Desal Directions February/March 2016

Posted on 15 March 2016

From the CEO

Sharon Humphris (NCEDA COO) and Keith Cadee (NCEDA Chairman) at the Rockingham CRC Research Program forum on 17 February 2016.

Sharon Humphris (NCEDA COO) and Keith Cadee (NCEDA Chairman) at the Rockingham CRC Research Program forum on 17 February 2016.

Looking to the future

This week the Victorian government decided to turn on the taps at the Desalination Plant at Wonthaggi by ordering 50 gigalitres a year. This will serve to take some pressure off the city’s storages and ensure there is uninterrupted supply for Melbourne’s burgeoning population. As Victoria’s water storages fall rapidly once again, courtesy of the El Niño effect in the Pacific Ocean, some media commentators, politicians and economists continue to complain about the cost of using the plant. When it is idling, it costs Victorians an average of $1.8 million a day (more than $600 million a year) in service payments to the private operator, Aquasure. The cost of producing about 50 gigalitres a year will not be much more: about $27 million this financial year, rising to about $30 million on average for the next few years. That equates to about $12 per household per year which, in my view, is a small amount to pay to ensure supplies are consistent.

You may be aware that the federal government’s Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) programme was opened for expressions of interest for Round 18 on 1 February and the deadline for submission is 31 March 2016. I am working with industry partners and collaborators to develop a bid for the “Future Water” CRC that will broaden the focus from desalination to a collaborative research program that will seek to solve problems and develop future water sources from otherwise impaired water. Major themes are expected to include water solutions for people, agriculture and industry.

As part of the preparation for the EOI, the NCEDA recently held stakeholder forums in Adelaide, Perth and the Northern Territory in order to seek a broad spectrum of inputs and ideas into the development of this bid and how it might best be refined. Industry and government stakeholders who we felt had a lot to contribute in affirming and clarifying the objectives and challenges regarding “Future Water” in Australia were invited. The purpose of the forums was to garner as much information as possible from industry on the water-related challenges they face, so that the research foci of the CRC is squarely driven by industry needs.

A good turnout at all three events generated plenty of meaningful discussion and the ideas generated will be very useful in enabling the Centre to produce a credible and competitive expression of interest.

Please get in touch if you think that your organisation would benefit from participation in the proposed CRC centre.

Neil Palmer

Chief Executive Officer
0417 996 126

In this issue

Desalination’s “hidden assets”

Sydney Desalination Plant. Photo courtesy of Sydney Water

Sydney Desalination Plant. Photo courtesy of Sydney Water

Renewable hydropower generated at desalination plants and other existing infrastructure could bring economic and environmental benefits to Australia’s biggest cities, according to research findings from Griffith University.

From studies focused on Warragamba Dam – Sydney’s main water reservoir – Griffith scientists said their findings indicated new options for urban water and energy management.

Project leader Dr Oz Sahin, from Griffith University’s School of Engineering and Climate Change Response Programme, said there was particular merit in integrating infrequently used desalination plants into city water supply networks and planning agendas. “Integrated asset management using existing infrastructure is a calculated way of meeting the need for more efficient water management, including flood mitigation and water and energy storage,” he said.

The research demonstrated advantages in broadening the role of desalination plants, many of which have spent extended periods on standby said Dr Sahin. “Just because circumstances mean the plants are spending long periods on standby, doesn’t mean they cannot be used in other beneficial ways.” Dr Sahin said desalination plants were “hidden assets” that should be considered by government, industry and the water and power planners of our major cities.

“This research shows that building more dams isn’t necessarily the key to water security, but that it is better to consider what infrastructure is already there and how it can be used. For example, desalination plants can generate renewable hydropower for those times of peak demand in our cities by increasing supply during those hours,” Sahin said.

Co-authors of the research paper in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Professor Rodney Stewart (Griffith University School of Engineering), Professor Damien Giurco (University of Technology Sydney) and NCEDA-funded researcher Professor Michael Porter (Deakin University) – said their findings revealed multiple opportunities for Sydney.

“Sydney’s interdependent goals of deferring capital intensive flood storage works, maintaining water security, better utilising existing desalination and hydropower assets, and increasing renewable energy generation, can be achieved through applying systems thinking to a complex city-wide water planning problem.”

Sundrop Farms recognised by its peers on an international stage

Sundrop Farms state-of-the-art greenhouse facility in Port Augusta, South Australia

Sundrop Farms state-of-the-art greenhouse facility in Port Augusta, South Australia

Sundrop Farms have been declared winner of the Tomato Inspiration Award 2016. The 100 most innovative tomato growers in the world came together in Berlin on 4 February for the 3rd edition of the Tomato Inspiration Event. The winner was voted for by the attendees who were asked to choose a nominee that inspired them the most.

Sundrop Farms chief executive officer Philipp Saumweber accepted the prestigious industry award, saying “We believe that being recognised by our peers for Tomato Inspiration Award 2016 is not just recognition of ‘Sundrop Farms the company’, but rather, is a far bolder recognition for people in food, energy or water insecure regions of the world to grow food sustainably, using abundant and renewable resources. This award was about re-thinking agriculture.”

Sundrop Farms is a developer, owner and operator of high tech greenhouse facilities that rely on nature’s abundance of sunlight and saltwater to produce high-value crops. This year Sundrop Farms will open a 20 hectare state-of-the-art greenhouse facility in Port Augusta, South Australia.

The site will include four 5ha controlled greenhouses, a desalination plant and solar field comprising of a 115 metre high tower and more than 23,000 mirrors reflecting the sun’s energy. The 20 hectare site will be the first of its kind globally, employing approximately 175 people and producing more than 17,000 tonnes of tomatoes annually using solar power, seawater and natural pest management.

NCEDA Researcher Profile – Dr Gayathri Naidu

Dr Gayathri Naidu with Professor Saravanamuth (Vigid) Vigneswaran at UTS

Dr Gayathri Naidu with Professor Saravanamuth (Vigid) Vigneswaran at UTS

Tjuntjuntjara Remote Inland Indigenous Community Solar/Waste Energy Groundwater Desalination Lead Investigator – Dr Trevor Pryor, Murdoch University with University of Technology Sydney, WA Department of Housing, Parsons Brinckerhoff, memsys clearwater (Singapore), Institute of Filtration and Techniques of Separation (France), Singapore Membrane Technology Centre.

Gayathri Naidu is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University Technology Sydney (UTS) currently working under the ARC project “Metal Recovery from Seawater Reverse Osmosis Brine”. Dr Naidu specialises in the area of membrane distillation, scaling and fouling analysis as well as pre-treatment. She received her PhD at UTS under the supervision of Prof. Saravanamuth (Vigid) Vigneswaran.

Dr Naidu’s PhD research included working on the NCEDA-funded “Tjuntjuntjara Remote Inland Indigenous Community Solar/Waste Energy Groundwater Desalination” project. This research project originated from the needs of the Tjuntjuntjara community, located 800 km northeast of Kalgoorlie. The project aimed to develop a suitable and sustainable desalination system for providing drinking water in remote areas, with a strong focus on reliability. A cost-effective hybrid solar/waste thermal system was developed to power an innovative thermal vacuum multi-effect membrane distillation (MD) desalination system so as to overcome the problem of intermittency of renewable energy resources.

The experience greatly enhanced Dr Naidu’s technical knowledge on the application of pilot scale MD systems for remote areas and was especially rewarding as the practical test run for the pilot plant system was carried out on-site in Tjuntjuntjara. She believes that the practical knowledge and fundamental theories garnered during this project have proved invaluable in her current research projects on MD applications at UTS. Her research work on the NCEDA-funded project was published in engineering journals and presented in international conferences and she won the FEIT research showcase Best Presentation Award in 2013. UTS also published a news article about Dr Naidu’s work.


• Naidu, G., et al. (December, 2014). “Application of vacuum membrane distillation for small scale drinking water production.” Desalination 354(0): 53-61.

• Naidu, G., et al. (August, 2014). “Organic fouling behavior in direct contact membrane distillation.” Desalination 347(0): 230-239.

• Naidu, G., S. Jeong, S. Vigneswaran and S. A. Rice (January, 2013). “Microbial activity in biofilter used as a pretreatment for seawater desalination.” Desalination 309(0): 254-260.

• Pryor, T. (June, 2012). “Tjuntjuntjara Solar/Waste Heat Energy Groundwater Desalination Project” NCEDA Research Showcase, Presentation.

Recent Publications

iStock_000016118121Small graduation mortarboardThe following journal articles were published:

  1. Leong, J., J. Tan, A. Heitz, and B. P. Ladewig. 2016. Use of vibratory shear enhanced processing to treat magnetic ion exchange concentrate: A techno-economic analysis. Desalination 383:46-52.
  2. Rahimi, B., K. Regenauer-Lieb, H. T. Chua, E. Boom, S. Nicoli, and S. Rosenberg. 2016. A novel flash boosted evaporation process for alumina refineries. Applied Thermal Engineering 94:375-384.
  3. Rahimi, B., J. May, A. Christ, K. Regenauer-Lieb, and H. T. Chua. 2015. Thermo-economic analysis of two novel low grade sensible heat driven desalination processes. Desalination 365:316-328.
  4. Rahimi, B., K. Regenauer-Lieb, H. T. Chua, E. Boom, S. Nicoli, and S. Rosenberg. A novel low grade heat driven process to re-concentrate process liquor in alumina refineries. Hydrometallurgy.
  5. Reis, R., L. F. Dumée, L. He, F. She, J. D. Orbell, B. Winther-Jensen, and M. C. Duke. 2015. Amine Enrichment of Thin-Film Composite Membranes via Low Pressure Plasma Polymerization for Antimicrobial Adhesion. ACS Appl Mater Interfaces 7 (27):14644-14653.
  6. Sahin, O., R. A. Stewart, and M. G. Porter. 2015. Water security through scarcity pricing and reverse osmosis: a system dynamics approach. Journal of Cleaner Production 88 (0):160-171.
  7. Sun, J.-Z., G. Peter Kingori, R.-W. Si, D.-D. Zhai, Z.-H. Liao, D.-Z. Sun, T. Zheng, and Y.-C. Yong. 2015. Microbial fuel cell-based biosensors for environmental monitoring: a review. Water Science and Technology 71 (6):801-809.
  8. Xiong, J., S. Agarwala, M. Y. Tan, and M. Forsyth. 2015. The Restoration of the Passivity of Stainless Steel Weldments in Pickling Solutions Observed Using Electrochemical and Surface Analytical Methods. Corrosion 71 (10):1248-1256.
  9. Yacou, C., S. Smart, and J. C. Diniz da Costa. 2015. Mesoporous TiO2 based membranes for water desalination and brine processing. Separation and Purification Technology 147:166-171.
  10. Zhang, P., P. Knötig, S. Gray, and M. Duke. 2015. Scale reduction and cleaning techniques during direct contact membrane distillation of seawater reverse osmosis brine. Desalination 374:20-30.
  11. Zhang, P., P. Knötig, S. Gray, and M. Duke. 2015. Scale reduction and cleaning techniques during direct contact membrane distillation of seawater reverse osmosis brine. Desalination 374:20-30.

Forthcoming events

Water Conference10th Global Water Summit – 19-20 April 2016, Abu Dhabi, UAE

WaterVent – Funding in the Water Nexus – 21-22 April 2016, Philadelphia USA

OzWater16 – 10-12 May 2016, Melbourne

Desalination for the Environment, Clean Water and Energy – 22-26 May 2016, Rome

Singapore International Water Week – 10-14 July 2016, Singapore

IWA World Water Congress and Exhibition 2016 – 9-13 October 2016, Brisbane.

9th IMSTEC 2016 – 5-8 December 2016, Adelaide

International Water Summit – 16-19 January 2017, Abu Dhabi

Other News

iStock_000005180337LargeAre new daily targets needed to reduce our water use?

Drought forces Australia to rethink desalination

Will Victoria’s desalination plant need to get bigger?

Let the Wonthaggi desalination plant waters flow

Study offers new options for urban water and energy management

Melbourne’s desalination plant is just one part of drought proofing water supply

The NCEDA’s 2014-2015 Annual Report now available for download.

Gold Industry Sponsors

The NCEDA is grateful for the generous support of our Gold Industry Sponsors.

Valoriza Water Australia       Osmoflo       GHD

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