Masdar picks four firms to test new desalination techniques

Abu Dhabi clean energy company, Masdar, has selected four international water technology firms to test techniques that could reduce the energy intensity of desalination and lead to a large renewably powered water purification station.

Spain’s Abengoa, Degrémont and Veolia from France, and Trevi Systems from the USA will run four small-scale plants in the emirate at Ghantoot, 90 km north-west of the capital for 18 months from next January. They will test a series of new techniques in clean water production to pave the way for the construction of a large-scale desalination plant that can be powered by renewable energy.
Associate director, asset management, engineering and operations at Masdar, Mohammed El Ramahi, said the trials could revolutionise the industry. “The objective of this programme is to mitigate the risks associated with the deployment of a large, utility-scale plant that utilises the latest innovation and cutting-edge technology in desalination,” he said. “To mitigate that risk we need to pilot these technologies.”
He said the exact amount of water that Abu Dhabi would need by 2020 was still uncertain but gave an `’indicative figure`’ of at least 500 million litres a day.
With a capacity of about one million litres a day, Abengoa is building the largest of the four pilot plants. Veolia is building a facility with a capacity of 300,000 litres a day, while Degrémont’s plant will have a capacity of 100,000 litres a day.
The facilities by these three large companies will test improvements on advanced and already established desalination technologies. Veolia, for example, will use on reverse osmosis. The pilot facility will look to integrate two separate processes, filtration and dissolved air flotation, that purify sea water before it is pumped through the membranes.
The much smaller, California-based Trevi Systems, will build a 50,000 litres a day plant based on rarely used forward osmosis, a process in which chemicals are used to pull water through membranes. It reduces energy use by eliminating the need to put the water under pressure to get it through the membranes, thus reducing energy use.