves pressurized concentrated salt water to the
seawater line. The seawater in the right compartment now flows towards
the membranes and is replaced by another dose of concentrated salt water.
The concentrated salt-water in the left compartment flows away and is
replaced by fresh seawater. The "door" then rotates 180 degrees again. The
operation involves pressurizing seawater and depressurizing concentrated
salt water. Since water is incompressible, these processes do not involve
consumption or waste of energy.
Many practical systems do not look like figure-4 at all, but rather apply
mechanisms of moving pistons and valves to achieve this mode of a
"rotating door" operation [5 - 11]. One company has developed a
continuously rotating high-speed rotor for this purpose [3, 12].
In the limit of a 100% efficient energy recovery device, the externally
powered pump will supply a volume V of seawater equal to the volume V
of the delivered permeate water. The rest of the required seawater comes
from the energy recovery device. The work of desalination, P∙V, is far
lower than in systems that do not apply energy recovery because now V is
the volume of permeate water and not of seawater supply. For the case of
50% water recovery the pressure is P = Ps = 2∙Psea and the desalination
work is:
W = Ps∙V = 2∙Psea∙V (7)
It is half of the work required by a system without energy recovery,
calculated in equation 6. In practical systems an energy recovery efficiency
of 70 - 80% is reported for turbine type devices, and over 90% for rotating
door type devices. The work of desalination is then higher than the ideal
value of equation 7.
The osmotic pressure at the system exit for any water recovery ratio α(α =
output volume of permeate water / input volume of seawater) is Ps = Psea /
(1 - α), and the corresponding work of desalination is:
W =Psea∙V / (1 - α) (8)
The calculation for energy recovery efficiency below 100% is given in the
appedix. Figure-5 shows the minimal desalination energy as a function of
the water recovery ratio for the energy recovery efficiencies 0, 0.85, 0.9,
0.95, and 1.
Figure-5: Dependence of the minimal desalination energy on the water
recovery ratio for the energy recovery efficiencies 0 (1), 0.85 (2), 0.9 (3),
0.95 (4), and 1 (5).
One energy unit in the figure is the theoretical limit Psea∙V, equal to 0.75
kWatt Hour / cubic meter for osmotic pressure of 27 bar. The work of
desalination decreases and approaches the theoretical limit as α is reduced.
The optimal α value is determined by the energy cost compared to the cost
of pre-osmosis water, as discussed in the introduction.
5. Summary of the energy balance
The work consumed by the pump is equal to P∙V where P is the pump
pressure and V is the volume of seawater that it pumps. All this work is
transformed into heat.
Ps is the osmotic pressure of the concentrated salt solution within a
membrane module and ΔP is the over pressure that drives water flow
through the membrane. The pump pressure P is equal to their sum, P = Ps +
ΔP. When modules are connected in series Ps and ΔP change from module
to module but their sum is nearly the same. Ps is lowest at the first module
and it increases with each successive module.
Vpermeate is the volume of desalinated water produced by the process and
Vconcentrate is the volume of concentrated salt solution that returns to the sea.
In systems that do not apply energy recovery devices the overall pumped
volume is equal to the sum V = Vpermeate + Vconcentrate. In systems that apply
energy recovery devices of 100% efficiency the volume pumped by the
pump is equal to the volume of desalinated water, V = Vpermeate.
Table 1 summarizes the energy losses, how they can be reduced, and for
what price.
The price
transformation of
mechanical energy
into heat.
consumption of
ΔP ∙Vpermeate
Dissipate heat of
water flow through
the membrane
Lower utilization
of the desalination
Dissipate heat of
water flow through
the pressure control
More equipment
W = P∙V
Where W is the pump work, P is the pump pressure, and V is the volume of
pumped water.
W = P∙V ∙ 100
for W in Joules (Watt seconds), P in bars, and V in Liters.
W = P∙V / 36
for W in kWatt hours, P in bars, and V in cubic meters.
For example, the energy required to pump a volume of V = 1 cubic meter
of salt water with osmotic pressure of
Ps = 27 bar, through a semi permeable membrane , is:
W = 27 ∙ 1 / 36 = 0.75 kWatt hour.
6. A spiral membrane module
Figure-6 shows the water flow within a spiral membrane module
Figure-6: Spiral membrane module.
The membrane is shaped into a spirally wound flat sleeve (green)
contained in a high-pressure cylinder. The sleeve is closed at the spiral
sides and outer end, and the inner end is connected to a central pipe.
Pressurized seawater (red arrows) flows in the direction of the cylinder
axis along the external surface of the membrane sleeve. Some water
penetrates through the membrane and leaves the salt behind, thus it turns
into permeate water within the sleeve. Permeate water (blue arrows) flows
within the spiral sleeve towards the central pipe that leads it out of the
Water that penetrates through the membrane leaves behind it a locally
highly concentrated salt at the external surface of the membrane. This
concentrated salt immediately stops any further water flow through the
membrane unless it is removed fast enough by a lateral seawater flow
along the surface.
The membrane sleeve is supported from its inside with a porous spacer that
prevents sleeve collapse by the osmotic pressure. Another porous spacer
surrounds the sleeve and stabilizes the space of seawater flow.
The module manufacturer supplies the testing conditions of the membrane
module. For example, the following data is given for "FILMTEC 8"
Seawater RO Elements" (SW30HR-380) by "DOW" [13].
Module size: Length 1016 mm, diameter 201 mm, diameter of central pipe
29 mm.
Operating pressure: 55.2 bar (800 psi), (max 70 bar (1015 psi).
Max Feed Flow: 14 m3 / hour.
Product water flow rate: 23 m3 / day at 25o C.
Single element recovery (Permeate Flow to Feed Flow): 0.08 (max 0.15 at
lower feed flow).
Salt (NaCl) concentration: 32000 ppm (32 gram / liter).
These numbers give:
Feed water flow of 200 (max 233) liter / minute.
Permeate water flow of 16 liter / minute.
Osmotic pressure of 27 bar (390 psi), calculated by van't Hoff formula
(equation 1).
Flow rate factor (equation 2):
Kf = Frate / (P - Ps) = 16 / (55.2 - 27) = 0.57 (liter / minute) / bar (9)
7. Cyclic flow operation
Sections 2 - 6 describe the reverse osmosis technology of seawater
desalination. The rest of these pages are theoretical considerations and
calculations by the author.
Semi permeable membranes favor operation with continuous water flow
and permanent operating pressure. Flow disturbances and unstable pressure
stress the membranes and increase their wear. However, the continuous
flow mode requires application of energy recovery devices for efficient
An operation mode of cyclic flow may achieve, in principle, energy
efficiency comparable to continuous flow and there is no need of energy
recovery devices. Therefore, this possibility may not be ignored, even for
a price of modifying the semi permeable membrane or the membrane
The system described in figure-7 includes a low pressure circulating pump
and a two-state valve.
Figure-7: Seawater desalination in a cyclic water flow.
At one state of the valve the salt-water compartment of the module is
closed. The high-pressure pump pumps seawater into the membrane
module and all the water penetrates through the membrane and turns into
permeate water since there is no other water exit. The low-pressure pump
circulates the water in the module at a flow rate required by the module
manufacturer for proper operation. Since there is no exit for the salt it will
accumulate within the module and steadily increase the osmotic pressure.
At a pre determined osmotic pressure the valve revolves and relieves the
pressure within the module.
At this state of the valve the two pumps drive the concentrated salt water
out of the module and replace it with fresh seawater. The valve then
revolves again and the operation is repeated.
Pressure release of concentrated salt water by valve revolution does not
waste energy, similarly to the case of the "rotating door" (section 4), since
water is incompressible and does not accumulate energy. However, there
are other energy-losses that will be considered later.
In cyclic operation the high-pressure pump pumps a volume of seawater
equal to the volume of delivered permeate water. In this respect it is
equivalent to continuous operation with an energy recovery device. Only
here there is no such a device. Efficient continuous operation without
energy recovery is achieved with deep sea deslination by reverse osmosis
[14 - 15].
8. Desalination energy, salinity and cycle time in cyclic flow operation
Since the pressure increases with the salt concentration of salt-water within
the module, the work of pumping water through the membrane will be:
W = ∫p∙dV = ∫(Ps + ΔP) ∙dV (10)
where Ps is the increasing osmotic pressure. The over pressure ΔP is
determined by the flow rate of the high-pressure pump ΔP = Frate / Kf.
The salt concentration cs within the module is given by:
cs = csea∙ (V + V0) / V0 (11)
where csea is the salt concentration of seawater, V0 is the salt-water volume
within the module, and V is the delivered permeate water. Since the
osmotic pressure is proportional to the salt concentration it is given by a
similar equation:
Ps = Psea∙(V + V0) / V0 (12)
The work of desalinating a volume V of permeate water will be (by
inserting equation 12 into equation 10 and integration):
W = Psea∙(0.5∙V2 / V0 + V) + ΔP∙V (13)
W = (Psea∙(0.5∙V / V0 + 1) + ΔP)∙V (14)
W = (Psea∙(1 - α / 2) / (1 - α) + ΔP)∙V (15)
Where α = V' / (V' + V0) is the recovery ratio. V' is the volume of permeate
water delivered in one cycle.
In cyclic operation there is no need to connect modules in series. This is an
advantage that leads to higher permeate water throughput.
Salinity, the salt concentration in permeate-water for 1% salt penetration
through a semi permeable membrane, is:
Salinity = 0.01∙ [∫cs∙dV] / V (16)
where cs is the salt concentration of salt water within the module and V is
the volume of permeate water.
cs =(csea / Psea)∙Ps by using equations (10) - (12), therefore:
Salinity = 0.01∙ (csea / Psea)∙ [∫Ps∙dV] / V = 0.01∙ csea ∙ (1 - α / 2) / (1 - α) (17)
The cycle time in cyclic operation depends on the seawater volume within
the module. Using the module dimensions in section 6 its internal volume
is estimated to be 32 liter. Assuming that half of this volume is solid
material, membrane and spacers, and the rest is divided to equal volumes
of salt-water and permeate-water, the salt-water volume will be V0 = 8
liter. This is a coarse estimate.
The permeate-water recovery ratio is α = V' / (V' + V0) , where V' is the
permeate-water delivered per cycle.
V' = Frate ∙ t, where Frate is the permeate-water flow rate and t is the cycle
time. Therefore, the cycle time in seconds is:
t = 60 ∙ (V0 / Frate) ∙ α / (1 - α) (18)
Calculated values of the desalination energy, salinity, cycle time and water
throughput are given in the next section.
The cycle time may be increased by connecting an auxiliary tank in series
to the salt water side of the membrane module. It is also possible to
alternately connect two tanks so that in one tank pressurized water
circulates with increasing salt content while the other tank is flushed with
seawater and vice versa. In this case the membrane module may be loaded
under permanent pressure. Such a system, however, requires the operation
of more valves.
9. Comparison of continuous flow to cyclic flow
The comparison is done for the testing parameter values mentioned in
section 6. Higher values may be applied to practical operation, though they
should not exceed the operating limits.
a. Continuous flow system equipped with 6 modules connected in
series, and with a 100% efficient energy recovery device.
Table 2 summarizes the operation parameters.
Feed Flow
Permeate Flow (liter / min)
Feed (L/min)
1st Module
Water Recovery
α (%)
The table is calculated by the equations:
Ps(1) = Psea (19)
Permeate(i) = Kf ∙ (Ppump - Ps(i)) (20)
Supply(i) = Σ(j = 1 to i) Permeate(j) (21)
Ps(i + 1) = Psea ∙ Feed / (Feed - Supply(i)) (22)
W = Ppump∙V (23)
Salinity = 0.01 ∙ csea ∙ (Σ Permeate(i) ∙ Ps(i) / Psea) / Supply(6) (24)
Ps(i) is the osmotic pressure in the i'th module.
Permeate(i) is the permeate water flow of the i'th module.
Supply(i) is the sum of permeate water flows of the first i modules.
Psea = 27 bar is the osmotic pressure of seawater at 300 K (27o C).
csea = 32 gram / liter is the salinity of seawater.
Ppump is the pump pressure in bars, given in the table.
Kf = 0.57 (liter / minute) / bar is the flow rate factor.
α is the permeate-water recovery ratio.
V is the volume of delivered permeate-water.
V1 is the volume of permeate-water delivered by the first module.
Feed, given in the table, is the water feed flow through a module. Feed is
the same for all modules since they are connected in series.
The work of desalination per 1 m3 of permeate-water is:
W/V = Ppump∙100 (Joule / liter = Watt second / liter) = Ppump∙100 / 3600
(kW hour / m3) (25)
Salinity, the amount of salt in permeate-water is calculated for %1 salt
penetration through semi permeable membrane.
I. The calculation is somewhat inaccurate since it assumes uniform salt
concentration within each module while the concentration does change
within each one.
II. The desalination energy calculated in the table assumes 100% energy
recovery. In practical systems, with lower energy recovery, the
desalination energy will be higher than the table values, and the difference
will increase as the water recovery ratio decreases.
III. Comparison of lines 1 - 3 demonstrates the effect of increasing the
water recovery ratio by reducing the overall feed rate of seawater. Higher
ratio saves pre-osmosis seawater but reduces the throughput of permeate-
IV. Comparison of lines 2 - 4 demonstrates the effect of pump pressure on
the system performance. Higher pressure saves pre-osmosis seawater and
increases the throughput of permeate-water, but also increases the energy
of desalination.
b. Cyclic flow system equipped with 6 modules connected in parallel.
In a cyclic system there is no need to connect modules in series. The
modules are connected in parallel and the flow in each module is 1 / 6 of
the overall flow.
Table 3 summarizes the operation parameters for permeate water supply
similar to table 2.
Feed Flow
Permeate Flow (liter / min)
Pressure (bar)
Feed (L/min)
1 module
α( )
The table is calculated for the pumping period only. The period required to
flush the concentrated salt water in the module and replace it with fresh
seawater is about 10% of the pumping period. Therefore, the overall cycle
is about 10% longer than the table values, and the flow rates per overall
cycle are about 10% lower than the table values.
The Feed and Water Recovery columns are identical to table 2 (except the
last line), so that the two processes are compared for the same permeate-
water recovery-ratio and throughput.
The table is calculated by the equations:
ΔP = (V / 6) / Kf (26)
Pstart =Psea + ΔP (27)
Pend = Ps +ΔP = P sea / (1 - α) + ΔP (28)
W / V = (Psea∙ (1 - α / 2) / (1 - α) + ΔP) / 36 (29)
ΔP is the over pressure that drives water flow through the membrane.
V is the delivered volume of permeate-water.
V1 is the volume of permeate-water delivered by one module.
Kf = 0.57 (liter / minute) / bar is the flow rate factor.
Pstart is the pressure at the start of the pumping cycle.
Psea = 27 bar is the osmotic pressure of seawater.
Pend is the pressure at the end of the pumping cycle.
α = V' / (V' + V0) is the permeate-water recovery ratio.
V' is the volume of permeate water delivered in one cycle.
V0 = 8 liter is the volume of salt water within a module.
W / V is the desalination energy per 1 m3 of permeate-water (equation 15,
section 8).
The permeate water salinity is calculated by equation 17, section 8.
csea = 32 gram / liter is the salt concentration of seawater.
c. Conclusion
Comparison of the two tables indicates that the energy of desalination in
the two processes, operated at similar permeate-water recovery ratios and
throughputs, is practically the same. However, the two processes have
further energy losses not considered in the tables.
In the continuous flow process there is a full permeate-water flow only at
the first module and the flow drops at each successive module. Therefore
the capacity of permeate-water flow is not fully utilized. Compared to that,
in the equivalent cyclic process the modules are connected in parallel and
the permeate-water flow per module is lower than the permitted limit
value. Alternatively (line 5 of table 3), the cyclic process can operate at the
highest permitted permeate-water flow and achieve higher permeate-water
throughput per module, though, at a cost of a higher desalination energy.
10. Difficulties with cyclic flow operation
Apart from variable pressure operation that might wear or even damage the
membrane, other factors should be considered as well. Any part of the
system that accumulates energy will waste it in the cyclic process.
Consider a possible expansion of the high-pressure cylinder that contains
the membrane unit by the pressurized water in it. If the 201 mm diameter
cylinder expands by one millimeter its inner volume will increase by V =
0.4 liter. The energy accumulated in the cylinder is equal to p∙ V / 2 and it
is lost when the pressure is relieved. Inserting
p = Psea = 27 bar, and V = 0.4 ∙ 10-3 m3, the energy will be E = (27 / 36) ∙
0.4 ∙ 10-3 / 2 = 0.15 ∙ 10-3 kW hour per cycle. If a cycle delivers about 8
liters of permeate-water, the energy loss will be 0.15 ∙ 10-3 ∙ 1000 / 8 = 0.02
kW hour per one m3 of permeate water.
Similar loss might come from pressure squeezing of the permeate-water
spacer within the membrane sleeve, and the loss can be calculated in a
similar way. A more rigid spacer material, and possibly, mechanically pre
squeezing the membrane unit within the cylinder, may reduce the loss.
When a number of modules are connected in parallel to one pump it is
important to have similar water flow in each of them to within tight
tolerance. Otherwise, in some modules the replacement of concentrated
salt water with seawater will not be complete, while in other modules there
will be excessive flow and loss of seawater.
The concentrated salt water within the membrane module is replaced by
fresh seawater when the pressure is relieved. During this time permeate
water will start to flow back through the membrane towards the salt-water.
According to specs, the flow rate of salt-water, in parallel to the
membrane, is at least ten times higher than the flow rate of permeate-water
through the membrane. Therefore, the time of seawater replacement will
be about ten times shorter than the time of permeate-water pumping, and
the permeate water loss will be less than 10%. The back flow of permeate-
water is not completely negative since it automatically flushes the
membrane during each cycle.
11. Utilization of the energy accumulated within concentrated salt
Figure-8 presents a scheme for utilizing energy from concentrated salt
Figure-8: Utilizing energy from concentrated salt water.
A low-pressure pump flushes one compartment of a membrane module
with seawater, while a medium-pressure pump pumps concentrated salt
water via the other compartment. The pressurized water drives a turbine
that supplies mechanical energy. The pressure difference that drives water
through the membrane is:
ΔP = Ppump + Psea - Ps (30)
where Ppump is the pump pressure, Psea is the osmotic pressure of seawater
and Ps is the osmotic pressure of the concentrated salt water. If the pressure
difference is negative, ΔP < 0, or, Ppump < Ps - Psea, water will flow from the
seawater side of the membrane towards the concentrated water side. The
volume of water that drives the turbine is then equal to the sum of a
volume V delivered by the pump, and a volume V1 that flows through the
membrane. The work consumed by the pump is Ppump∙ V and the work that
drives the turbine is Ppump∙ (V + V1). Therefore there is a net energy profit
of Ppump∙ (V + V1) - Ppump∙ V = Ppump∙ V1 that comes from dilution of the
concentrated salt water.
The size of a membrane module for utilizing concentrated salt water is
similar to that of a desalination module, and, as seen in figure-8, it has four
different water outlets instead of three. Therefore, addition of salt utilizing
ability to a desalination plant practically means using two different types of
membrane modules and doubling their number. In addition to that the
energy utilizing process consumes more seawater.
Apart from investing in more membrane modules of a type that doesn't
exist yet, the consumption of extra seawater makes energy utilization of
concentrated salt water a non-beneficial process. The same amount of extra
seawater may alternatively be added to a standard desalination system and
save more energy by the reduction of the water recovery ratio. The use of
more seawater in a desalination system reduces the osmotic pressure
within it, and the reduced pressure saves energy consumption in systems
equipped with an energy recovery device, as discussed in section 4.
In summary of this section, there is no benefit in utilizing the (free) energy
accumulated within the concentrated salt water. The same amount of
seawater, required to dilute the concentrated salt, will achieve higher
energy saving by adding it into a standard desalination system, without the
need to invest in extra equipment.
12. Summary and conclusions
A cyclic operated system that does not apply energy recovery devices is
suggested for seawater desalination by reverse osmosis. The desalination
energy, product water salinity and system throughput are comparable to
that of continuous water flow systems that do apply energy recovery
Appendix: Energy recovery efficiency below 100%
Consider a system operating with a water recovery ratio α and with an
energy recovery device of efficiency Ef.
V = α ∙ Vsea is a volume of permeate water and Vsea is the overall volume
of seawater used to produce it. Out of the volume Vsea, a volume V is
delivered by the pump, and the rest of the seawater volume
Vsea - V = V∙ (1 / α - 1) is delivered by the energy recovery device.
The work done by the pump is P ∙ V where P is the pump pressure. For the
volume V ∙ (1 / α - 1) delivered by the energy recovery device there is a
need to add an energy (1 - Ef) ∙ P ∙ V ∙ (1 / α - 1) to compensate for the
incomplete efficiency. Adding together the work of the pump and the
energy added to the recovery device yields:
W = P ∙ V ∙ [1 + (1 - Ef) ∙ (1 / α - 1)] (31)
For example, the work for efficiency Ef = 0.95 and water recovery ratio α
= 0.1 is
W = P ∙ V ∙ [1 + 0.05 ∙ 9] = P ∙ V ∙ 1.45, compared to P ∙ V, for the
efficiency Ef = 1. Therefore, for a recovery ratio of 0.1, a system with 95%
efficient energy recovery device consumes 45% more energy than a system
without any recovery loss.
The minimal desalination energy for recovery without loss is given by
equation 8, P ∙ V = Psea ∙ V / (1 - α). Therefore the minimal desalination
energy for a system including the energy recovery loss will be:
Wmin = Psea ∙ V ∙ [1 + (1 - Ef) ∙ (1 / α - 1)] / (1 - α) (32)
Osmosis Reverse Osmosis and Osmotic Pressure what they are
Desalination machine
Energy of Seawater Desalination
A Pipe of Fresh Water instead of "Canal of the Seas"
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P. Helm, and M. Stohr, Submarine seawater reverse osmosis
desalination system, Desalination 126 (1999) 213 - 218.
On the net: May, revised September 2002, Appendix added January,
references added March 2003.
By the author:
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... The concentrated salt solution leaves the RO module via a pressure control valve. The semi-permeable membrane can block up to 99.5 % of the salt, meaning a little amount of the salt in water penetrates through it [58]. ...
... Basic flow chart of seawater reverse osmosis process[58] ...
In light of the rising carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, there is an urgent need to defossilize the different sectors of the economy. Synthetic carbon-based fuels can play a crucial role in reducing the carbon dioxide emissions in the transport and mobility sector. The key question that arises when substituting fossil fuels with synthetic carbon-based fuels is whether significant carbon dioxide emissions can be saved. This question is addressed in this thesis by applying the life cycle assessment method to the production of a synthetic carbon-based solar MTG fuel. This process is based on electrochemical hydrogen (H2) production and carbon dioxide (CO2) capture from the atmosphere with energy supply from a PV/CSP hybrid solar power plant. The hydrogen produced in an alkaline electrolyser is directly converted with CO2 to methanol, from which the MTG fuel is produced via the methanol-to-gasoline process. Fossil gasoline produced from crude oil in a refinery, is also considered as the reference fuel for the comparison. In this thesis, the entire production pathways of the solar MTG fuel and the fossil petrol are mapped and the various technologies used are presented. The global warming impacts are determined and are used to calculate the carbon dioxide saving potential of the solar MTG fuel compared to fossil gasoline. The results show that the solar MTG fuel has a significantly lower global warming impact than fossil gasoline. The global warming impact of the solar MTG fuel is 15.9 g CO2-equivalent per MJ, while that of fossil gasoline is 85.9 g CO2-equivalent per MJ. This leads to a carbon dioxide saving potential of 81.5 % compared to fossil gasoline. Furthermore, the sensitivity analysis shows that the geographical location where the PV/CSP hybrid solar power plant is built to supply electricity to the downstream processes has a major impact on the environmental burden of the solar MTG fuel.
... The recovery ratio (RR) of a desalination system is defined as the volume of distillate (V D ) that results from a unit volume of feedwater (V F ) expressed as a percentage or decimal [42,43]. The recovery ratio may be expressed as: ...
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The topography and location of many remote islands limit the available freshwater resources present for use by the inhabitants. However, the abundance of solar and seawater resources and small population size makes them ideal candidates for solar still application. A prototype solar still was designed and fabricated for use on such applications; however, for its implementation, a statistical model was developed to assess its productive performance at a pilot location, Dongji Islet. Experiments were conducted to collect data and construct a multivariable regression model by means of the jack-knife procedure and best subsets technique. The model was then used to size the solar still for implementation by applying the TMY data of Dongji Islet. The daily total global solar radiation, average ambient temperature, and extent of cloud cover were found to be the most suitable predictor variables for the model based on their correlation to the productivity of the protype solar still and their p-value. The model predicted a maximum daily yield of 5.88 L/day in July and a minimum of 1.97 L/day in December. In relation to the annual predicted yield, the length of the solar still can be increased by 88.6% in order to satisfy the daily minimum requirement of 7.5 L per day per person.
... Acidification (kg SO 2 ), photochemical oxidation (kg Ethylene), climate change potential (kg CO 2 ), eutrophication (kg PO 4 3− ), and human toxicity (kg 1,4-DCB-Eq) were used as impact categories. According to the data presented in Table 9, LCA results show that regarding all environmental impacts presented, alginate extraction waste (AEW) is more environmental-friendly than activated Gupta et al. (2012) Operation pressure 0.5-2 a bar 0.5-2 a bar 2-17 bar (brackish) 4.5-7.5 bar 1-3.4 bar (Bolisetty et al., 2019;Schaefer et al., 2005;Valero et al., 2011;Lachish, 2010) Water recovery efficiency (%) 100 98 30-80 60-90 80-90 (Giagnorio et al., 2018;of Mines and Technical, 2009;Nicolaisen and Lien, 2003) a In some adsorption and ion exchange vessels and beds, pressure and vacuum have been used for modifying the flux rate (Bolisetty et al., 2019). carbon. ...
Heavy metals are a threat against human health. During the last century, with increased industrial activities, many water resources have been contaminated by heavy metals. Meanwhile the number of scientific studies about removing these toxic substances from aqueous environments has increased exponentially. According to bibliometric analysis the number of articles from 2000 to 2019 experienced a 1700% growth rate. China, India and the United States have published the greatest number of top-cited articles on the topic, with China in first place by a large margin. Six clusters of papers (by topic) were identified. From among the processes such as adsorption, membrane filtration, and ion exchange, adsorption has the lion's share of the investigations. Technical and efficiency considerations, as well as environmental impact and cost-effectiveness, were chosen as criteria to compare different methods. According to life cycle assessment, adsorption has the least amount of negative environmental effects compared to other trending methods such as membrane filtration and ion exchange. From a financial viewpoint, utilizing biosorbents and biochars for adsorption are the best options. Unlike other methods which depend on pretreatment processes and have a high energy demand, these sorbents are cost-effective and exhibit acceptable performance.
... In case of brackish water, the feeds need to be pumped to a pressure of 2-17 bar (30-250 psi). On the other hand, in case of seawater the feed needs to be pumped to a pressure of 40-82 bar (600-1200 psi) [20]. A simplified block flow diagram for RO is shown in Figure 3. ...
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Water is one of the vital commodities that sustains and nurtures our life on earth. Its availability enhances the quality of life and the economy of a community. However, water is an abundant natural resource that covers three quarters of the earth’s surface, but only about 3% of all water sources is potable. Water scarcity crisis emerges as one of the most pressing problems; water stress in some form threats nearly 80 % of the human population, and about 65 % of continental discharge feeds habitats that face moderate to high biodiversity threats. Hence, due to the abundance of saline water where over 97% of the earth’s water is contained in oceans and other saline bodies, seawater desalination has gained importance as an alternative water source in coastal countries where conventional water sources are insufficient or overexploited. Number of desalination technologies have been developed over the years to supplement the global supply of water. The water desalination processes can be characterized into two major types: thermal processes, and membrane processes. The global installed seawater desalination capacity by technology is about 49% and 35% for the thermal and membrane processes respectively. This paper demonstrates a comprehensive and comparative study between the desalination processes and techniques taking into account the energy consumption which is the main challenge that faces the development of seawater desalination technologies. Moreover, this paper provides an estimation for the needed energy by these two processes. In this regard, the study demonstrates the mechanisms that used by these processes to desalinate saline waters. Accordingly, this study shows that the forward osmosis which is a membrane based desalinating technology could be a promising technique to desalinate the seawater where by this technique the energy obstacles could be overcome. This technique is mainly based on using proper solute (draw solution) to draw water from the feedwater, the efficiency of draw solution is the player in enhancing the hydraulic efficiency of the desalination process. Hence, according to this study, the draw solution of MgCl2 is the most hydraulic efficient soliton where it gives an osmotic pressure reaches to 1200 atm (bar) at aconcentration of 5 mole.
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In 2015, as part of the Paris Agreement, world leaders agreed on a definitive climate targets made commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; therefore, nuclear power production is being considered as one of the top candidates to achieve the such due to the fact that nuclear power is sustainable, reliable, and ranks low on CO2 emissions commitments. However, due to the increasing safety requirements, the investment cost for nuclear power plants (NPPs) is continuously rising, which poses a challenge to the use of nuclear power as a game-changer in the climate change drama. Therefore, this chapter discuss the possibility of using nuclear-powered desalination as an alternative for energy storage in nuclear power plants.
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Nearly all reverse osmosis plants operated for the desalination of sea water in order to produce drinking water in industrial scale are equipped with an energy recovery system based on turbines. These are activated by the concentrate (brine) leaving the plant and transfer the energy contained in the high pressure of this concentrate usually mechanically to the high-pressure pump. In the pressure exchange system PES the energy contained in the brine is transferred hydraulically and with an efficiency of approximately 98% to the feed. This reduces the energy demand for the desalination process significantly and thus the operating costs. At the same time this advanced technological approach allows for reducing the size of the high-pressure pump to an amount of feed water equivalent to the amount of permeate produced, saving investment costs. The installation of PES in existing installations with a permeate production of more than 2,000m3/d allows for short amortisation times. The concept of the pressure exchange system PES and the operating data of the demonstration plant installed in the reverse osmosis unit INALSA I on Lanzarote, Spain with a permeate production of 5,000m3/d are presented.
The project presented addresses the strategic topic of providing drinking and irrigation water through seawater desalination via a very energy-efficient and cost-competitive submarine technology. In conventional surface based industrial desalination plants applying the reverse osmosis (RO) technology, the freshwater flow behind the membranes is approximately 20–45% of the inlet seawater flow, depending on membrane type and characteristics. The resulting brine is disposed off into the sea. While state-of-the-art RO installations generate the required pressure with seawater resistant high-pressure pumps, the innovative submarine approach uses seawater hydrostatic pressure. The desalinated water, produced at about atmospheric pressure and collected in a submarine tank at the same working depth, is pumped to the sea surface. This approach saves about 50% of the electricity consumption with respect to an efficient conventional RO plant (about 2–2.5 kWh/m3) since only the outlet desalinated water is pumped instead of the inlet seawater, thus reducing the pumping flow rate by 55–80%. It avoids the pretreatment of the inlet seawater, therefore saving costs for chemicals and equipment.
Apparatus for desalinating salt water
  • R J Raether
R.J. Raether, Apparatus for desalinating salt water, US patent no 5916441 (1999).
Submarine seawater reverse osmosis desalination system By the author: 1Osmosis Desalination and Carnot
  • P Paccenti
  • M De Gerloni
  • M Reali
  • D Chiaramonti
  • S O Gartner
  • P Helm
  • M Stohr
P. Paccenti, M. de Gerloni, M. Reali, D. Chiaramonti, S.O. Gartner, P. Helm, and M. Stohr, Submarine seawater reverse osmosis desalination system, Desalination 126 (1999) 213 -218. On the net: May, revised September 2002, Appendix added January, references added March 2003. By the author: 1. "Osmosis Desalination and Carnot",, December 2012.
Fluid driven pumps and apparatus employing such pumps
  • C Pearson
C. Pearson, Fluid driven pumps and apparatus employing such pumps, US patent no 6203696 (2001).
Apparatus for improving efficiency of a reverse osmosis system
  • R A Oklejas
R.A. Oklejas, Apparatus for improving efficiency of a reverse osmosis system, US patent no 6139740 (2000).
Equipment for desalination of water by reverse osmosis with energy recovery US patent application no
  • R Verde
R. Verde, Equipment for desalination of water by reverse osmosis with energy recovery US patent application no 2001/0017278 (2001).