Desalination plants with a total capacity of 6 million m³/d are expected to come on line during 2013, a 50% increase on 2012, according to new data from the International Desalination Association and GWI DesalData.

The new capacity takes the total capacity of all 17,277 commissioned desalination plants in the world to 80.9 million m³/d.

An increasing proportion of the growth in capacity is coming from the industrial sector. Since 2010, which exceeded the current figures, 45% of new desalination plants have been ordered by industrial users such as power stations and refineries, while in the previous four years, only 27% of new capacity was ordered by industry.

Industrial applications for desalination grew to 7.6 million m³/d for 2010‑2013 (compared with 5.9 million m³/d for 2006‑2009). Of this, the power industry accounted for 16%; oil & gas ‑ 12% (up from 7% from 2006‑2009); mining & metals ‑ 11%; refining & chemicals, 11%; electronics ‑ 5%; and food & beverages ‑ 3%. Other industrial applications accounted for the remaining 40%.

“Ongoing enhancements in energy efficiency continue to be a key focus for the desalination industry,” said Patricia Burke, IDA Secretary General. “While we have made significant improvements in the past couple of decades, we continue to seek additional ways to reduce energy requirements through development of new technologies, implementation of best practices and/or retrofits in existing plants, increased use of hybrid technologies, and efforts to harness the potential of renewable energy to power desalination plants.”

Seawater desalination continues to represents the largest percentage of online global capacity at 59%, followed by brackish water at 22%, river water at 9%, and wastewater and pure water at 5% each.

China has passed 1 million m³ of desalination as it moves up the top seawater desalination countries by online capacity:

Country – Commissioned seawater desalination capacity (m³/d)
Saudi Arabia – 9,170,391
UAE – 8,381,299
Spain – 3,781,314
Kuwait – 2,586,761
Algeria – 2,364,055
Australia – 1,823,154
Qatar – 1,780,708
Israel – 1,532,723
China – 1,494,198
Libya – 1,048,424

The markets which are expected to see the fastest growth in desalination over the next five years are: South Africa, Jordan, Mexico, Libya, Chile, India and China, all of which are expected to more than double their desalination capacity.

The new Desalination Inventory is being released in the week leading up to the 2013 IDA World Congress, which takes place 20-25 October 2013 in Tianjin, China, where these and other developments will be explored during a four day technical program and the latest technologies will be exhibited.