LIFE+REMEMBRANE: End-of-life recovery of reverse osmosis membranes

The main objective of the LIFE+REMEMBRANE project is the recovery of reverse osmosis membranes, used in desalination plants, at the end of their service lives, after between 5 and 10 years in operation. What is now considered to be waste, with disposal and replacement costs of around €400 per module, will be converted into a valuable product for reuse.

There are currently over 14,000 desalination plants in operation in 100 countries. Reverse osmosis technology is used to produce 60% of the volume of water generated in these facilities (GWI DesalData/IDA, 2013).

LIFE+REMEMBRANE proposes a demonstration plant in which different mechanical and chemical treatments are used to recover these membranes. Once recovered, the membranes can be used in the same desalination process or in other reverse osmosis applications in which water of lower quality is required. The applications initially considered are those set out in Royal Decree R.D. 1620/2007 governing reclaimed water, which stipulates that tertiary treatment and disinfection is necessary for certain uses:

  • Urban uses: Residential and Services.
  • Agricultural use: Crop irrigation.
  • Industrial uses: Cooling towers and evaporative condensers.
  • Recreational uses: Ornamental fountains, irrigation of golf courses and gardens, etc.
  • Environmental uses: Aquifer recharge.

Article published in: FuturENVIRO November 2014