Water, an essential element for life, make up 71% of the planet’s surface. Paradoxically, only 3.5% of this water is suitable for human consumption, to be found in lakes, rivers and springs to supply our physical and hygienic needs. The remaining 96.5%, located in seas and oceans, is not drinkable due to its high level of salinity.
How to harness this inexhaustible source of life? The technology of water desalination makes it possible. Man has devised many systems to convert sea water into drinking water and be able to provide the population with difficulties with access to fresh water.
Seawater desalination capacity worldwide reached around 100 million m3/day in 2015. Advances in efficiency and reduction in energy consumption have been crucial in proving desalinated water can be an important source of fresh water. Now the challenge is to improve further on the technology’s competitiveness.
The main aim of the Department of Research and Development at ACCIONA Agua in the area of desalination is to develop innovative technologies and processes to achieve improved energy efficiency. The ultimate objective is to produce clean water at the lowest energy and environmental cost. ACCIONA Agua R&D projects in the area of desalination focus on each and every process in a desalination plant, and aim in turn to develop new high-efficiency processes that consume as little energy as possible.
ACCIONA Agua is working on the development of a highly innovative, efficient flotation system, the ULTRADAF-EVO. This system will act when algae is in full bloom and provoking operational problems in the reverse osmosis process. Energy efficiency will be improved with respect to conventional systems thanks to better design and the inclusion of nanotechnology.
Another project is the development of a membrane-based pretreatment called HIFLUS, a process that will work at high flows and in problematic operational conditions while maintaining high levels of energy efficiency.
Also related with pretreatment is the VETRA project, focusing on the development of a wide portfolio of processes that can be used for the treatment of wastewater from the washing operations that are performed in desalination plants. The objective is to obtain high levels of water recovery at low energy consumption.
A good example of this type of project is the HYDROBIONETS that is developing a wireless sensor that can measure in real time the degree and rate of formation of membrane fouling
ACCIONA Agua is also working on the development of real-time control systems. A good example of this type of project is HYDROBIONETS, which consists of the development of a wireless sensor to measure the real-time rate and degree of membrane soiling. This will permit the operation of reverse osmosis systems in real time so that energy efficiency can be increased while controlling and preventing soiling.
Finally, the company is also working on the process of REMINERALIZATION. The aim of this project is to develop a post-treatment process that will achieve high levels of calcium while producing a high-quality effluent in turbidity terms.