How can seawater be most efficiently converted to drinking water?
By 2025, it is estimated that five and a half billion people - two-thirds of the world’s population - will live in countries that are classified as ‘water stressed’. A growing population, changing diet and increasing production of bio-fuels will put intolerable pressure on depleted water resources with implications for global security, health and lifespan.
New sources of fresh water, such as desalination, are therefore essential, and also represent significant export opportunities for technology-based UK companies.
The manipulated osmosis (MO) technique developed by Prof Adel Sharif at the University of Surrey’s Centre for Osmosis Research and Applications converts seawater to drinking water through a process combining forward osmosis and reverse osmosis. The process uses around 30% less energy than conventional desalination and lowers the consumption and disposal of hazardous chemicals
In 2005, Professor Adel Sharif was awarded the Royal Society’s Brian Mercer Award, and the subsequent funding helped to build a pilot-scale desalination plant at the Guildford campus. In November 2006, Surrey Aqua Technology Ltd was formed as a university spin-out to develop the MO technology, and in June 2007 it was incorporated into Modern Water plc, an AIM-listed UK company.
Modern Water now has two desalination plants in operation - a proving plant in Gibraltar and a commercial-scale plant at Al Najdah in Oman completed in September 2012. This plant is being operated by Modern Water, and supplying high quality water to the region. The novel osmosis technology has also been proven by Modern Water for use in evaporative cooling systems in Oman, converting difficult water sources to high quality make-up water at a fraction of the cost of other technologies, removing the need to use other, more costly and scarce water resources.
Modern Water’s desalination plants have delivered substantially lower operating costs by reducing energy use by up to 30%, with higher availability than conventional reverse osmosis plants, and reduced chemical consumption. The evaporative cooling plant has been proven to reduce power consumption, and associated opex and capex, by over 50%.
Neil McDougall, Executive Chairman of Modern Water plc, commented: “We are proud of the successes we have achieved in taking these technologies from the lab to commercialisation in a short timescale.”
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