Desalination plays a critical role in solving water security issues.
Over 20,000 desalination facilities worldwide treat over 99 million m3 of water per day – which equals more than 26 billion US liquid gallons or almost 40,000 Olympic swimming pools – providing water for more than 300 million people globally.
While many more water scarce regions stand to benefit from desalination technologies, high energy requirements and costs have limited adoption, as energy alone can account for more than 50% of a desalination plant’s operating cost.
Aquatech International recently partnered with Victoria’s Pani Energy, an artificial intelligence (AI) analytics solution provider for water applications (and former Douglas 10 to Watch winner), to reduce the energy and cost associated with desalination, encouraging adoption of desalination solutions and addressing water security issues.
“By leveraging existing data, systems, and people paired with machine learning techniques, current desalination technologies can be lifted to new standards of efficiency – making water less expensive to produce and delivering affordable, climate resilient water to people and communities in water stressed regions,” said Pani CEO, Devesh Bharadwaj.
The partnership will enhance Aquatech’s proprietary LoWatt® membrane desalination process with Pani’s artificial intelligence platform.
LoWatt is Aquatech’s patented technology for energy efficient and reliable desalination. It is focused on delivering maximum uptime and minimum energy consumption, often reducing energy consumption by more than 25% as compared with seawater reverse osmosis.
“The two biggest pain points of desalination are energy consumption and biological fouling (biofouling), which occurs when tiny organic species collect on, or foul, the membrane. The challenge with plant operation is that once a desalination plant has been designed for certain energy consumption, the level of energy consumption may increase over a period of time mainly due to biofouling and the inability to clean the membrane efficiently. Biofouling is a serious and recurrent problem in seawater reverse osmosis plants as it reduces plant productivity and increases energy consumption, which typically constitutes nearly 40-60% of a plant’s operating costs, “ says Devesh Sharma, Managing Director, Aquatech.
LoWatt is aimed at keeping the membrane surface as clean as possible during operation and includes a variety of process steps that include membrane pretreatment, bacteria deactivation, as well as a chemical-free online cleaning feature. The result is a more reliable plant with lower energy consumption – not only in year one but throughout the plant’s operating life.
Most desalination systems incorporate hardware approaches such as energy recovery turbines or VFDs (variable frequency drives) for energy consumption optimization. In this approach, energy cost savings are calculated to offset the investment in equipment and provide a significant savings over a period of time.
While these hardware-based energy recovery approaches are critical, they are not enough to sustain efficient performance year after year if the biofouling is not addressed as it starts to build up. The LoWatt technology specifically targets operational sustainability through targeting the mitigation of biofouling.
“We are constantly working with our customers around the world to ensure they have a reliable solution for their water needs. While working with desalination plant customers, we found that integrating an intelligent system would further aid them in reaching their energy consumption and site reliability goals. Adding an artificial intelligence (AI) (Pani’s AI Coach™) will help measure the performance of LoWatt technology in real time and take it to the next level with predictive operations. This would allow us to leverage technology and process design to mitigate biofouling before it starts and make changes in the operations “real time” to adapt to the conditions on the ground, such as water variability,” says Sharma.
This partnership, with the aid of artificial intelligence, aims to make a great process technology even better.