Steve Alt joined desalination industry experts from around the world at the 2013 World Congress to present on energy recovery devices (ERD). New ERD tool allows utilities to weigh the cost and benefit of incorporating a device to help desalt water.

By: Steve Alt, CH2M HILL Chemical Engineer and Membrane and Desalination Technologist

Steve Alt presented, “Energy Recovery Device Tool”, at the 2013 World Congress, hosted by the International Desalination Association in Tianjin, China last month.

Every two years, the International Desalination Association coordinates a “World Congress” where delegates get together to share information on desalting water. From October 20-25, I visited Tianjin, the 6th largest city in China. Located on the coast and in close proximity to Beijing, Tianjin is the gateway to China’s trade routes and the largest center of industry in north China. The location of the conference was fitting, as the Tianjin region is home to China’s largest seawater reverse osmosis (RO) desalination plant. Over the four day affair, more than 240 presentations were shared with attendees. On behalf of CH2M HILL, I presented on the Energy Recovery Device Tool, which was developed as part of a WateReuse Research Foundation study (WRF-08-14).  Several of my colleagues (Tyler Nading, Jim Lozier, Brock Emerson, Korkud Egrican, and Amanda Kupp) were involved in the development of this tool.

Sample User Interface of ERD Tool

RO is a popular technique to desalt water, and therefore, this presentation proved to be valuable to the international desalination community as the ERD tool makes it easier for utilities to compare and contrast the various device options available on the market today. The tool also allows users to execute a RO projection on any type of feed water, insert five different energy recovery devices into that projection, and compare the CAPEX/payback period and present worth cost associated with each device. Attendees were eager to put the tool to use and asked good questions such as the efficiency of the pelton wheel as one alternative, and what is the schedule for maintaining the tool.

I look forward to attending these conferences, not only to share some of the cool projects and tools that I am working on but to learn from others. This year, numerous papers were presented on other emerging technologies, including: forward osmosis, pressure retarded osmosis, and more. I was particularly impressed by six graduate students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (If this was a glimpse of the perspective future leaders in the field, I think our future is in good hands). One MIT student presented on the potential for a graphene based membrane to substantially lower the CAPEX of desalting plants.

In addition to hearing from the MIT students, I was able to network with many of the attendees. We have so much to learn from one another. It’s a wonderful opportunity to explore opportunities with vendors and device manufacturers (gleaning new insight on their equipment), as well as share valuable best practices with industry leaders, such as David Cohen of Veoila who oversees the operation of Gold Coast seawater desalination plant in Australia. The plant utilizes the DWEER energy recovery device (included in the ERD tool).

Bringing industry experts together to share technology and best practices is vital to moving the industry forward. Many desalination plants are seeing benefits and costs savings by incorporating ERDs. You can learn more about the ERD tool and download it for free on the WaterReuse Association’s website here.

I’m already looking forward to the next IDA World Congress in 2015, which will be held in San Diego.

Steve Alt is a chemical engineer and membrane and desalination technologist with the Water Business Group in CH2M HILL’s San Diego office. He served as the process lead and technical expert for the WRF project.