Energy and Capital: Water Desalination Companies Offer Solution to Supply Strain
... From Bloomberg:
“Water right now is a strain on this planet more than carbon,” Dow Chemical Co. (DOW) Chief Executive Officer Andrew Liveris said in an interview this month in London. “We mismanage water terribly. It's going to be a big issue.”
But one method is growing as a way to tackle the issue.
According to Global Water Intelligence, desalination is set to become a $17 billion industry by 2016. Just this year, it jumped to $8.9 billion from $5 billion last year. And as even more water is demanded for energy processes like fracking, it will nearly double in four years.
Desalination equipment turns ocean water into fresh water. The process, according to Bloomberg, dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, but it was not to become an industry until post-World War II. The first plant in the U.S. was located in Freeport, Texas and built by Dow Chemical Co. (NYSE: DOW) in 1961.
The process of reverse osmosis, using a membrane to remove salt, was used in the 1990s. Though it still costs ten times as much as traditional water sources, the cost was reduced by half since its conception to $1 per cubic meter.
The majority of the world's desalination plants are currently in the Middle East. There are 30 plants in China and eight in India, though both nations have more planned for the near future.
While traditional distillation remains the most common technique, reverse osmosis still has about 45% of the distillation market. But a new process in the works called forward osmosis cuts down on the amount of heat and energy necessary for the process, and it could reduce the cost by 30% according to Modern Water Plc (LON: MWG), a company that uses the process. ...
In a related story from Process and Control Engineering: Desalinate sea water using 50 percent less energy
Instead of using reverse osmosis, which requires high-pressure pumps to force water through semi-permeable membranes, the Siemens engineers turned to electrochemical desalination.
As a result of an R&D initiative that commenced in October 2008, a demonstration plant was built in Singapore to treat seawater to drinking water quality. The results show that the new process reduces desalting energy by over 50 percent compared to best available technology. The next step for Siemens is to set up a full-scale system in cooperation with Singapore's national water agency PUB by 2013.
However, to desalinate it for potable use is an extremely energy-intensive process. "Our new technology marks a revolution in seawater desalination," said Ruediger Knauf, Vice President of Siemens Water Technologies' Global R&D.
"The results of our pilot facility show that the new process not only functions in the laboratory but also on a larger scale in the field. Because of its high energy efficiency and thus good CO2 footprint, electrochemical seawater desalination can play a major role in regions suffering from freshwater shortages." ...