Desal Directions – June 2016

Posted on 28 June 2016

From the CEO

The NCEDA - Seven Years of innovation and Impact, Sydney, 9 June 2016

The NCEDA – Seven Years of innovation and Impact, Sydney, 9 June 2016

Approaching the end of the journey

It is with sadness that we present the last edition of Desal Directions before the completion of funding through NCEDA’s Agreement with the Australian Government on 30 June. The Centre will formally wind up in late September following finalisation of all projects and submission of our final report.

Much has happened since the Hon. Gary Gray turned the first sod at the Rockingham Desalination Research Facility on 23 July 2010. At the recent final project review meeting in Sydney “The NCEDA – Seven Years of Innovation and Impact” I was pleased to outline the Centre’s considerable achievements. Two of our committee members who are based in the USA, Tom Pankratz and Tom Hinkebein, made the long trek to attend the meeting. We were also pleased to have Mary Colreavy from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources open the program. Thanks also to Dr Michelle Akeroyd, Director of the Goyder Institute for Water Research in South Australia and Dr Mark O’Donohue, CEO of our sister Centre the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence for supporting the event. We were pleased to have members of our Board and Advisory Committees, industry participants and researchers in the audience.

A fascinating program presented by representatives of the Centre’s Participating Organisations provided more detail about what has been achieved in building Australian desalination capacity.

Whilst of course it is sad to see the Centre begin the wind up process, there are exciting possibilities for the future. A proposal coordinated by Murdoch University and chaired by Prof. Don Bursill, has been lodged for a Future Water Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for a broader program of water technology research and development with new industry & academic participants, as well as some existing NCEDA partners. The new entity sets out an agenda for industry and researchers to develop new water technologies and management solutions for Australia’s impaired water resources to be used for economic benefit. Its focus will be on agribusiness, mining and mineral processing, energy and regional communities. Its vision is for climate-independent, affordable and fit-for-purpose water to be available whenever and wherever it is needed.

In respect of the forthcoming Federal Election, it is pleasing to see the Coalition has reviewed and freshly committed to the CRC program and the Labor Party has committed additional funding to science and research should they be elected.  Concern is growing about the future of water, food and energy for the planet’s increasing population and it is reassuring that there is bipartisan support in Australia for research and innovation.

In closing I should like to heap praise on my Centre colleagues – they are the best team that I have ever had the privilege to work with. It has also been an honour to work with Chairman Keith Cadee who has led such a forward thinking Board and such competent Research and Commercialisation Advisory Committees, so ably chaired by Rhett Butler and Larry Lopez.

Neil Palmer

Chief Executive Officer
0417 996 126

In this issue

The NCEDA holds its final review meeting

Tom Pankratz leads a panel discussion on desalination market and technology trends - Sydney 9 June 2016

Tom Pankratz leads a panel discussion on desalination market and technology trends – Sydney 9 June 2016

On 9 June the NCEDA held a final review of its research project program. During the one-day event held in Sydney, presentations summarising the research conducted at each of the 14 Participating Organisations were given.

The event opened with a video presentation by Professor David Furukawa, the Centre’s inaugural Chief Scientific Officer who sent his message to delegates from his home in San Diego, USA. The program was moderated by the Chair of the Board, Keith Cadee. The NCEDA’s CEO Neil Palmer provided a synopsis of the organisation’s accomplishments, noting, “The NCEDA developed a research roadmap that has guided Australian desalination research for seven years and built a $5 million pilot-scale test facility to support that research at Murdoch University in Western Australia. Fifty research projects were funded – these were spread amongst the 14 Australian Participating Organisations and involved 400 Australian and international researchers. The Centre also collaborated with 30 international organisations and launched a top class operator training course that is on-going.

“However, NCEDA’s most important legacy may be that it provided 42 bright young students with top-up scholarships to study desalination-related topics, and reached out to 4,000 secondary school students to teach them about the importance of water and introduce them to desalination.”

A panel of experts moderated by Tom Pankratz, the editor of the international Water Desalination Report and comprising Professor Tony Fane (UNSW & Singapore Membrane Technology Centre), Bruce Biltoft (Evoqua Water Technologies) and Graham Dooley (Osmoflo & NCEDA Director) discussed their view on future directions in the desalination industry.

Tom Pankratz said that in future coastal cities around the world will routinely have seawater desalination as part of the water supply portfolio. There will be more smaller, decentralised plants which will have less environmental risk and lower permitting costs. There will be more brackish water reverse osmosis to address emerging contaminants and with higher recovery options. It is likely there will be more point of use membrane applications in households. Tom thinks that spiral wound reverse osmosis membranes will continue to dominate the market in the medium term and while the energy efficiency is probably near to bottoming out, use of renewable energy will become more common. Costs are unlikely to come down significantly, although Tom observed that the recent White House summit was hoping to reduce unit cost of seawater desalination to $US0.50 per kL.

Graham Dooley spoke about external challenges such as climate change, population growth and the inability of water and sewerage systems to cope, the expense of large desalination plants, local solutions and the increasing fiscal challenge being faced by Governments. In respect of finance, Graham advised that pension funds the world over are looking for sound long-term investments and water infrastructure is increasingly attractive.

Tony Fane said that in 50 years desalination and reuse will be common with capacity 1000 to 10,000 times more than at present. Membranes will still be centre stage with ultra permeable membranes being developed. He expects ion channel technology to be more common – taking the salt out of water rather than pushing fresh water out of saline solutions. Hollow fibres have better hydrodynamics than spiral wound and can minimise energy, but there is a lower limit according to the laws of thermodynamics. Tony thinks that the generation of energy through energy gradient techniques (osmotic pressure and reverse electrodialysis) will become more common, and pioneering work by Enrico Drioili is leading the way toward “mining” concentrate for valuable minerals and compounds.

Bruce Biltoft talked about low pressure membranes (ultrafiltration and microfiltration). The cost is already competitive with media filtration and it will further reduce as the technology develops. With increasing energy costs, life cycle analysis suggests the net present value of the energy over the life of membrane is becoming more expensive than the membrane cost. Evoqua worked with the Singapore Government (PUB) to develop an electrochemical process which desalted seawater for 1.6 kWh/kL – this is now being commercialised.

The event concluded with a presentation from Professor Don Bursill that outlined the proposal for a new Future Water Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).

The NCEDA would like to thank everyone who attended the event, especially the researchers or their representatives who gave presentations.

NCEDA Researcher Profile – Dr Bijan Rahimi

Dr Bijan Rahimi, previously of The University of Western Australia

Dr Bijan Rahimi, previously of The University of Western Australia

Development of Novel Low Heat Driven Desalination Technology

Lead Investigator – Professor Hui Tong Chua, The University of Western Australia

Low‐grade heat driven desalination plants provide solutions for water needs in remote and rural communities as well as remote mine sites for both drinking and mineral refining. In many such instances reverse osmosis systems cannot supply the desired freshwater owing to various factors such as extremely high salinities, presence of toxins from mine wastes, natural geological resources and radioactive deposits and lack of available electrical power. These limitations do not apply to the Multi‐Effect Distillation (MED) process since it is an established low‐grade heat driven technology that can deal with any contaminants and salinity levels.

Dr Bijan Rahimi was supervised by Professor Hui Tong Chua in this project and received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Western Australia in April 2016. His thesis was entitled, A Novel Flash Boosted Multi-Effect Distillation Process, which is related to a novel heat driven distillation process that can be used in seawater desalination and waste heat recovery in mineral, petrochemical, oil and gas industries.

Before moving to Australia in 2011, Dr Rahimi received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Thermo-Fluid Mechanical Engineering in Iran and in the years 2006 to 2011 worked in Iranian chemical, petrochemical and oil and gas industries in the field of waste heat recovery, measurement instrumentation and control valves.

After completing his Ph.D. in Australia, Dr Rahimi returned to his home country to work in the water and energy sector in the areas of seawater desalination and waste heat management. He is currently a research leader at the Institute of Water and Energy (IWE) at Sharif University of Technology (SUT). IWE was founded in 1967 to coordinate research efforts on water and energy and optimisation alternatives compatible with the technical and socio-economic realities of the country.

Dr. Rahimi’s research team at IWE is building and testing a novel low grade sensible heat driven desalination pilot plant and collaborating on the construction of the first desalination research and technology roadmap for Iran. During his Ph.D. program, Dr Rahimi published 4 peer reviewed journal articles, 2 peer reviewed conference papers and one patent (WIPO). He also collaborated with the R&D team at the Worsley Alumina Refinery on a waste heat recovery project.

Osmoflo’s Marc Fabig AWA’s Water Professional of the YearMarc Fabig

Co-founder and Director of Osmoflo, Marc Fabig has been awarded the Water Professional of the Year award by the Australian Water Association. Mr Fabig’s contribution to the water sector was celebrated at the Ozwater 2016 Gala dinner in Melbourne alongside Osmoflo colleagues and various industry professionals. The award honours individuals who have displayed passion and commitment to the water industry, while also demonstrating leadership and influence. Marc’s contribution to the industry both in Australia and globally over the past 30 years was recognised in addition to his leadership of Osmoflo and strong focus on innovation.

“It is an honour to receive the Water Professional of the Year Award,” Mr Fabig said. “I would like to thank everyone involved with Osmoflo over the past 25 years who have helped contribute to the successes of the business, and in turn this award.”

Marc has been a loyal and supportive stakeholder in the NCEDA. Osmosflo was one of three leading industry organisations that supported the Desal Discovery Centre’s work in community engagement and desalination education by generously committing $100,000 over five years, as well as in-kind support. This valuable direct engagement with industry allowed the Centre to keep abreast of developments in the desalination industry and to remain informed about projects and the challenges encountered in their successful delivery.

The NCEDA congratulates Marc on receiving this well-deserved recognition for his contribution to the water industry.

First harvest from Sundrop Farms

Solar field at Sundrop Farm in Port Augusta, South Australia

Solar field at Sundrop Farm in Port Augusta, South Australia

The first tomato harvest has started at Port Augusta’s Sundrop Farms, bringing to fruition plans to grow vegetables on the edge of the desert using seawater and sunlight. The greenhouse-grown tomatoes will be sold in select Coles supermarkets across SA, Victoria and NSW. The supermarket will sell them for about $5.90kg – loose and unbranded – in a trial marketing program.

Sundrop Farms founder Philipp Saumweber said that the company will ramp up production in the coming months to a full commercial harvest from its 20ha of greenhouses. Under an exclusive contract the farm will produce at least 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes annually for Coles for at least the next decade.

“We are absolutely delighted that the greenhouse facility is nearly commissioned and we are delivering the tomatoes to our partner, Coles,” Mr Saumweber said.

“The feedback from the ‘first tasters’ has been incredibly positive and we consider our tomatoes to be a better product, better for the planet and for people.”

Recent Publications


The following journal articles were published:

1. Jamieson, T., A. V. Ellis, D. A. Khodakov, S. Balzano, D. A. Hemraj, and S. C. Leterme. 2016. Bacterial production of transparent exopolymer particles during static and laboratory-based cross-flow experiments. Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology 2 (2):376-382.

2. Le Lan, C., A. V. Ellis, T. Jamieson, A. J. Blok, D. A. Hemraj, L. Allais, S. Balzano, and S. C. Leterme. 2015. Analysis of raw and pre-treated seawater for potential biofouling precursors. Desalination 373:71-78.

3. Shutova, Y., B. L. Karna, A. C. Hambly, B. Lau, R. K. Henderson, and P. Le-Clech. 2016. Enhancing organic matter removal in desalination pretreatment systems by application of dissolved air flotation. Desalination 383:12-21.

4. Teusner, A., G. Blandin, and P. Le-Clech. 2016. Augmenting water supply by combined desalination/water recycling methods: an economic assessment. Environmental Technology:1-9.

The following theses were received:

1. Compas, H. 2013. Assessment of the microbial communities along the pre-treatment of the Penneshaw desalination system in relation to environmental conditions, School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University.

2. Prévost, A. 2015. Potential inhibitor of biofouling for reverse osmosis membranes of desalination plants, School of Biological Science, Flinders University.

3. Solomon, A. 2015. Pseudo-nitzschia spp and Phaedactylum.tricornutum culture, characterisation and baseline study of their biofouling in reverse osmosis (RO) membranes via Transparent Exopolymer Particles (TEP) formation using a laboratory ‘model operating system’ to simulate seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination systems, School of Health Sciences, Flinders University.

4. Wimalasiri, Y. D. 2015. Novel graphene-based materials for capacitive deionisation and super capacitors, Centre for Water Management and Reuse, University of South Australia.

Forthcoming events

Singapore Water Week

Singapore Water Week

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

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

9th International Desalination Workshop: Sustainable Desalination  – 28-30 November 2016, Abu Dhabi

International Forward Osmosis Summit 2016 – 2-4 December 2016, UTS, Sydney

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

American Water Summit – 6-7 December, Miami, USA

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

Other News

Dubai. Photography Larry Shaw

Dubai. Photography Larry Shaw

Sydney and Melbourne have been declared the eighth and 11th most sustainable urban water cities in the world

Dubai to open the world’s first solar powered desal plant

Desalination Capacity Rises to 140 Million m3/Day in 2020 as Green Energy Expands Viability

Aussie cities among world’s most sustainable

Water Corporation weighs options for climate independent water

Feeding nine billion people

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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