Thursday, July 8, 2010

Quenching your Thirst with the Sea

A report from Israel 21C tells of an Israeli company not more than 30 minutes from where I live, making seawater potable for millions of people worldwide, with 400 desalination plants in 40 countries, producing 2,000,000 cubic meters of water a day.

A worker at IDE's desalination plant in Ashdod, which has been operating since 2005 (Photo: - courtesy Israel 21c)

Champagne glasses containing the finest fresh water were raised in a toast last month to celebrate the opening of Israel's third desalination plant, this one in the northern city of Hadera. Lauded as the largest reverse osmosis desalination facility in the world, the plant that takes water from the Mediterranean Sea and makes it safe to drink is expected to produce 127 million cubic meters of water each year - enough to meet the water needs of one in every six Israelis.

Created with an investment of nearly half a billion dollars, the plant was built by IDE Technologies, an Israeli company that has already built two seawater desalination plants on the country's Mediterranean Sea coastline.

It was the government that put in place the plan to create the desalination plant, to meet the demands of a growing population and an imperiled water supply, dependent almost entirely on winter rainfall.

In a 25-year agreement with the government and with its full blessing, the water will be produced at just over 50 cents per cubic meter. IDE's first desalination plant, built on the coast in Ashkelon, has been performing well since 2005, according to company reports. There is a third plant at Palmahim, just south of Tel Aviv, and two more are planned along the coast, in Ashdod and Soreq.

A new era of cheap water?

"The success of the mega-desalination plant concept has ushered in a whole new era of plentiful, affordable water for a world facing severe water challenges," says IDE Technologies CEO, in a press statement. "With the launch of the Ashkelon plant in 2005, we pledged to continue pursuing further breakthroughs in plant capacity and water cost."

IDE boasts technological breakthroughs in the fields of thermal and membrane desalination, and also, perhaps surprisingly for a country in the Middle East, in snowmaking. In desalination, the salt is removed from seawater using a process called Reverse Osmosis (RO) one of two ways to use desalination membranes to process water. In RO, water from a highly pressurized salty solution is channeled through a water-permeable membrane to separate it from its salty component. The second approach is via a process called electrodialysis.

The new desalination plant at Hadera is the largest in the world, and is expected to produce enough water for one in six Israelis.

Shmulik Shai, general manager of H2ID, the Hadera desalination plant, told ISRAEL21c that for the past five years Israel has been facing a severe shortage in its three main sources of water: The Sea of Galilee, its mountain aquifer and its coastal aquifers. Below the red line in terms of volume and nitrates, if the country doesn't find a solution now, these sources could be damaged indefinitely, he warns.

"The balance of rainwater is not good enough," says Shai. If there's one short season of rain and a spike in population, Israel's semi-arid climate could find itself with a "chronic shortage problem," he continues. And while 70 percent of the country's water is supplied by rain that falls in the winter months, there are periods of drought in Israel when the rain does not come down at all. To make things worse, rainfall is not evenly distributed, he remarks.

The new plant will furnish a good portion of the 750 million cubic meters of water that Israelis require for personal use, he tells ISRAEL21c. And among the desalination technologies that the Hadera plant utilizes are those developed by IDE, including new processes and new mechanisms, such as how to pressurize the water. To date, IDE has constructed some 400 desalination plants in 40 countries, with a total water output of 2,000,000 cubic meters per day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

waiting for next post