Concentrate management

Concentrate management represents the most pressing challenge of all desalination technologies with regard to disposal in a non-ocean environment, and is a key barrier to inland deployment. The Centre seeks to remove this barrier to desalination for inland Australia through effective reuse or disposal. The Centre’s concentrate management projects include:


Evaluation of vibratory shear membrane technology for concentrate minimisation and brine recovery/recycling

Primary Investigator: A/Prof. Jeffrey Charrois, Curtin University
Research Participants: Curtin University, Orica Watercare, Water Corporation, Monash University, New Logic Research, University of Texas El Paso
Funded by: National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australia
Total project value: $1,511,000

A key factor slowing the adaption of desalination treatment technologies is the management of concentrate produced from desalination processes. A novel and innovative membrane technology for concentrate management is currently used for industrial wastewater applications; however there is minimal information on the application of this technology for the treatment of reverse osmosis concentrate. In this project, a full-scale automated demonstration unit will be installed to treat brine waste produced from an ion exchange process. The project will also combine the membrane technology with other waste minimisation technologies to achieve a zero liquid discharge system.

Management of brine disposal into inland ecosystems

Primary Investigator: A/Prof. Ray Froend, Edith Cowan University
Research Participants: Edith Cowan University, The University of Western Australia, Water Corporation, industry partners
Funded by: National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australia, Water Corporation
Total project value: $1,406,000

Inland disposal and/or use of brine ‘waste’ from desalination plants and groundwater pumping is a significant management issue in Australia and globally. The remote location of inland desalination or dewatering plants often limits the options for beneficial use of brine. Consequently, brine disposal into naturally saline or secondary salinised waterways is frequently considered the only economically viable means of disposal. This multi-staged project aims to evaluate brine discharge using an ecosystem services perspective, and develop and test protocols and guidelines for the management of brine in inland aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.


Reverse osmosis brine management by membrane distillation crystallisation

Primary Investigator: Prof. Stephen Gray, Victoria University
Research Participants: Victoria University, CSIRO
Funded by: National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australia
Total project value: $605,000
Date completed: October 2012

Desalination is a widely used technology in the world to meet the increasing demand for fresh and clean water. The main operation used in the conventional desalination process is reverse osmosis (RO). However, a key challenge imposed by desalination by RO is the brine management and disposal issue because the current membranes reach a water recovery and produce liquid brine reject. For inland desalination, the standard approach to manage this reject is the use of evaporation ponds. While evaporation ponds are a simple technology, they come at a significant capital cost as lined evaporation ponds are required by state environmental protection agencies. Membrane distillation (MD) is potentially able to decrease the size of the evaporation ponds and increase water recovery. The current challenges in developing an MD process are: 1) the module design, 2) systems and protocols to clean the membranes and 3) process design for efficient energy use. This project would seek to address all these aspects, and to do so by demonstration on an industrial RO brine concentrate. Additionally, a brine crystalliser for zero liquid discharge will also be trialled.


Silica removal from groundwater for reverse osmosis water recovery enhancement and waste brine volume reduction

Primary Investigators: Dr Peter Sanciolo and Prof. Stephen Gray, Victoria University
Research Participants: Victoria University, Hatch, Origin Energy, University of Texas El Paso, Minara Resources
Funded by: National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australia, Origin Energy, Minara Resources
Total project value: $327,000
Date completed: December 2012

This project will investigate the opportunity to achieve high water recovery (above 95% of the feed flow) and low waste brine volumes (less than %5 of the feed flow) in the reverse osmosis desalination of bore water using an interstage treatment to remove silica – one of the major scale precursor species present in the bore water. The proposed process is based on literature studies that have shown that it is possible to generate RO brines with silica concentrations of approximately 1000 mg/L without silica scale formation. For groundwater containing 100 mg/L silica, this would equate to a 90% water recovery. It is proposed that the remaining brine concentrate be further treated by precipitation and coagulation, and/or adsorption onto activated alumina, and/or seeded precipitation to further allow RO treatment of the brine and thus achieve water recoveries above 95%.



Transverse vibrational motion enhanced submerged hollow fibre membrane crystallizer

Primary Investigator: Prof. Vicki Chen, The University of New South Wales
Research Participants: The University of New South Wales, Singapore Membrane Technology Centre
Funded by: National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australia
Total project value: $606,000

Membrane distillation crystallisers (MDC) provide a promising alternative to recover high quality water as well as valuable precipitates from brackish to hypersaline waters. However the technical challenges to large scale implementation include controlling heat mass and heat transfer to mitigate concentration polarisation and fouling and reduction of energy usage. Recently, we have shown that low frequency, small displacement, transverse vibrational motion is highly effective in controlling cake formation in membrane bioreactors by providing shear directly to the membrane surface. In this project, a novel design combining a submerged hollow membrane distillation configuration with transverse mechanical shear  will be studied to control temperature polarisation as well as fouling and crystal detachment on the membrane surface. The potential for a single vessel reactor/crystalliser will be explored as well as the potential to better utilise renewable energy sources.

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