Home\Educate\Water Reuse 101\Research Projects\Year\2012\Feasibility Study of Offshore Desalination Plants

Feasibility Study of Offshore Desalination Plants

Project: 06-10 (Phase B)
Year Released: 2012
Type: White Paper

Program: Principal
Funding Partners: Bureau of Reclamation, California State Water Resources Control Board
Total Investment: $55,365.14 (Cash: $49,727.89, In-Kind: $5,637.25)

Principal Investigator: Roger Noack, P.E., HDR Engineering, Inc.

Background

Forecasts of the state of global water supplies and future water demands have prompted water planners in many parts of the world to look to new technologies and nonconventional water resources.

Goals and Objectives

The project provides an in-depth technical and economic feasibility analysis of the principle offshore desalination design concepts including a comparison between mobile vessel and fixed platform offshore facilities and how they compare to land based facilities.

Research Approach

This project was completed in three tasks. Task 1 involved the development of a literature review of offshore desalination including a comprehensive summary of process technologies, regulatory considerations, energy requirements, economics, and life cycle costs. Information collected in Task 1 was used to select two offshore desalination options, mobile vessel and fixed platform, that were further evaluated in the Task 2 feasibility analysis. Planning level cost estimates of offshore seawater desalination were calculated based on assumptions in the mid-range of anticipated conditions. During Task 3 the data gathered in the previous tasks was reviewed and the final report was prepared for submission to the WateReuse Foundation for review.

Findings and Conclusions

The report concludes that desalination is likely to become an indispensable component of global and national water management portfolios as populations increase and access to reliable water sources decreases. Desalination technologies have improved and matured in recent years and can reliably provide high-quality water, but operational, economic, and environmental drawbacks persist. Research and proposals to move desalination facilities offshore have gained momentum in an effort to address some of these challenges. Mobile vessel and platform-based systems are at various stages of development. Both facility configurations have the potential to mitigate impacts related to source water supply and concentration management, thereby simplifying the permitting process. Moving desalination facilities offshore also provides the added benefit of preserving shoreline land resources for other purposes and minimizing aesthetic impacts.

The energy requirements of desalination technologies present a significant barrier to development. Providing energy to an offshore facility further increases the complexity of this challenge. An offshore treatment facility could be powered by traditional energy sources such as connection to the onshore electrical power grid, onboard power generation via diesel generators, or connection to offshore fossil fuel terminals. Renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and wave power, among others, are also candidate power supplies, especially given the abundance of these resources in an offshore environment.

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