Israel scales up Reverse Osmosis Desalination to slash costs with a fourth of the piping

The traditional criticism of reverse-osmosis technology is that it costs too much. The process uses a great deal of energy to force salt water against polymer membranes that have pores small enough to let fresh water through while holding salt ions back. However, Sorek desalination plant in Israel will profitably sell water to the Israeli water authority for 58 U.S. cents per cubic meter (1,000 liters, or about what one person in Israel uses per week), which is a lower price than today’s conventional desalination plants can manage. What’s more, its energy consumption is among the lowest in the world for large-scale desalination plants.

Sorek sets significant new industry benchmarks in desalination technology, capacity and water cost. It provides clean, potable water for over 1.5 million people, comprising 20% of the municipal water demand in Israel

Sorek Overview

Capacity: 624,000 m³/day (26,000 m³/hour)
Technology: Reverse Osmosis (RO)
Project Type: Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT)
Location: Sorek, Israel
Footprint: 100,000 m² (10 ha)
Commission Date: 2013

Technological leadership – innovative design incorporating vertical arrangement of 16” membranes in a large-scale facility, resulting in a reduced footprint hence saving costs. Also utilizes IDE’s proprietary Pressure Center Design, Double Line Intake and ERS (Energy Recovery System) for increased efficiency and reduced energy consumption

The Sorek plant incorporates a number of engineering improvements that make it more efficient than previous RO facilities. It is the first large desalination plant to use pressure tubes that are 16 inches in diameter rather than eight inches. The payoff is that it needs only a fourth as much piping and other hardware, slashing costs. The plant also has highly efficient pumps and energy recovery devices. “This is indeed the cheapest water from seawater desalination produced in the world,” says Raphael Semiat, a chemical engineer and desalination expert at the Israel Institute of Technology, or Technion, in Haifa. “We don’t have to fight over water, like we did in the past.” Australia, Singapore, and several countries in the Persian Gulf are already heavy users of seawater desalination, and California is also starting to embrace the technology. Smaller-scale RO technologies that are energy-efficient and relatively cheap could also be deployed widely in regions with particularly acute water problems—even far from the sea, where brackish underground water could be tapped.

Earlier in development are advanced membranes made of atom-thick sheets of carbon, which hold the promise of further cutting the energy needs of desalination plants.

Haaretz reports that since 2005, Israel has opened four desalination plants, with a fifth set to go online later this year. Isreal is getting an increasing Over 40 percent by this year, 50% by 2016 and hit 70 percent in 2050.

Sorek can provide a typical families water needs for about $300 to $500 a year.

SOURCES- IDE-tech, Technology Review, Haaretz