Furukawa notes red-tide lessons

Clear messages need to be taken from the recent workshop on red tides held in Oman, according to veteran desalter David Furukawa, chief scientific officer of the Australian National Centre for Excellence in Desalination (NCEDA).

NCEDA co-sponsored the workshop in February 2012 with the Middle East Desalination Research Center and the King Abdullah University of Science & Technology of Saudi Arabia. Furukawa’s conclusions appear in the 5 March 2012 edition of NCEDA’s Desal Directions.

“It appears that toxins are not the major issue, but rather biomass that affects desalination plant operations,” Furukawa writes. “With the many varieties of ‘critters’ involved in the problem, it is a challenge to identify those which are of most interest.”

Lessons that need to be noted, he said, were:

1. Industry badly needs a real-time monitoring tool that is effective for detecting algal blooms

2. There is no published data yet on real-life operation of desalination plants during toxin-producing algal blooms

3. Compound transformation during desalination, through the impact of chlorine and flocculants, needs to be defined

4. While red tides usually exist on the surface, the bloom can move up and down in the water column, meaning that a deep-water intake does not necessarily prevent drawing biomass into a plant.