Desalination of seawater by combined cycle
Chapter 1 5
1.0. Introduction 5
1.1. Problem Statement 6
1.2. Description of multi-flash distillation 6
1.3. Project objectives 7
1.4. Justification of the study 8
1.5. Project outline 8
Chapter 2 9
2.0. Literature Review 9
Chapter 3 15
3.0. Methodology 15
Chapter 4 16
4.1 MSF heat consumption 16
4.1.1. Heat equation 17
4.2. Data comparison 17
4.3. Ways of improving the efficiency of multi-stage flasher 18
Chapter 5 21
5.1. Discussion and Recommendation 21
Appendix 1 25
Most desalination facilities in the world use the multi-stage flash system to purify water for human consumption. The system is heavily reliant on constant heat supply leading to the high consumption of heat energy. To fix the problem, plant operators reuse the steam generated by the system to produce electricity to run pumps installed in some sections of the unit.
The purpose of the study was to describe ways of making the MSF seawater desalination facilities around the world more energy efficient and highly productive at the same time. Also, the project sought to analyze the consumption of heat in the MSF unit in a bid to make the system more heat efficient.
Systematic review of literature was used to collect empirical evidence for the study. The approach allows the author to examine materials relevant to the investigation. Also, the study limited itself to searching and reviewing literary articles on the subject that are not more than seven years old. Furthermore, the study utilized Google to search for the materials using keys words identified for the study.
The study found that it is possible to reduce the heat consumption rate of the MSF unit and improve its efficiency. The study recommends that altering the design of the MSF plant, changing materials used in the heat exchange area, and utilizing fluidized bed exchange (FBE) technology to improve the system’s efficiency. The paper concludes that MSF desalination is an excellent way of purifying water and its use should be encouraged.
Depletion of natural resources such as water is one of the challenges facing contemporary economies and the current generation. Governments have turned to sustainable means of resource utilization to slow down the depletion of resources and replace the depleted resources. Shortage of water is one of the challenges facing many countries, and particularly the historically arid areas like the Middle East. However, water shortage is not primarily limited to the dry regions, as regions that used to have sufficient access to water provided by rivers and lakes are suddenly suffering the same fate of water shortage. This shortage is attributable to the dramatically changing weather patterns characterized by erratic rainfall, more extended dry periods, and population growth that have increased upstream water use, hence reducing downstream water reach (Pleis, 2015).
As the availability of freshwater diminishes across the world, desalination of seawater has been adopted as a sustainable means of increasing access to clean potable water in countries experiencing the shortages. Desalination of seawater is one of the strategies that have been widely adopted in turning seawater to fresh potable and uncontaminated water. Desalination refers to the process through which minerals and sat and get extracted from saline seawater with the aim of making the water clean and drinkable (Logan, 2017). There are various types of desalination, including vacuum distillation, vapor compression distillation, reverse osmosis, freeze-thaw, multi-stage flash distillation, and multi-effect distillation among others. However, desalination methods are mostly criticized for excess energy consumption, the cost of infrastructure and maintenance, and cogeneration (Pleis, 2015).
Multi-stage flash desalination, MSF involves the evaporation and separation of seawater through a series of partial evaporations (Baig, Antar & Zubair, 2011). The seawater is distilled through a series of countercurrent heat exchangers. According to Logan (2017), MSF produced approximately 60% of freshwater from the saline seawater. This method has however been criticized for its energy consumption, inefficiency, and cogeneration, factors that have significant effects on the environment. MSF consumes a lot of energy due to the several series of distillation that the saline water goes through, which requires a considerable amount of energy
1.1. Problem Statement
While MSF desalination is the most common water purification procedure, nations using it have realized that most MSF facilities have a high heat consumption rate. The increased consumption rate of energy makes the desalination plant inefficient and unproductive. The study seeks to explore ways that the desalination plants using MSF technology can reduce their heat consumption capacity and make the make the seawater desalination procedure efficient. The paper holds the claim that purification of seawater can be significantly improved when the MSF facilities use the combined cycle to produce the required energy for the plant.
1.2. Description of multi-flash distillation
Multi-stage flash distillation is a common desalination method that involves flash evaporation of portions of water into steam through a series of multiple stages and heat exchangers (El-Ghonemy, 2017). The desalination plant contains a set of spaces that are referred to as stages, with each step comprising a heat exchanger and a condensate collector (Baig, Antar & Zubair, 2011). The sequence of stages is bordered between a cold and hot end, while the intermediate spaces contain transitional temperatures and pressures. The differential pressure in the areas corresponds to the boiling point of the water at each stage temperature. Cold water is pumped at the inlet, through to the heat exchangers and the injected water warms up at every stage. The pumped water has almost twice the temperature by the time it reaches the brine stage. More heat is added to the heater while the water flows through valves and back into the stages that have lower pressure and low temperature (Logan, 2017).
Water flowing through the valves and back into the stages is referred to as brine to differentiate it from the water input through the inlet. The ocean water gets exposed to high temperatures that are above the boiling point for each pressure point, which makes a small portion of the water to “flash” and boil to steam (El-Ghonemy, 2017). Consequently, the flash causes a reduction in temperature until the stage achieves equilibrium. Since the resultant vapor is usually hotter than the water being fed into the heat exchanger, the released steam cools off and condenses within the tubes of the heat exchanger, which provides heat to warm up the inlet water all over again.
Approximately 15% of the water fed through the exchanger evaporates, although the range varies depending on the temperatures used throughout the heat exchanger (El-Ghonemy, 2017). The multi-stage flash distillation is, however, criticized for high-energy consumption and cogeneration. Cogeneration refers to the combined generation of heat and electricity at the same time. The method, therefore, requires a complex integration of a power plant and a heat engine to help utilize the energy and the heat efficiently (El-Ghonemy, 2017). The sophisticated power plant is expensive, but efficient in energy and heat saving if a cogeneration power is incorporated. In addition to high energy and power consumption, the multi-stage flash distillation is criticized for the inefficiency of the heat exchanger (Baig, Antar, & Zubair, 2011).
1.3. Project objectives
The study sought to fulfill the three goals as listed below
• To analyze MSF’s heat consumption,
• Develop possible energy saving strategies
• Examine how the energy efficiency of the heat exchanger can be increased during MSF to get good quality potable fresh water.
1.4. Justification of the study
The goal of this project is to evaluate consumption of heat in multi-stage flasher desalination plant, explore ways to utilize energy and increase the efficiency of MSF distillation unit. The findings of the project will go a long way in ensuring that MSF desalination plants are not only energy efficient but also perform better than the previous models.
1.5. Project outline
The paper has four sections. The first chapter contains the introduction, statement of the problem, and background information regarding the study. The second part reviews past studies and materials relevant to the project topic. Regarding the third chapter, the methodology used in collecting evidence for the survey gets discussed while the final section of the survey contains discussion and recommendations for the thesis.
Additionally, this project will involve a review of the existing literature to determine the efficiency of the MSF distillation method for producing potable water, the cost of desalination using the MSF distillation method, and how its efficiency can be improved to enhance the capacity of the MSF to produce potable fresh water through desalination.
2.0. Literature Review
Extensive research into the efficiency and heat and energy consumption of the MSF distillation method has been carried out with the aim of establishing the effectiveness of the technique in desalinating seawater into the potable fresh water, with sustainability being the focus of the research. In the recent past, the demand for clean potable water has surpassed the supply of the same, forcing governments to look for alternative measures to enhance the amount of fresh water to the society. Erratic weather changes increased upstream consumption of water, and population growth is the main factors that have contributed to the growing shortage of fresh water in the world (Logan, 2017). While arid areas such as the gulf in the Middle East have been the most affected by water shortage, even non-arid regions are slowly experiencing water shortages related to erratic changes in weather and increase in water demand due to population growth. Desalination of the seawater has mainly gotten adopted as a sustainable method of increasing supply of fresh potable water.
While desalination of seawater is highly recommended as a way of enhancing access to clean potable water, it has also been criticized for energy consumption and inefficiency. The multi-stage flash distillation method is a desalination method that has received as much criticism as it has received praise. Missimer, Kim, Rachman, and Ng. (2013) Sought to evaluate and describe a different sustainable, seawater desalination techniques that use combined cycle solar and geothermal heat sources. According to this article, technological advances in desalination of seawater has primarily focused on reducing the overall energy consumption by making the process greener, while at the same time reducing the cost of the potable water that is delivered after desalination.
Fig 2.1: shows seawater desalination in the process. Adapted from Missimer et al., 2013
Missimer et al. (2013) acknowledged that absorption desalination – AD – is one of the recent technological innovations that have helped improve sustainability in the desalination of seawater. The AD has significant potential in reducing the need to use of conventional power, such as renewable sources of energy, hence reducing the overall cost of desalination. Waste heat, geothermal heat, and solar heat are some of the renewable sources of energy that AD incorporates in lowering the cost and enhancing efficiency. However, absorption desalination that uses alternative energy calls for the implementation of heat storage, as the alternative sources of energy are sometimes irregular.
For example, solar power can only be generated by the day, and the desalination plant would, therefore, require a heat storage system to desalinate water by night. While the use of solar energy for desalination in combined-cycle is termed by Missimer et al. (2013) as useful, it raises the need for extra costs because of the additional equipment needed for heat and energy storage during fluctuations.
Figure 2.2 Desalination using solar power adapted from Al-Karaghouli and Kazmierski (2013, p. 351)
According to the same article, the inconsistency with solar power energy can be resolved by combining the use of solar energy with the use of geothermal power. Missimer et al. (2013) posit that subsurface geothermal energy sources are underutilized, despite the ability of the geothermal sources of energy to provide an efficient and sustainable alternative to the storage problem presented by the use of solar energy. Missimer et al. (2013) conclude that combination of the solar and geothermal energy sources using the 12-hr cycle has the potential to reduce depletion of heat sources within the geothermal while providing an efficient and sustainable source of energy when solar energy is not sufficient.
According to this article, using combined cycle solar and geothermal heat sources in multi-stage flash distillation to desalinate seawater is not only energy-efficient but also cost-effective and enhances the efficiency with which fresh water is delivered to the consumers. This article will furnish this project with quality research-based evidence regarding the effectiveness of the combined cycle multi-stage flash distillation in desalinating seawater into the fresh potable water. Also, the article highlights the cost-effectiveness of the same method in delivering the potable water to consumers. Abdulrahim and Darwish (2015) also sought to investigate the effectiveness of the absorption desalination technique in thermal desalination and air conditioning. This article adopted a slightly different approach to determining the sustainability and efficiency of the AD technique by incorporating the concept of air conditioning with desalination of water.
According to Abdulrahim and Darwish (2015), the absorption heat-driven system doubles up as a refrigerator, a heat pump, and a heat transformer, which enable the combined order to serve as desalination system, a fridge, and an air conditioner. In a world where optimum heat and energy use is critical for a greener environment, the combined cycle system serves as the best sustainable system for desalination of water and other applications that consume a significant amount of energy. This article will furnish the project with crucial information regarding the various uses of the combined cycle system, which include desalination and air conditioning. Understanding the multiple applications of the combined cycle system in the desalination of seawater helps in the further understanding of how to develop MFS desalination systems that optimally utilize the heat and energy for sustainability.
Baig, Antar, & Zubair (2011) evaluated the performance of a once-through multi-stage flash distillation method of desalination and the impact of the fouling of the brine heater. The once-through multi-stage flash distillation is not only ineffective and costly compared to the combined cycle system, but it was also found to be weak in distilling seawater efficiently in potable fresh water. The authors of the article also found that the fouling of the brine heater bears significant impacts on the quality of the final product. The once-through MSF was also energy consuming, hence unsustainable.
A combined-cycle system, on the other hand, provides an energy efficient desalination system where the waste heat and power are recycled into the system, hence reducing wastage. This article gives the project essential information by evaluating a once-through MSF distillation, and the findings can be used to compare the system with the combined cycle system. The results can then be used to make informed decisions regarding the most efficient, energy saving, and cost-effective desalination method (Ghaffour, Lattemann, Missimer, Ng, Sinha, and Amy, 2014).
Ghaffour et al. (2014) investigated a host of sustainable renewable energy-driven and innovative energy efficient desalination technologies that are currently in use across the world. One of the creative energy efficient and sustainable desalination technologies highlighted in this article is the combined cycle process, which can be integrated into the different desalination processes such as the multi-stage flash distillation process. According to this report, the combined cycle multi-stage flash distillation allows for reuse of waste energy produced through the desalination process (Shafaghat, Shafaghat, Ghanbari, Rezaei, and Espanani, 2012).
The reuse of energy not only enhances the efficiency with which the plant operates to deliver potable water to its consumers but it also cost-effective and sustainable as it allows reuse of waste energy by the system. Ghaffour et al. (2014) also confirm the importance of the combined cycle MSF desalination method compared to the once-through desalination technique. This article will also furnish the project with essential information on the benefits of the combined cycle MSF desalination over the drawbacks, and this will facilitate informed choice when implementing the desalination process.
Shafaghat et al. (2012) also had similar findings of the combined cycle desalination system when analyzing the design of MSF desalination plant to be supplied by a new specific 42 MW power plant. According to the article, reuse of energy reduces consumption of new energy, making the process more sustainable and greener. Similarly, the reuse of energy through a combined cycle in a multi-stage flash distillation process reduces cost while maximizing the heat by lowering wastages through reuse. These articles, however, did not lack flaws that limited the validity of the research.
A common limitation among the articles is the lack of direct comparison between different methods of desalination due to insufficient time. Also, the studies faced constraint presented by the various factors that influence the efficiency of each desalination technique, for example, funds, weather, and the demand for fresh potable water. Another common limitation is the use of different factors to gauge the effectiveness of various desalination techniques. The different elements do not present a fair platform for comparison of the different methods.
The methodology used to achieve the goal of the project was the systematic review of the literature. A systematic review of literature involves a critical assessment and appraisal of existing research related to a particular topic. A search strategy was employed in retrieving the most relevant documentation about the problem. The initial process of extracting the relevant literature involved searching the web using a general search engine such as Google, which provided essential information that helped in familiarizing with the topic. The broad search did not include the use of keywords and other primary limitation features that assist in returning particularized search results. The next step involved a selection of keywords combined with operators, which helped access more results that are most related to the topic.
Keywords such as “Combined cycle AND multi-stage flash distillation OR desalination, “multi-stage flash distillation AND desalination,” “Multi-stage flash distillation AND energy efficiency or cost efficiency” and “Combined cycle AND desalination” were used to refine the search for the most relevant articles. Also, the search was limited to, articles published within the last seven years, which helped in accessing the most recent literature on the combined cycle and multi-stage flash desalination process. A quick review of the abstracts and the methodologies used in every article was used to determine the validity and reliability of the research articles used in the study.
4.1 MSF heat consumption
The literature reviewed indicated that MSF consumes a significant amount of heat energy while producing a larger volume of purified water. The analysis also revealed that brine temperature and the design of MSF desalination affect the heat consumption rate of an MSF unit. The table below shows the parameters for a typical MSF unit
Brine temperature 90◦C 110◦C
Stages 24 24
Heat consumption per kg of purified water 2326KJ 2326
Volume of desalinated water 10,000 cubic meters
GOR 8 8.6
Performance ratio 3-5kg of distillate
Table 4.1 Convectional design parameters for MSF desalination unit adapted from Al-Karaghouli and Kazmierski (2013)
From the chart above, the gained output ratio (GOR) is a third of the number of stages in the MSF unit, which indicates that the number of stages affects the GOR and the amount of heat consumed over a period. The amount of heat dissipated per kg of water is the industry standard, and it indicates that a kg of steam will produce up to 8 kilograms of water by consuming2326kj of heat while a much more significant MSF unit will produce 8.6kg of water. The increased amount of water delivered using a kilo of vapor confirm the claim that a longer multi-stage flasher will produce more water while consuming less heat. Using the same parameters as mentioned above, the economic viability of MSF unit is determined to base on the amount of distillate produced when steam is re-utilized to produce more desalinated water. In this case, therefore, one part of heat consumed yields up to 5kg of distillate.
4.1.1. Heat equation
The purpose of the study is to ensure that desalinating water firms using multi-stage flash method find the appropriate plan to provide that the water purification plants in a highly productive and energy efficient manner. The study reveals that reducing the heat consumption in the MSF water desalination unit is the key towards improving its efficiency and reducing the cost of the producing potable water for the population.
The study, therefore, develops a heat loss formula derived from the act of the brine to lose heat when it reaches the heat exchange unit. The equation is based on the fact that heat is lost due to changes in pressure and surface area of the heat exchange area. According to Galal et al. (2010, p. 2351), the appropriate formula is for calculating heat loss is Q= U*A* θ kW where U is the gross heat transferred while A denotes the changes in the temperature of the surface area. Also, θ is the average temperature. Therefore, the values can be interchanged to find the appropriate equation for calculating the values of other variables in the formula.
The heat equation applies when the calculating the amount of heat consumed by the MSF unit at a given time. The seawater entering the desalinating unit is at varying temperature levels depending on the location. However, the seawater temperature level does not affect the heat consumed during desalination process, but the salt concentration of the seawater plays a more significant role in the heat absorbed by the water purification plant.
4.2. Data comparison
According to El-Ghonemy (2017), MSF desalination unit consumes up to 3:5KWh per cubic meter while the standard GOR is eight. When seawater is desalinated using the conventional MSF method, the heat consumption rate is higher than when the cogeneration method is used to desalinate potable water. The relevant data regarding the changes in heat consumption is illustrated in the table below.
MSF desalination Adsorption desalination
Energy consumption (Thermal and electricity) Up to 25KWh per cubic meter of water Uses free thermal energy and 1.5 KWh of electricity
Water output GOR 8 10 ppm
Table 4.2. Table showing data regarding energy consumption and water output of MSF and AD adopted from Wu (2012)
From the chart above, AD method is the appropriate approach that can be used to desalinate seawater for human consumption. The method uses minimal energy and produces more water than MSF.
4.3. Ways of improving the efficiency of multi-stage flasher
The multi-stage flasher is the most common seawater desalination process used in the world today. One of the significant advantages of the MSF plant is the dual purpose of the system where besides water desalination; electricity can be generated from the factory. Also, MSF water desalination plants have been known to operate for over three decades with minimal cost. However, some concerns affect the productivity of the MSF plant. One of the most common challenges faced by the system is the high consumption of the energy in the factory. The section, therefore, highlights ways in which the plant can reduce its energy consumption and make it more efficient.
Most seawater desalination units using MSF method find that it is advantageous for the water purification unit to incorporate electricity generation in the desalination process. The companies have figured ways to use the thermal energy produced by the desalination plant to generate electricity and provide power to drive the pumps used in the purification process. According to Ghiazza, Borsani, and Al (2013, p. 8) the MSF unit needs energy for use in heating the brine and sustaining the vacuum that gets rid of unwanted gases in the desalination chamber. Also, the facility requires the power to drive the pumps and turbines used in water purification process. Since a lot of energy is lost in the process, an MSF facility needs ways to reduces the loss and make the water desalination process useful. Ghiazza et al. (2013, p 551). Claimed that a technology using fluidized bed exchange (FBE) could be incorporated into the unit as it uses less energy than the conventional heat exchange chamber. Fluidized bed exchange, according to Klaren and Boer De Klaren (2012), is a system, which uses a series of immobile cylinders arranged vertically and filled with glass beads that knock against the wall of the barrels and make the tubes free of fouling. Fouling is responsible for increasing the heat consumption rate of the desalination system. Therefore, the self-cleaning ability of the fluidized bed exchange assists the MSF unit to use less kW/h of electricity.
The configuration of the plant is one of the critical areas that engineers can alter to make multi-stage flasher more efficient and productive. The multi-stage flasher unit derives its primary source of power from thermal energy but relies on the electricity to propel the pumps. Al-Karaghouli and Kazmierski (2013, p. 346) pointed out that heat consumption rate of the MSF can be improved by increasing the number of phases for desalinating the seawater and altering the length of the heat transfer area. The reasoning behind the changing the design of the water desalination plant is backed by the fact that the rate of heat consumption by an MSF desalination unit is determined by the temperature of the heat supply, the dilution of the salt in the seawater, and the number of phases involved in water desalination. Therefore, according to Al-Karaghouli and Kazmierski (2013) when distillers are placed at the range of up to 12, the plant can consume up to 30% less heat than when the GOR range is eight. According to Ghiazza, Borsani, and Alt (2013, p. 16) the design of the heat exchange chamber is critical to the efficiency of the system, and as such, it should not be made to be too long, as pressure will decrease hence affecting its heat consumption efficiency. The scholars portend that despite the fact that up to a maximum of 40 compartments can be added to the heat exchanger, it is prudent to increase the number to a level that allows the system to function effectively. This indicates that increasing the amount of the distillers in MSF unit will reduce the heat consumption rate of the plant and maximize its production capacity.
Additionally, the heat consumption rate of the MSF unit can be decreased by using a combination of the solar panel and parabolic troughs. This eliminates the need to use electricity as an auxiliary source of power to drive the pumps in the desalination unit. A typical MSF unit consumes up to 2.5 kWh of electricity to move the pumps located in the system. According to Compain (2012, p 226), the steam generated by the plant can be collected on the parabolic trough in solar panels when can then be used to create the energy for MSF plant. Since the solar power is dependent on the sunlight and proper storage system to store excess energy for later use, there are some instances when the heat will be minimal. Therefore, a combination of the thermal energy and parabolic trough ensures that the plant has a constant source of power to run the desalination process. One of the benefits of the energy source is that it will provide a continuous source of energy that will keep the plant running despite the weather. Also, the energy source will replace the need to generate electric power for use in the factory.
Furthermore, the design and the materials used in the heat exchange chamber can force the MSF desalination unit to use a lot of energy. As a result, heat loss can be prevented by using materials that retain the heat for a more extended period. According to Galal, Kalendar, Al-Saftawi, and Zedan (2010, p 2347) most distillation tubes in heat transfer chamber are made of a level material that ends up polluting the water due to deposits of foreign elements from the seawater in the container. While trying to solve the fouling problem, the scholars realized that using corrugated tubes could allow the heat exchange chamber to retain enough heat energy for a continuous desalination process. Galal et al. (2010, p. 2353) noted that grooved tubes collected a larger volume of water than the smooth cylinders. Hence, the ribbed barrels were able to reduce the amount of fouling that takes place in the container when compared to continuous cells used in most MSF desalination plants. Also, the corrugated cylinders produced more distilled water using a low amount of heat. The import of the study is that by changing the design of the tubes in the heat exchange area, an MSF plant can achieve efficiency in its operations due to reduced heat loss and increased capacity of distilled water held in the ribbed tubes.
5.1. Discussion and Recommendation
The critical evaluation and appraisal of the literature on utilization of heat in the combined cycle to desalinate seawater to potable water using the multi-stage flash method revealed that there are innovative contemporary ways of enhancing the process. The multi-stage flash distillation method is one of the desalination techniques that consume a significant amount of energy due to the number of stages to which the inlet water is exposed to heat before it is turned into vapor and condensed into potable water.
The goal of desalination is not only to provide drinkable water to the consumers, but also to do so at the most convenient, sustainable, and cost-efficient way as possible. The literature review revealed that any desalination process finally faces the challenge of disposing of the brine. Returning it to the sea has been found to bear negative impacts on the marine life, while inland dumping has the same adverse effects on the plant and animal life on land.
Additional power generation using the brine and a combined cycle is one of the most sustainable ways of generating potable water while reusing waste energy. Considering the fact, that electric company altered the electricity watts and increased tax up to 5% of the consumption, which makes electricity, produced away from the MSF plant expensive and cogeneration as the most viable method for generating heat energy for MSF unit. The brine is mixed with additional seawater to generate electricity using the salinity gradient energy (El-Ghonemy, 2017). The energy can then be re-channeled back to the desalination plant to provide heat for the MSF desalination unit, hence cutting down on costs associated with the production of potable water through the multi-stage flash distillation process. Adsorption desalination is the most common and contemporary innovation used in combined cycle desalination system (El-Ghonemy, 2017). This technique has been proven to be the most effective in the reuse of waste heat, such as the one produced by desalination processes such as multi-stage flash distillation.
Combined cycle in multi-stage flash distillation is therefore not only useful in utilizing heat to desalinate seawater into potable water, but it also saves energy through reuse of heat. These features of the combined cycle multi-stage flash distillation technique make it suitable for countries that mainly rely on seawater for potable fresh water for domestic and industrial use and nonrenewable sources of energy. Based on the above benefits, I would recommend the combined cycle multi-stage flash distillation technique be used to desalinate seawater.
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The timetable below show the timeline for theses completion
Tasks/Date September October November December
Project Start (Proposal) –
write the proposal ——-
Agreement with adviser –
Collect Data by visiting water desalination plant —————————————–
Measure the purity of water in different heat fluxes – ———–
Modeling Design ———————-
Calculation Analysis ———-
Applied and test the Methodology – —- —-
Finalize the theses ——————
Project End ——