ABOUT DESOLINATION

Context

Water is fundamental to humanity. However, according to the United Nations World Assessment Programme (UNESCO, Paris 2015), around 40% of the population will experience water scarcity by 2030.

This is mainly due to the fact that only 3% of global water reserves are available as freshwater, with seawater accounting for the remaining percentage.

With this in mind, it is clear that desalination could play a key role, given the large amount of salt water on Earth.

Renewable energies are the key to achieving a zero-carbon economy and halting climate change. In 2019, solar energy accounted for around 11% of the world’s total renewable energy production, and its power generation capacity has increased by 16% since 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

These results are promising, but we need to do more.

To reach the EU’s target, solar power generation and other renewable energy technologies must become more efficient and less costly.

Our objectives

Watch the video presenting our project ↓

While the use of heat for desalination has been studies for centuries, recent technologies development have emphasised its main issue: competitiveness.

DESOLINATION will tackle this issue by developing an innovative process coupling Concentrated Solar Power (or CSP) and forward osmosis desalination technologies for a coupled production of  renewable electricity  and freshwater.

The innovative solutions will be demonstrated in real conditions in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, first on an existing system and second on a next-generation one.

To achieve this, our team will use forward osmosis (osmotic pressure) to induce a flow of seawater towards a draw solution. On its way, the water will pass through a membrane that will only let freshwater through, but will block salt. Using waste heat from the concentrating solar power plant, the diluted solution is heated until the fresh water can be recovered through a second membrane.

Expected Impacts

Optimise the coupling between the CSP and the desalination process

The DESOLINATION will focus on optimizing the waste heat recovery of the CSP to drive the draw solution recovery method. Using the inputs from WP2 (CSP thermal cycle optimization for desalination) and 3 (Optimised desalination using CSP heat), the obstacles to the integration of both the solar and desalination independent systems will be talked in WP4, where modelling and optimization studies of the integrated process will be performed.

The integration scheme will ensure that the independently high performing cycles can be efficiently combined to reach high production of pure water and electricity.

Develop new supercritical CO2 power cycle to fit desalination purposes

During the DESOLINATION project, innovative CO2 blends will be developed to optimise the efficiency of the power cycle and fit the required parameters of temperature and pressure of the power cycle’s turbomachinery. Specific heat exchangers will also be designed to fit the particular materials, temperature and pressure requirements of the cycle. Using the know-how on sCO2 gathered from previous H2020 projects, the different components will be first independently modelled and tested at lab-scale. The resulting methodology will provide optimisation strategies to demonstrate both the higher efficiency of the sCO2 power cycle, as well as the efficient coupling of the power cycle to the desalination system.

Develop a complete control system of the coupled CSP+D plant

Control systems are important aspects of power generation plants and even more so for integrated systems such as the DESOLINATION final demonstrator. The digital twin of the coupled CSP+D plant developed in DESOLINATION will ensure the integration scheme is in line with the final distributed control system. While the CSP and desalination systems are first independently developed, the integration scheme is key to reach the efficient combination of the final plant. The distributed control system (DCS) will provide a real-time control mechanism for the efficient operation and monitoring of the overall plant. Based on a multilayer control strategy that integrates each component’s individual control and an optimal operation strategy, the DESOLINATION DCS system will manage the complete system and be adapted to the existing and next generation power cycles as well as to the desalination plant.

The tests performed on the demonstrators in KSU will validate that the control system methodology is reliable.

Develop a complete control system of the coupled CSP+D plant

Control systems are important aspects of power generation plants and even more so for integrated systems such as the DESOLINATION final demonstrator. The digital twin of the coupled CSP+D plant developed in DESOLINATION will ensure the integration scheme is in line with the final distributed control system. While the CSP and desalination systems are first independently developed, the integration scheme is key to reach the efficient combination of the final plant. The distributed control system (DCS) will provide a real-time control mechanism for the efficient operation and monitoring of the overall plant. Based on a multilayer control strategy that integrates each component’s individual control and an optimal operation strategy, the DESOLINATION DCS system will manage the complete system and be adapted to the existing and next generation power cycles as well as to the desalination plant.

The tests performed on the demonstrators in KSU will validate that the control system methodology is reliable.

Develop new supercritical CO2 power cycle to fit desalination purposes

During the DESOLINATION project, innovative CO2 blends will be developed to optimise the efficiency of the power cycle and fit the required parameters of temperature and pressure of the power cycle’s turbomachinery. Specific heat exchangers will also be designed to fit the particular materials, temperature and pressure requirements of the cycle. Using the know-how on sCO2 gathered from previous H2020 projects, the different components will be first independently modelled and tested at lab-scale. The resulting methodology will provide optimisation strategies to demonstrate both the higher efficiency of the sCO2 power cycle, as well as the efficient coupling of the power cycle to the desalination system.

Optimise the coupling between the CSP and the desalination process

The DESOLINATION will focus on optimizing the waste heat recovery of the CSP to drive the draw solution recovery method. Using the inputs from WP2 (CSP thermal cycle optimization for desalination) and 3 (Optimised desalination using CSP heat), the obstacles to the integration of both the solar and desalination independent systems will be talked in WP4, where modelling and optimization studies of the integrated process will be performed.

The integration scheme will ensure that the independently high performing cycles can be efficiently combined to reach high production of pure water and electricity.

Develop innovative separation membranes for the hybrid forward osmosis-membrane distillation process

Membranes are the centre of all the stages of the desalination process, nanofiltration (NF) pre-treatment, Forward Osmosis (FO) and Membrane Distillation (MD) processes. In DESOLINATION, modelling and small-scale testing activities will target the optimization of all steps of hybrid membrane separations. First, NF membranes will be used to reduce fouling and scaling effect in FO. Then, the FO separation membrane will be fine-tuned to ensure control over high water flux in combination with low reverse flux from the draw to the feed solution and thus maximize the efficiency and use of the osmotic pressure difference between the seawater and the draw solution. Lastly, the MD separation membrane needs to optimize the removal of pure water from the draw solution and must therefore be adapted to the chemical and physical properties of the draw solution designed for thermal heat recovery, as well as to the temperature and pressure conditions required for the VMD recovery process.

Develop enhanced draw solution for improving FO and draw solution recovery using CSP waste heat

The necessary process of draw solution (DS) recovery is a key aspect of the DESOLINATION project, as the waste heat from the CSP power cycle will be used to separate the fresh water from the DS. Indeed, after the forward osmosis step, the draw solution needs to be regenerated and separated from the water. DS regeneration is a costly and energy-intensive process that can be controlled by fine-tuning the CSP recovered waste heat to ensure its optimal use as energy source for this process. This can be achieved by defining specific parameters of the draw solution, to maximize its adaptability to the CSP waste heat energy source.

Develop brine treatment solutions to improve the global environmental impact of desalination processes

As the aim of the desalination plant is to extract as much pure water from seawater as possible, one necessary outcome is the obtaining of an extremely concentrated brine. The more efficient the desalination process, the more concentrated the outcoming brine and, therefore, the higher the environmental impact.

To decrease this impact, the DESOLINATION project integrates brine treatment as one of its top priorities. The target is a substantial reduction of the environmental footprint of the brine rejection and the development of a valorization strategy of the extracted materials. The international cooperation with the GCC countries involved in the project will provide EU partners with insightful knowledge of the composition of the local seawater to develop the necessary treatment.

Develop innovative separation membranes for the hybrid forward osmosis-membrane distillation process

Membranes are the centre of all the stages of the desalination process, nanofiltration (NF) pre-treatment, Forward Osmosis (FO) and Membrane Distillation (MD) processes. In DESOLINATION, modelling and small-scale testing activities will target the optimization of all steps of hybrid membrane separations. First, NF membranes will be used to reduce fouling and scaling effect in FO. Then, the FO separation membrane will be fine-tuned to ensure control over high water flux in combination with low reverse flux from the draw to the feed solution and thus maximize the efficiency and use of the osmotic pressure difference between the seawater and the draw solution. Lastly, the MD separation membrane needs to optimize the removal of pure water from the draw solution and must therefore be adapted to the chemical and physical properties of the draw solution designed for thermal heat recovery, as well as to the temperature and pressure conditions required for the VMD recovery process.

Develop brine treatment solutions to improve the global environmental impact of desalination processes

As the aim of the desalination plant is to extract as much pure water from seawater as possible, one necessary outcome is the obtaining of an extremely concentrated brine. The more efficient the desalination process, the more concentrated the outcoming brine and, therefore, the higher the environmental impact.

To decrease this impact, the DESOLINATION project integrates brine treatment as one of its top priorities. The target is a substantial reduction of the environmental footprint of the brine rejection and the development of a valorization strategy of the extracted materials. The international cooperation with the GCC countries involved in the project will provide EU partners with insightful knowledge of the composition of the local seawater to develop the necessary treatment.

Develop enhanced draw solution for improving FO and draw solution recovery using CSP waste heat

The necessary process of draw solution (DS) recovery is a key aspect of the DESOLINATION project, as the waste heat from the CSP power cycle will be used to separate the fresh water from the DS. Indeed, after the forward osmosis step, the draw solution needs to be regenerated and separated from the water. DS regeneration is a costly and energy-intensive process that can be controlled by fine-tuning the CSP recovered waste heat to ensure its optimal use as energy source for this process. This can be achieved by defining specific parameters of the draw solution, to maximize its adaptability to the CSP waste heat energy source.

Develop a roadmap to higher TRLs and build a strong market uptake and exploitation strategy

Using ACSP and other local partners of the industrial board’s strong implementation in the region and their expertise in both CSP and desalination plants, the DESOLINATION partners will ensure that a clear line of evolution from the end TRL 6 to TRL 9 will be defined. Indeed, for the system to efficiently tackle the carbon emissions of desalination plants, the objective is to ensure the replicability and market uptake of the final demonstrators. The involvement of strong industrial groups in the consortium will ensure that the DESOLINATION development meets the criteria and requirements for the commercialisation of the system.

Validate the technology through energy-efficient demonstrators in real environment in Saudi Arabia

The final demonstrators developed in DESOLINATION will be built and tested. The integration of both existing and next generation CSP cycles will be implemented in the King Saudi University facility to allow testing in a real environment. Two phases of tests (transient-state and long-term) will be run on each cycle and will validate the modelled parameters and the expected energy-efficiency of the demonstrators. The objective of the tests is to validate the integration strategy from the heat recovery system to the draw solution recovery method as well as its adaptability to different power cycles. Moreover, the next generation of power cycle will be validated as an efficient coupling to produce both renewable electricity to the grid and sufficient water production to be competitive with other desalination systems. The LCOE and LCOW of the final systems will be compared to state-of-the-art plants.

Ensure the replicability potential of the DESOLINATION system in GCC countries

Based on the knowledge of GCC partners included in the consortium, the DESOLINATION technology will be tested in the specific environmental conditions of the region, such as the very high TDS ratio seawater of Bahrain, which UOB has experience in studying. This will allow the system to be adapted to local conditions and to increase replicability to other sites in Gulf countries. Moreover, the innovations brought to the power cycle with the integration of CO2 blends and adapted, thus smaller, turbomachinery, as well as the work in the integration scheme optimization, target a strong CAPEX reduction of the plant. The final system will therefore not only be energy-efficient but also more cost-competitive than other solar desalination plants, which provides better conditions for its replicability.

Ensure the replicability potential of the DESOLINATION system in GCC countries

Based on the knowledge of GCC partners included in the consortium, the DESOLINATION technology will be tested in the specific environmental conditions of the region, such as the very high TDS ratio seawater of Bahrain, which UOB has experience in studying. This will allow the system to be adapted to local conditions and to increase replicability to other sites in Gulf countries. Moreover, the innovations brought to the power cycle with the integration of CO2 blends and adapted, thus smaller, turbomachinery, as well as the work in the integration scheme optimization, target a strong CAPEX reduction of the plant. The final system will therefore not only be energy-efficient but also more cost-competitive than other solar desalination plants, which provides better conditions for its replicability.

Validate the technology through energy-efficient demonstrators in real environment in Saudi Arabia

The final demonstrators developed in DESOLINATION will be built and tested. The integration of both existing and next generation CSP cycles will be implemented in the King Saudi University facility to allow testing in a real environment. Two phases of tests (transient-state and long-term) will be run on each cycle and will validate the modelled parameters and the expected energy-efficiency of the demonstrators. The objective of the tests is to validate the integration strategy from the heat recovery system to the draw solution recovery method as well as its adaptability to different power cycles. Moreover, the next generation of power cycle will be validated as an efficient coupling to produce both renewable electricity to the grid and sufficient water production to be competitive with other desalination systems. The LCOE and LCOW of the final systems will be compared to state-of-the-art plants.

Develop a roadmap to higher TRLs and build a strong market uptake and exploitation strategy

Using ACSP and other local partners of the industrial board’s strong implementation in the region and their expertise in both CSP and desalination plants, the DESOLINATION partners will ensure that a clear line of evolution from the end TRL 6 to TRL 9 will be defined. Indeed, for the system to efficiently tackle the carbon emissions of desalination plants, the objective is to ensure the replicability and market uptake of the final demonstrators. The involvement of strong industrial groups in the consortium will ensure that the DESOLINATION development meets the criteria and requirements for the commercialisation of the system.

Horizon 2020

What is Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020).

Funding available

billion €

Research & Innovation programme

billion €

After Horizon 2020?

The Commission has published its proposal for Horizon Europe, an ambitious €100 billion research and innovation programme that will follow Horizon 2020.