AdVE desalination pilot plant approved for Laredo

A 50,000 gpd (190,000 L/d) advanced vapor compression desalination (AdVE) pilot plant is to be constructed and operated for the City of Laredo, Texas. The City Council has approved a US$ 1.6 million joint proposal by Terrabon LLC and the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES).

Terrabon announced on 17 March 2009 that the plant is to demonstrate the commercial viability of the new desalination technology, which is claimed to reduce the capital and operating costs of water purification. Engineering work is expected to begin in April, and construction will be completed by the end of the year.

The project is designed to provide fresh water for the residents of Laredo, which is located in a semi-arid area on the Texas-Mexico border. Laredo is approaching the limit for water that can be drawn from the Rio Grande river, and groundwater in the area is either brackish or salty.

“The development of this pilot project is one step in securing and providing water in the future, not only for Laredo, but for the entire state of Texas,” said Laredo City Council Member Gene Belmares.

AdVE was developed as a by-product of Terrabon’s MixAlco technology, an advanced bio-refining process that converts low-cost non-food biomass into biofuels. Both technologies were developed by Mark Holtzapple, a professor in Texas A&M University’s Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering. The AdVE and MixAlco technologies are licensed exclusively to Terrabon by Texas A&M University.

AdVE uses low-cost high-capacity high-efficiency compressors and engines and non-fouling heat-exchangers to desalinate brackish and salty water. The process operates at higher pressures than traditional reverse-osmosis technology and is significantly less expensive to build and operate.

Once constructed, the pilot plant will be operated by American Water Company’s subsidiary, Applied Water Management Inc, acting as a subcontractor to Terrabon. TEES and The Center for Applied Technology (TCAT), a center within TEES, will act as the technology integrator and analyst for the project.