New potential markets for the water development sector – desalination and reuse

Nuevos mercados potenciales para el mercado del desarrollo de agua: desalación y reuso

In recent years, there has been incredible growth and development in desalination and reuse thanks to new technologies. The countries of the Middle East have led research and development projects into the possibilities of combining the use of renewable energy with seawater desalination for industrial and/or drinking use. Solar energy is currently at the forefront in this region, though in other parts of the world, encouraging results are also being achieved with the use of wind energy at desalination plants. Abengoa was chosen by Masdar to develop a pilot desalination plant featuring innovative reverse osmosis technology that enables the process to be more sustainable and efficient.

All of these factors, combined with new technologies, have led to incredible growth and development in two new potential sectors in the water market – desalination and reuse.

The desalination market has been one of the leading markets in the water sector for over a decade. To a certain extent, growth in this sector has come at the expense of growth in water reuse.

However, progress in new technologies such as ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet disinfection means that today, we are capable of reaching the required standards for each application; ensuring to the end user the quality and safety of the water obtained by these means.

The Middle East has been the main driver of desalination projects in the world since the 1970s due to the lack of other water resources in the region. In the near future this trend is expected to continue (see figure below).
However, in recent years, this market has shifted from a predominant use of thermal technologies to the use of reverse osmosis (RO) for sea water desalination. The main reason for this change is the decrease in energy consumption of seawater RO plants, which in turn is the result of two main factors, the incremental improvements in membrane technology and the emergence of better energy recovery systems.

Article published in: FuturENVIRO November 2014