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Comment Water Treatment

Recovering salt, fresh water and farmland from briny land

By Chemical Engineering |

The rise of the salty water table in many areas of Australia is threatening a large area of agricultural land. In a two-year research, development and demonstration project, scientists have been looking for ways to solve the problem by producing fresh water as a valuable byproduct of salinity mitigation. The Renewable Energy Group of RMIT University’s School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; edlinks.chemengonline.com/6893-540) recently completed a field demonstration in northern Victoria to harness solar-thermal energy to turn seawater and saline groundwater into fresh water.

The group has carried out computer simulations and experimental tests of multi-stage flash (MSF) and multi-effect evaporation (MEE) desalination technologies, and a combined desalination and power generation unit. Although commercial-scale MSF units already produce at least 25 million L/d, and can produce more than 400 million L/d of fresh water from seawater, commercial-scale MEE systems typically produce about 10 million L/d; however, MEE systems are likely to involve lower costs per liter and use less energy," says group leader John Andrews.

The group constructed a 3-effect (3-cylinder) experimental MEE plant capable of producing 2,400 L/d of fresh water. Modelling predicted a recovery ratio of 55-60% with a specific thermal energy of about 900 kJ/kg. The main innovative features of the group’s MEE plant are that it operates at temperatures lower than the usual 100°C, and that it incorporates a few additional heat recovery stages, using a forward-feed (cascading) configuration. This tends to optimize heat recovery. Andrews believes the MEE system has the best commercial potential, and the group is engaged in discussions with potential industry partners for commercial production.

 

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