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Assessing Alternatives for Disposal of Reject Brine from Inland Desalination Plants

By Mohamed Ezzat AbdelMohsen Mahmoud Ammar B.Sc. in Civil Engineering, Cairo University, 2010

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of MASTER OF SCIENCE In IRRIGATION AND HYDRAULICS ENGINEERING


Assessing Alternatives for Disposal of Reject Brine from Inland Desalination Plants
By Mohamed Ezzat AbdelMohsen Mahmoud Ammar B.Sc. in Civil Engineering, Cairo University, 2010

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of MASTER OF SCIENCE In IRRIGATION AND HYDRAULICS ENGINEERING

Supervised by

Dr. Ahmed Emam Ahmed Hassan

Dr. Hesham Bekhit Mohamed Bekhit

Professor Irrigation and Hydraulics Department Faculty of Engineering Cairo University

Associate Professor Irrigation and Hydraulics Department Faculty of Engineering Cairo University


Assessing Alternatives for Disposal of Reject Brine from Inland Desalination Plants
By Mohamed Ezzat AbdelMohsen Mahmoud Ammar B.Sc. in Civil Engineering, Cairo University, 2010

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of MASTER OF SCIENCE In IRRIGATION AND HYDRAULICS ENGINEERING Approved by the Examining Committee: _____________________________ Prof. Dr. Ahmed Emam Ahmed Hassan, Thesis Main Advisor _____________________________ Prof. Dr. Ahmad Wagdy Abdel Dayem, Member _____________________________ Prof. Dr. Ahmad Ali Hassan, Member



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1.1. Overview

Owing to the rapid growth in population, the development expansion in all aspects in the past decades, and the fixed share Egypt gets from the Nile water according to the 1959 treaty (i.e., 55.5 billion m3), it is expected that Egypt will rely more on other supplements to the Nile River water to meet the needs of different sectors. The combination of continued rapid population growth and severely constrained fresh water resources confronts Egypt with great challenges in the pursuit of sustainable development. The total population of Egypt increased from 22 million in 1950 to 82 million today, and is likely to increase to above 92 million by 2025, which means a severe drop in the per capita water share to reach 600 m3/year compared to 1,000 m3/year described as the international standard of water scarcity (Figure 1.1). Although vast quantities of groundwater exist in the deserts of Egypt, most of these are nonrenewable and are stored at great distances below land surfaces. In some places, large amounts of brackish groundwater exist and can be utilized. Where freshwater availability is limited, desalination of brackish groundwater can be used as an alternative supply, especially given the lower desalination cost compared to seawater. Desalination of brackish groundwater in Egypt has a great potential with respect to the availability of the resource.

140 120
Population (million) 100 80 60 40 20 0 1800 1900 1950 1961 1965 1970 1975 1979 1980 1985 1990 1994 1998 2000 2005 2012 2025 2050 Year Water poverty line

7000 6000
5000 4000 3000 2000 1000 0 Per Capita Water share

Water Share


Figure 1.1. Population Growth and Per Capita Water Share in Egypt (m3/year) 1.2. Research Potentiality

Desalination of seawater is becoming a reliable and cost effective mean of providing fresh water especially in arid regions like Egypt. However, the utilization of desalinated brackish groundwater is not as common, as it has to go in parallel with designing a disposal system in a way that protects the environment and be cost effective. Moreover, there is a lack of the information and knowledge about the environmental impacts of the desalination byproduct (reject brine) on the soil and groundwater. A need thus exits for assessing the possible disposal options (i.e., evaporation ponds, well injection in deep aquifers) from the perspectives of the technical viability, effect on the environment as well as the economic feasibility. Brackish groundwater desalination holds promise as a water supply strategy. It offers opportunities such as providing a viable water resource where other supply options are not readily available. It can also free up pressure on freshwater resources that are of vital importance to the environment. However, a number of important issues should be addressed when considering this as a 2

water supply option. Atop of these issues are the cost, energy requirements, and disposal of the reject water or brine resulting from the desalination process. This research focuses on addressing this latter issue. In particular, it aims at identifying the alternatives of land disposal of reject brine resulting from inland desalination plants and studying the impacts of disposal on the environment. The main objective is to assess the different options of reject brine disposal including evaporation ponds, and deep well injection into deep aquifers. It is expected that this research will deliver an assessment of the feasibility of each of the possible disposal options and the long-term impacts on the environment. 1.3. Research Objectives and Methodology This research will investigate the issue of brackish groundwater desalination and the associated problems. The main problem that we will focus on is the disposal of the desalination process by-product (i.e., the reject brine water). The overall objective is to assess the technical and economic feasibility and the environmental impacts of different options for inland disposal of the reject water. To achieve this overall objective, the following specific objectives are considered and are linked to the selected case study: Assess the feasibility of each option in terms of sustainability of the resource, cost of disposal system implementation, and short- and longterm environmental impacts. Study the effect of salinity of the reject brine on the evaporation rates which reflects on the dimensions of the required evaporation ponds. Evaluate the time-varying effects on groundwater quality in the injection domain present in the chosen study region. Suggest the most appropriate disposal system for the desalination byproduct for the chosen site.

Suggest a development scheme for the regional area encompassing the study region utilizing the brackish groundwater as a source of feed water for desalination. The abovementioned research objectives are achieved using the suitable modeling tools and software such as the utilization of the MODFLOW code, MT3DMS as well as using SEAWAT for variable density flow simulation. In addition, routing the reject water into evaporation ponds is addressed using the appropriate tools (e.g., water and salt balance, rainfall rates, evaporation rates, and infiltration rates). Previous work and studies-however rare-concerned with the inland disposal of reject brine and injection into deep saline aquifers are compiled and integrally used for building a concrete research base for the current research purpose. The proposed methodology generally consists of the following tasks: An extensive background on the desalination technologies and the typical recovery rates, energy consumption, feasibility, and

environmental impacts. Literature review of the relevant studies dealing with inland desalination of brackish groundwater and means of brine disposal Case study data collection, analysis and compilation of studies related to the Upper Cretaceous and the Lower Cretaceous aquifers in Central Sinai where the studied desalination plant is located. Setting/developing conceptual processes for the different disposal techniques and converting these conceptual processes into mathematical models. Developing a numerical model for the groundwater system taking into consideration the effect of salinity in simulation as variable density groundwater flow. 4

Using the developed models to assess the environmental impacts of the different options on both the short- and the long-term. 1.4. Thesis Organization

Following this chapter which includes the introduction, this thesis contains six other chapters. Chapter two gives a detailed background on the evolution of desalination worldwide, in Middle East, and the desalination experience in Egypt with a brief description for the desalination technologies, typical desalination energy consumption, problems and environmental concerns associated with desalination and especially stressing on brackish groundwater desalination, sources of renewable energy for desalinating water, and the potential remote areas for development and desalination in Egypt with identification of the potential saline aquifer systems. Also, this chapter presents a literature review on the disposal options of reject brine from inland desalination plants. Design criteria, researches, case studies, and assumptions made by researchers previously addressing the disposal options of the brine are discussed in this chapter as well. The description of the selected case study is presented in Chapter three. This chapter also included an assessment of the evaporation pond disposal option. Water and salt balance are utilized for the evaluation of the pond performance as well as an approximate estimation of the costs. Chapter four exhibits a brief background on the used software in this study, GMS (Groundwater Modeling System) developed by Aquaveo. It also presents a clarification for the codes used to develop the groundwater flow and transport models to simulate the movement and dispersion of the injected brine into the aquifer system through MODFLOW for the groundwater flow pattern and MT3DMS for the transport simulation, which are then coupled with SEAWAT to account for the variable density in the flow simulation. The chapter includes an explanation for the mathematical equation used to solve these models.

In chapter five, the developed regional flow model is discussed through describing the model domain and the conceptual model. Model calibration is performed to estimate the values of the hydraulic conductivity of the model layers. A local model is extracted from the regional model for local study of the Al-Monbateh region, with boundary conditions based on the calibrated regional model. Different cases of injection and sources of uncertainty are considered in addition to the description of a base case scenario that is benchmarked as a comparison model. Chapter six includes the results of the base case scenario of the developed regional model and the results of the different injection scenarios for the local model. The results are presented for a time frame of 25 years and a comparison is made between each case and the base case scenario. It also describes a suggestion for the potential development areas for the regional study area utilizing the Lower Cretaceous aquifer in Central Sinai based on the depth to the aquifer, the salinity of the groundwater, the thickness of the water bearing formation and the topography of the area. Production and injection well fields are proposed upon the allowable well extraction rates and minimum environmental risk of injection for a study period of 25 years. The developed regional groundwater model is utilized to simulate the proposed future groundwater extractions and to predict the aquifer response to the different extraction scenarios and probable changes in groundwater quality over the foreseen period of exploitation, to assess the optimum, economic and sustainable groundwater extraction plan. Chapter seven abridges a summary to the performed work in addition to the conclusions derived from the analysis and results presented in the study as well as the recommendations for future work that can complement the current study. It should be stressed, however, that the conclusions made are specific to the case study and the scale of the desalination plant considered. Such conclusions will likely change as the scale of brine production changes and this should be

taken into consideration in interpreting the results and conclusions presented herein.


2.1. Desalination History and Evolution About 470 million people live in areas with severe water shortages (e.g., northern China, northern Africa and the Middle East as well as the western United States, parts of Mexico and northern India). By 2025, the number of people living in water stressed regions is expected to reach 3 billion (Cosgrove and Rijsberman, 2000). This dramatic increase raises the flag lead to a critical need of more potable water for human uses, which has put more emphasis to non-conventional water sources (i.e. desalination of seawater and/or brackish water). Desalination technologies and their applications have evolved dramatically over the past half century. The use of desalination processes was very limited to activities were distilled water was required until the early 1960s. There have been efforts to identify unconventional water supplements to the traditional water supplies in order to fulfill the needs of the rapid growth of population and the development expansion in all aspects in the past three decades and due to the increased expenses, unavailability or the controversies associated with the use of traditional sources. These efforts yielded an exponential increase in the desalination capacity both globally and nationally to overcome the water scarcity problem faced by many societies as well as to provide fresh water to localities experiencing rapid population growth with the decreasing or fixation traditional water supplies as in Egypt. A total desalination capacity of about 26 million m3/d was installed or contracted worldwide by the end of 1999, counting only those plants with a 9

capacity more than 100 m3/day (Wangnick, 2000). Global desalination water production capacity has been increasing exponentially since 1960 to value of 59.5 million m3/d in 2009 with an increase of 6.6 million m3/d in the last year according to the 22nd GWI/IDA Worldwide Desalting Plant Inventory. Middle East region has the largest share of desalination, where the leaders of desalination are found there, followed by North America then Europe. Table 2.1 shows the Desalination in the worlds regions (Wangnick, 2000). Figure 2.1 shows the cumulative capacity of the desalination plants in the United States and Worldwide until 2006 whereas Figure 2.2 shows the global desalination capacities by countries (GWI, 2006b). Table 2.1 Desalination in the Worlds Regions until 2000 (Wagnick, 2000)
Worlds region Desalination in 2000 Total capacity million m3/d (%) 0.1 (0.4) 3.2 (13.3) 11.3 (47.1) 1.2 (5.0) 3.1 (12.9) 4.3 (17.9) 0.6 (2.5) 0.2 (0.9) 24.0 (100) Seawater million m3/d (%) Negligible 1.2 (8.5) 9.5 (67.4) 0.8 (5.7) 1.7 (12.1) 0.3 (2.1) 0.5 (3.5) < 0.1 (0.7) 14.1 (100)

Australia & Pacific Islands Asia The Middle East Africa Europe North America Central America & Carribean South America TOTAL:

Figure 2.1. Cumulative capacity of installed desalination plants in the United States and Worldwide from 1950 to 2006 (GWI, 2006b). 10

Figure 2.2. Global online desalination capacity (GWI, 2006b)


More than 120 countries are now using desalination of seawater for domestic uses. More than 90% of water of the Gulf countries (Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) is from desalination. The cost of desalination, especially reverse osmosis (RO) has reached a competitive level. For instance, in 1948 the desalination cost was over US$1/m3, but now on average it is about $0.50/m3 (El-Kady and El-Shibini, 2001). 2.2. The Desalination Experience in Egypt In Egypt, the integrated water policy is based on three main fundamentals namely: increasing the Nile discharges from the sources, enhancing the water efficiency and preventing pollution, and finally using non-conventional water sources (El-Kady and El-Shibini, 2000). One of the most promising nonconventional water sources is desalting water especially with the current low price of desalination and the continuous decline in desalination cost. The desalination experience in Egypt is relatively new compared to other countries. It began in Helwan (south Cairo) with a large distillation pond for domestic uses, and then moved to electrodialysis (ED) (described in details in section 2.5.2) processes in remote areas in the mid-1970s where the real Egyptian experience began when a number of ED plants were installed in remote areas, mainly for military and exploration camps, industries, hotels and resorts. In contrast, recently the reverse osmosis (RO) desalination technology became more widely spread and more common due to its cost effectiveness. It was important to start considering more non-conventional water sources as the conventional sources became already exhausted (El-Kady and El-Shibini, 2001). Research efforts have moved the cost from being expensive to competitive allowing the feasibility of desalination in obtaining a reliable source of water. During the period 1975 to 1982, three different models of ED plants were installed in Egypt, and their capacities differed from 50 to 1000 m3/d, and with


salinity levels between 2000 to 1000 parts per million of feed water (El- Sadek, 2010). Desalination increased notably in Egypt, where the total installed capacity has grown to some 228,900 m3/d on 2012 (Moawad). Figure 2.1 shows the evolution of desalination in Egypt during the past five decades and until 2000. Most of the plants treat seawater, however lately a growing number of installations use brackish water and the capacity of these installations ranges between 500 to 10,000 m3/d (Allam et al., 2002). Nowadays, the amount of desalinated water in Egypt is in order of 84 million m3/year. Figure 2.2 through Figure 2.4 show the desalination installation capacities in Egypt.
250000 200000 Capacity, m3/d 150000

50000 0 1960



1990 Years




Figure 2.3. Desalination Capacity in Egypt (modified after Allam et al., 2002)


Figure 2.4. Desalination Installation Capacities in Egypt (El-Sadek, 2010)

Figure 2.5. The Desalination Capacities in Egypt in 1980-2005 (El-Sadek, 2010) The development of the Red Sea zone led to an increase in water demands to meet the needs of the tourist, industrial and urban settlements. Table 2.2 shows the Red Sea modern desalination units. The desalination plant sizes for such application are relatively small due to the nature of the coastline and the dispersed locations of dwellings (Khalil, 2004).


Table 2.2. Red Sea Modern Desalination Units

Capacity, m3/d 3 x 1,500 4,000 8,500 4,000 25 x 500 30 x 100 - 200 Technology VC* RO RO RO RO RO Activity Tourism Hotel Tourism Tourism Various Various Location Abu Soma Bay Movenpick, Sharm El-Sheikh Hashish Bay Hurghada Isolated sites Isolated sites

Desalination units can be categorized into two types based on their ownership: first are government-owned units; and second are the privatesector-owned units (Abou Rayan et al., 2001). Table 2.3 presents the government-owned units and the technology used whereas table 2.4 presents the private sector-owned units. As shown, the major supply of desalinated water is from the private sector mostly owned by hotels. Table 2.3. Governmental Desalination Units in Sinai
Place System Start date Total area m2 Capacity, m3/day Feed water salinity, ppm Product salinity, ppm Power consumption, Kw/m3 Total coast/m3 , in LE
a b d

Taba ROa 1986 50,000 600 48,000 450 13.5 6.21

Taba MVCb 1996 42,000 2,000 48,000 30 9 6.64

Nuweiba EDc 1958 23,600 300 2,400 500 4.3 2.78

Dahab RO 1995 30,000 500 44,000 500 8.5 7.51


Sharm ElSheikh VCDd 1996 30,000 500 44,000 30 9 4.75

Sharm ElSheikh RO 1998 30,000 4,000 44,000 500 6.5 6.43

Nuweiba MEDe 1999 2,000 45,000 50


Reverse osmosis, Mechanical vapor compression, Electrodialysis Thermal vapor compression, eMultiple effect desalination

Table 2.4. Private-Sector-Owned Units in Sinai

Location Taba Nuweiba Sharm ElSheikh Owner Golden Coast Maleh Company Helnan Hilton Pyramiza Ramo Metito Raga Technology RO RO RO RO RO RO RO RO Capacity (m3/day) 750 4000 240 300 2000 1000 500 2000 Salinity (ppm) 40,000 35,000 44,000 44,000 44,000 44,000 44,000 44,000 Product salinity (ppm) 350 400 400 400 400 400 400 400


Southern Water Co. Montazah Residence Euro Palace Meridien Aqua Marina Moevenpick Marriott Sheiha Zayed Bacha Coast Ghazala Helnan Pullman


7000 2500 500 500 500 2000 1000 500 2500 500 500 800 500

44,000 44,000 44,000 44,000 44,000 44,000 44,000 44,000 44,000 44,000 44,000 44,000 44,000

400 500 600 400 400 400 400 350 400 400 400 400 400


With the increasing population and limited renewable water resources, the government of Egypt has to develop a solution to overcome the scarcity of water supply and the desalination is one of the promising solutions. However, the current practice in Egypt indicates that industrial and tourist sectors undertook the lead in the desalination in Egypt, resulting that few installations were operated by public water agencies. The government policy will be directed to develop remote area where natural resources are present and the desalination of brackish water may be used as the only source of providing the basic needs for living, mainly water. Therefore, desalination is being studied and resulted in ranking the most prominent remote areas to be selected for research and development according to priorities based upon water scarcity. A summary of the most prominent remote areas as reported by El-Sadek, 2010, is as follows. 1. Along the Red Sea coast where tourist potential is present with a brackish water supply of 1000 ppm; 2. Along the northwest coast where new communities and tourist potential as well with as a brackish to saline water of salinity ranging between 1000 and 10,000 ppm;


Desalination and Future Development in Egypt


3. Sinai coastal zone and wadis where there are nourishing tourism, agricultural, industrial and new communities are built with a brackish water of 1000 ppm; 4. The northern desert along the delta fringes (Nubaria and vicinity) as the over-exploiting of some wells caused salinization of groundwater As abovementioned, the desalination of brackish water is very promising water resources in these remote areas. An initiative for using such resources was implemented in Central Sinai by USAID/Egypt and the North Sinai governorate, under the LIFE Sinai program. The initiative was aimed at constructing three desalination RO units in Central Sinai to assist Bedouin communities in the sub-governorate areas of El-Hasna and Nekhl in developing and improving their livelihoods by supporting them with their required share of potable water. The three plants located in Al-Meswateyya, Al-Monbateh and Bir Beda. The construction of the three plants was finished on September 2011 with a total production of 600 m3 of potable water per day (200m3/day/plant) benefiting 6000 inhabitants of Central Sinai. Currently, only the Al-Monbateh desalination plant is running whereas the other two plants are expected to start operating with full capacity by the end of 2012. In the following section a review of the available brackish water in Egypt and its desalination requirements are presented 2.4. Overview of Brackish Water In Egypt

2.4.1. Brackish Water Versus Saline Water Saline water is defined as the water that contains a significant amount of total dissolved solids (TDS) and usually expressed in parts per million (ppm) or milligram per litter (mg/l). The concentration level of the salts classifies saline water into three main categories. Freshwater mainly covers water with a TDS up to 1000 mg/l, while brackish water from 1000 to 10,000 and seawater above 35,000 mg/l. Sometimes there exits special cases of brackish water that might contain 10,000 to 35,000 mg/l TDS and in this case it can be referred as 17

difficult brackish water (Buros, 1980). It is worth mentioning that, sometimes, saline water contains small amounts of organic matter and dissolved gasses, however, the majority of dissolved materials are inorganic salts. Table 2.5 shows the typical salinity limits of waters, some guide limits for livestock to salinity in drinking water, and ranges of salinity in some of the popular seas (modified after Salinity Management Handbook, Second Edition). Table 2.5. The Typical Salinity Limits of Waters
Distilled Water Freshwater Brackish Water Tolerance of livestock to salinity in drinking water (at these values, animals may have an initial reluctance to drink, but stock should adapt without loss of production) Salt water swimming pool Sea Water Dead Sea Mediterranean Sea Red Sea TDS (ppm) 0.67 0-1000 1000-10000 4000-5000 2500-4000 5000-10000 4000-6000 4000-6000 2000-3000 4000-6000 10000-35000 73700 38000 40000

Beef Cattle Dairy cattle Sheep Horses Pigs Poultry

Brackish water has a salinity between freshwater and seawater. The typical salinity of brackish water is between 1000 mg/l to 10,000 mg/l of total dissolved solids (Buros, 1980). If an appropriate desalination scheme is adopted, brackish water can present an economic and reliable fresh water supply for many remote areas lacking conventional water supplies. 2.4.2. Sources of Brackish Water A brackish aquifer is a main brackish water source. It is a geologic deposit of water-bearing permeable rock or unconsolidated materials from which brackish groundwater can be usefully extracted using a well. The processes that generate brackish groundwater depend on the site-specific hydrogeology and geochemistry. In some cases, high levels of dissolved solids are derived from 18

the presence of connate water (i.e., seawater trapped at the time of original deposition), but in most inland brackish water systems these original solutes have long since been flushed away. Coastal aquifers form another class of natural brackish water created from mixing of groundwater that is discharging to the ocean. Under natural conditions most groundwater in coastal areas discharges directly to the ocean. Brackish water from irrigation return flows can also be utilized as desalination source water, although the quantity and quality typically vary by season and region. 2.4.3. Pretreatment of Brackish Water Prior to Desalination Unlike seawater desalination, the treatments of brackish water require minimal pretreatment to remove particulates. This may attributed to the fact that brackish water typically contains very low concentrations of suspended solids and organic matter. However, in case of using RO desalination technology, brackish groundwater may require pretreatment to remove constituents such as manganese, sulfides and dissolved iron which, if oxidized, can cause fouling of the RO membranes. 2.4.4. Desalination of Brackish Groundwater in Egypt Brackish groundwater desalination in Egypt has a great potential with respect to the availability of the resource. All major aquifer systems in Egypt contain considerable volumes of brackish groundwater (Allam et al., 2002). Figure 2.6 shows the distribution of the main aquifer systems in Egypt (Attia). And Table 2.6 shows location, area, salinity and the exploitable volumes of the main brackish aquifers (Allam et al., 2002).


Figure 2.6. Distribution of the main aquifer systems in Egypt (Attia)

Table 2.6. Exploitable Volumes of Brackish Groundwater (Allam et al., 2002)

Aquifer Location Area (km2) 20,000 Salinity (mg/l TDS) >2,000 Exploitable volume (billion m3) <2

Coastal aquifers

Nile Aquifers El Moghra aquifer Nubian Sandstone Fissured carbonate aquifer

Coastal dunes Fluviatil of wadis Calcarenites Shallow marine sands Fringes North coast West of Nile Delta Eastern Desert Sinai Western Desert Eastern Desert

>1,500 10,000 100,000 500,000 >3,000 1,500-3,500

>100 5

Sinai is rich in brackish groundwater through deep seated aquifers. The thickness of the aquifers varies between 30 to 500 m with a salinity varying from 2,000 ppm up to 9,000 ppm. The current total deep groundwater 20

extraction from the different aquifer systems in Sinai Peninsula is 3.199 million m3/year where 1.89 million m3/year is used in agriculture and the rest is used for domestic and industrial uses. The investigations in south Sinai have identified several shallow and deep reservoirs but of limited potential for development (Allam et al., 2002). Table 2.7 shows the brackish water resources in Sinai and the numbers of wells constructed as well as the range of salinity of the obtained water. Table 2.8 gives details about the desalination units in Sinai. Table 2.7. Brackish Water Resources in Sinai (Abou Rayan et al., 2001)
City El-Arish El-Hasana Nakhl El-Quseima Sheikh Zuwayid Rafah Number of wells 50 12 7 Spring 25 35 Approximate depth (m) 40-60 12-1000 17-1200 30-38 35-90 Capacity, (m3/d) 52,000 6,250 3,600 1,440 5,000 10,000 Salinity (mg/l) 3000-5500 1800-5000 1800-3000 1200 1200-4000 2700-3000

Table 2.8. Desalinated Brackish Water (modified after Abou Rayan et al., 2001) City No. of Capacity Process 3 units (m /d) El-Arish 7 2800 ED El-Hasna 1 300 ED Nakhl 2 200 RO El-Kuntilla 1 150 RO Abu Aweigila 1 100 RO El-Monbateh 1 200 RO El-Meswateyya 1 200 RO Bir-Beda 1 200 RO

2.4.5. Energy Consumption of Brackish Water Desalination (BWD) and Typical Recovery Rates The energy consumption is a major concern that must be taken into consideration when planning and designing of a brackish water desalination plant. Table 2.9 shows an estimated range of energy consumption for different desalination technologies. On the other side, system recovery should be optimized to balance productivity, energy consumption, membrane life, fouling and cost. Table 2.10 gives the typical values of recovery rates for different brackish water desalination schemes. 21

Table 2.9. Typical Electicity Consumption for BWD Schemes (Talaat et al., 2002) Desalination technology Energy consumption KWh/m3 RO Low salinity (<1000 mg/l) 0.5-0.6 Medium salinity (1000-3000mg/l) 1.0-1.5 High salinity (3000-5000mg/l) 2.2-2.5 EDR Low salinity BW 0.4-0.6 Medium salinity BW 0.8-2 High salinity BW 2.2-3.3 IE 0.3-0.4 VC 10.0-12.0 Table 2.10. Typical Recovery Values for BWD Schemes (Talaat et al., 2002) Desalination technology Recovery rate % RO Low salinity (<1000 mg/l) 80-90 Medium salinity (1000-3000mg/l) 65-75 High salinity (3000-5000mg/l) 50-60 EDR Low salinity BW 80-90 Medium salinity BW 65-75 High salinity BW 50-60 IE 90-95 VC 30-40

2.4.6. Problems Associated with Brackish Water Desalination Technological problems should be considered as well when planning for large-scale brackish water desalination in order to maximize the production of product water and ensure the sustainability of the production. Table 2.11 suggests the common problems encountered in brackish water desalination (Talaat et al., 2002).


Table 2.11. Common Problems Encountered in Brackish Water Desalination (Talaat et al., 2002)
Technology Reverse osmosis (RO) Vapor compression (VC) Major problems encountered Membrane fouling due to improper pretreatment. Fouling materials: organics, iron, manganese, heavy metals, hardness causing salts. Membrane deterioration by chemical attack (due to improper pretreatment e.g. attack by chlorine, hydrogen sulphide). Membrane compaction (improper operation due to frequent pressurization - depressurization of membrane). Membrane clogging (improper pretreatment due to hardness causing salts). Flux decline with time (loss of productivity). Produced water quality decline with time (along membrane lifetime). High pressure pumps failure (improper operation & maintenance). Membrane fouling Electrode corrosion Membrane deterioration due to improper operation Produced water quality decline (improper operation and membrane deterioration along membrane life-time) Clogging by hardness causing salts (improper pretreatment) Resin fouling (improper pretreatment by foulants e.g. iron & manganese and heavy metals). Resin deterioration by chemical attacks (e.g. chlorine, hydrogen sulphide, oxidizing agents). Loss of resin activity (along resin life-time & hence decline of resin capacity). Clogging by scales (improper pretreatment, insufficient cleaning). Loss of productivity due to fouling of heat transfer surfaces (mainly due to scale deposition) Corrosion problems (improper materials selection/improper pretreatment) Failure of mechanical parts (e.g. blower in mechanical vapour compression systems due to improper maintenance).

Electrodailysis reversal (EDR)

Ion-exchange (IE)


Review of Desalination Technologies

2.5.1. Elements for Desalination Process Desalination technologies and their applications have evolved greatly during the past 50 years. There are 5 main key elements for the desalination process for either seawater or brackish desalination, which can be described as follows: (Figure 2.7) Intakes: which are the structures that are used to extract water from the source whether brackish water or seawater and convey it to the process system; Pretreatment: the process of removing suspended solids and control biological growth, for the preparation of water for further processing; 23

Desalination: the process of removing dissolved solids, mainly salts and other inorganic constituents from water; Post-treatment: adding chemicals to the product water to prevent any downstream piping corrosion; and Reject brine management and disposal: the handling of the concentrate or reuse of waste residuals from the desalination system.

Figure 2.7 Key Elements of a Desalination System (shown in figure: membrane-based system) modified after (Buros et al. 1980). 2.5.2. Types of Desalination Plants Desalination plants can be categorized into two main types. The first type involves a phase-change during the process of separation of salts from water; while the second type of desalination plants do not involve phase change. In such plants extraction of salts takes place while the solution remains in liquid phase. The first type is known as thermal desalination or thermal distillation and the second is known as membrane desalination. Ion exchange is also another desalination technology which is mainly used for water softening and demineralization. It is known as chemical approach technology and usually used as a polishing step following another desalting process of the two mentioned earlier. Therefore, ion exchange is considered impractical for desalination of water with high level of dissolved solids. 24

Figure 2.8 shows the global evolution of the two main desalination technologies (i.e. membrane and thermal technologies) over the past six decades. A detailed review of the two technologies is presented in the following sections

Figure 2.8. Cumulative global capacity of installed desalination plants for thermal and membrane technology. Thermal technology includes MED, MSF and MVC. Membrane technology includes RO, ED and EDR. Points reflect current online (or presumed online) capacity of both technologies. (GWI, 2006b) 2.5.3. Membrane Desalination Processes Membrane technologies can be used not only for desalting brackish water and seawater sources but also for treating wastewater in reuse and recycling applications, because of their ability to provide removal of non-salinity contaminants (e.g., organic contaminants, bacteria, and viruses). Membrane processes use either pressure-driven or electrical-driven technologies. Pressuredriven membrane technologies include Reverse Osmosis (RO) whereas Electrodialysis (ED) and Electrodialysis Reversal (EDR) are electrical-driven technologies. In recent years, more new membrane desalination capacity is added annually than distillation capacity as shown in Figure 2.8. Until 2006,


membrane desalination accounted for 56 percent of the online capacity for desalination worldwide. 2.5.3.a. Reverse Osmosis (RO) Reverse Osmosis (RO) is a physical process that uses the osmosis phenomenon, i.e., the osmotic pressure difference between the saltwater and the pure water to remove salts from water. It is the most commonly used method of membrane desalination. In this process, a pressure greater than the osmotic pressure is applied on saltwater (feedwater) to reverse the flow, which results in pure water (freshwater) passing through the synthetic membrane pores separated from the salt and a concentrated salt solution is retained for disposal. Figure 2.9 shows a typical schematic diagram for the reverse osmosis process.

Figure 2.9. The mechanism of the osmosis and the reverse osmosis (RO) processes 26

2.5.3.b. Electrodialysis (ED) and Electrodialysis Reversal (EDR) Electrodialysis (ED) processes use ion-selective membranes and an electrical potential driving force to separate ionic species from water. Ionic species are driven through cation- and anion-specific membranes in response to the electrical potential gradient while the ion-depleted water passes between the membranes. The EDR process is similar to the ED process, except that it also uses periodic reversal of polarity to effectively reduce and minimize scaling and fouling, thus allowing the system to operate at comparatively higher recoveries. By reversing the electrical current and exchanging the fresh (product) water and the concentrate (brine) streams within the membrane stack several times per hour, fouling and scaling constituents that build up on the ED membranes in one cycle are washed out in the next cycle. EDR has a higher recovery rate (up to 94%) because of the feedwater circulation within the system and alternating polarity (Younos and Tulou, 2005).

Figure 2.10. Typical arrangement of an electrodialysis membranes 2.5.3.c. Recovery Rates of Membrane Desalination Processes Typically, 35 to 60 percent of the seawater fed into a membrane process is recovered as product water. For brackish water desalination, water recovery can range from 50 to 90 percent, depending on initial salinity and the presence of sparingly soluble salts and silica, although recovery is typically between 60 and 85 percent (Sethi et al., 2006a). 27

2.5.4. Thermal Desalination Processes The basic concept of the thermal desalination is to heat the saline solution until water vapor is generated. As the vapor is allowed to condense on cool surface and liquid water containing very little of the original salt is produced. The three major thermal processes are Multi-stage Flash (MSF) distillation, Multiple Effect Distillation (MED), and Vapor Compression (VC). 2.5.4.a. Multi-stage Flash (MSF) distillation MSF uses a series of chambers, or stages, each with successively lower temperature and pressure, to rapidly vaporize (flash) water from the bulk liquid. The vapor is then condensed by tubes of the inflowing feedwater, thereby recovering energy from the heat of condensation. MSF units are widely used in Middle East and they account for over 40% of the world's desalination capacity (El-Sadek, 2010) It is worth noting that one of the largest thermal MSF plants in Egypt is located on the northern coast in Marsa Matrouh with a capacity of 2,000m3/d (Khalil, 2004) Over the past 50 years, the per unit cost of desalination using multi-stage flash (MSF), the desalination technology that has been used for centuries and economically suitable for capacities of more than 3,000m3/d/unit (Khalil, 2004) and has decreased by an average of 44 percent per decade (El-Sadek, 2010). 2.5.4.b. Multiple Effect Distillation (MED) MED is a thin-film evaporation approach, where the vapor produced by one chamber subsequently condenses in the next chamber, which exists at a lower temperature and pressure, providing additional heat for vaporization. 2.5.4.c. Vapor Compression (VC) VC is an evaporative process where vapor from the evaporator is compressed and its heat used for subsequent evaporation of feedwater in the


same tank of water that produced it thus allows heat recycling in a single-effect distillation process. In Thermal Vapour Compression, the compressor is driven by steam, and such systems are popular for medium-scale desalination because they are simple, in comparison to MSF. In Mechanical Vapour Compression, the compressor is driven by a diesel engine or electric motor. 2.5.5. Ion Exchange Desalination Processes The ion-exchange system can be described as the interchange of ions between a solid phase and a liquid phase surrounding the solid. Chemical resins (solid phase) are designed to exchange their ions with feedwater (liquid phase) ions, which purify the water. Resins can be made using naturally-occurring inorganic materials (such as zeolites) or synthetic materials (Younos and Tulou, 2005). Ion exchange is mainly used for water softening and demineralization, and applications of ion exchange at the municipal level are limited. Compared to other desalination technologies, this process makes economic sense only where there is a small amount of salt to be removed from the water. Thus, the main application of ion exchange is the production of ultrapure water as the removal of 1 pound of salt takes about 1.5 pounds of acid and 1.5 pounds of base to regenerate the exchangers (Xu, 2005) 2.5.6. Hybrid Desalination Processes Hybrid desalination configurations include combinations of processes designed to improve process efficiency or reduce energy costs. Hybrid thermalmembrane facilities incorporate both thermal and membrane desalting processes that are typically co-located with a power plant to improve overall process economics.


Hybrid desalination facilities may also integrate multiple processes in series to increase the separation or concentration capabilities of the facility. These series hybrids are typically smaller in capacity. Figure 2.11 gives a range of saline water concentration and the appropriate desalination method to be used.

Figure 2.11. Range of applicability of different desalination technologies in terms of salt concentration in water ( accessed: March, 2012) 2.5.7. Energy Consumption of Different Desalination Technologies Energy consumption in membrane process (i.e. RO and ED) for brackish and low salinity water is much lower than in thermal distillation processes. Recent innovations in RO have reduced the energy consumption further. However, without detailed information on site conditions and the specific application, one cannot make a clear general statement that a specific desalination technology whether membrane or thermal is better than the other. In general, thermal systems are robust and have high tolerance for variable feedwater quality, while membrane systems have lower capital and energy costs but are sensitive to fouling (Kennedy M. D. et al.). Figure 2.12 shows a comparison of energy consumption for brackish water desalination using RO or EDR. 30

Figure 2.12 Comparison of Energy Consumption by Process for the Desalination of Brackish Feedwater across a Range of TDS Concentration (USBR, 2003). 2.5.8. Renewable Energy for Desalination The integration of renewable energy and desalination systems holds great promise for increasing water supplies in water scarce regions. Renewable energies can power desalination plants through solar or wind energy (Tzen, 2005). Figure 2.13 shows the distribution of renewable energy sources desalination units.

Figure 2.13. Distribution of renewable-powered desalination technologies (Tzen, 2005) An effective integration of these technologies is the combination of photovoltaics with reverse osmosis (PV-RO). As evidenced in Figure 2.13. 31

photovoltaic-powered RO units make up approximately 32% of total renewable energy sources desalination facilities. PV is highly reliable and is often chosen because it offers the lowest life-cycle cost, especially for applications requiring less than 10 kW (Thomson, 2003). RO desalination has several advantages in using solar energy (i.e. PV-RO) over solar MSF desalination (El-Kady and EL-Shibini, 2001): 1. The RO process requires one source of energy (electricity) while MSF needs two sources of energy electricity for pumping system and thermal. 2. RO is a one-phase desalination process, while the MSF process has two phases. 3. RO requires less energy than MSF. 4. An RO plant is made up of modules, which is easy to install, maintain, operate, and requires little space. 5. The PV cells can be installed on the roof of the RO building, i.e., no additional area is required for PV panels. 6. PV cells are modular, easy to install, with low maintenance costs. 7. PV cells operate well in arid areas, produce direct current to drive DC motors, and are independent of the main electricity power supply. The disadvantages of the PVRO system are replacement of the RO membrane every 3 years and replacement of batteries in the PV storage system every 7 years of operation (El-Kady and EL-Shibini, 2001). Battery lifetime in PV systems in central Europe is typically 3 to 8 years, but in hot countries, this reduces to typically 2 to 6 years, since high ambient temperature dramatically increases the rate of internal corrosion (Thomson, 2003). However, Thomson (2003) presented the design and testing of the batteryless approach of PV-RO desalination plants and provided estimates of performance and capital costs of such systems.


Assimacopoulos et al. (2001) and, in broad agreement with the comprehensive studies, states: PV-RO (Photovoltaic powered-Reverse Osmosis) is clearly the favoured desalination combination for small stand-alone systems. 2.6. Reject Brine Disposal Methods Development of desalination has brought to concern the suitable environmental disposal method of the byproduct of the desalting process. The disposal of the reject brine is dependable on the location of the desalination plant, whether the desalination plant is near to the coastal shores or established in an inland area remote from the coastal areas. Regardless of the desalination technology used, saline water is separated into two streams after the desalination process: a freshwater stream with a low salt concentration and brine or concentrate stream with a high salt concentration that needs to be disposed. Desalination plants near the coastal shores usually dispose the concentrate in the seas or oceans. Accordingly, the effect of the ocean disposal is negligible because of the minute volume of concentrate compared to the receiving water bodies. However, the promulgation of more and more stringent environmental protection regulations will increasingly reduce this opportunity. The negative influences of the discharged brine may not only damage the environment or reduce public acceptance, but can also result in financial penalties if toxicity standards are not met. Macedonio et al. (2011) stated some possible measures to mitigate the environmental impacts on ocean outfalls: Lower recovery rates and/or dilution of the brine with seawater prior to the discharge to reduce its salinity; Discharge devices, such as multiple port diffusers, spreading the brine across a larger area and increasing dispersion velocity; Discharge devices, such as multiple port diffusers, spreading the brine across a larger area and increasing dispersion velocity; 33

Dilution of the brine with water from other processes, e.g. with cooling water from power; Discharge in an area with strong currents and at depths that minimize impact on benthic life forms. In cases where the desalination units are installed away from coastal zones (i.e., inland desalination plants), the design has to take in consideration a safe option for disposal without harming the environment. Nowadays, the scope is not only considering the safe disposal of the concentrate but also taking into account the environmental sustainability of the disposal option and achieving an economical benefit of the concentrate. The cost plays an important role in selecting the method of brine disposal. It could range from 5 to 33 % of the total cost of the desalination plant. The cost of land disposal is much higher if compared to that discharging brine into shores (Khordagui, 1997). There are many options that were identified for the disposal of inland desalination plants starting with pumping into designed lined evaporation ponds; disposal into surface water bodies; disposal into any existing municipal sewerage system; concentration into solid salts; irrigation of plants tolerant to high salinity levels; and injecting the brine back into deep saline aquifers (Khordagui, 1997). The factors that influence the choice of the suitable disposal method were identified. These factors include the amount of the concentrate (reject brine); the quality or constituents of concentrate; the geographical and physical location of the discharge point of the concentrate; the availability of the site, public acceptance; option permissibility as well as capital and operating cost of the disposal method (Mickley et al., 1993). It is worth noting that the chemical characteristics of the reject brine are function of the feed water quality, desalination technology used, the chemicals used for pre- and post treatment, and percent recovery (Mickley, 1995). 34

Usually in RO plants, filters need to be backwashed every few days to clear the accumulation of solids. This filter backwash is not permitted to be directly discharged to the environment, because it can cause both considerable discoloration in the water at the discharge site and contamination. However, the practice may occur in other locations. In addition, anti-scaling substances, antifoaming additives, oxygen scavengers, and anticorrosion chemicals may be present in the discharge of the concentrate (Rachid and Abdelwahab, 2005). 2.6.1. Evaporation Ponds The use of evaporation ponds is considered one of the most widely used disposal methods. Evaporation ponds comprise the largest portion of disposal method in countries known for their arid or semi-arid climate conditions. Of the attractions to use evaporation ponds, presence of high evaporation rates, ease of construction, low land cost, low maintenance requirements, and the absence of mechanical equipments except for the pump that conveys the concentrate to the pond (Mickley et al., 1993). However, a survey of drinking water desalination plants (membrane plants of capacity 98 m3/d or more) in the continental US that included 137 plants showed that 48% of the brine is disposed to surface water, 23% dispose to the head-works of wastewater treatment plants, 12% utilize a land application process, 10% dispose through deep well injection, and only 6% use evaporation ponds (Mickley et al., 1993). Mickley et al. (1993) also stated that in parallel to the advantages and attractions to the use of evaporation ponds, there are a lot of disadvantages that sometimes cause barriers to the utilization of evaporation ponds. For example, the need of large areas in case of high disposal rate and/or low evaporation rates, the need of impervious liners of clay or synthetic membrane such as PVS or Hypalon to avoid any potential of contaminating underlying potable water aquifers through seepage, and the requirement of level terrain and low land costs 35

The proper sizing of evaporation pond depends on accurate estimation of evaporation rate. Pond sizing include two outputs: the surface area of the pond and the depth. Surface area is determined by the evaporation rate while the calculation of the depth is based on water storage, storage capacity for salts, surge capacity, and freeboard for rainfall and wave action (Mickley et al., 1993). The pond must be large enough to satisfy needs of the land area being drained, the volume of subsurface drain water collected, and the rate of evaporation for the served region. Ponds must have a minimum embankment top-width of five meters; freeboard of 0.5 m or equal to maximum wave runup; an inside slope of 6:1 (h:v) and outside slope of 2:1(h:v); and a foundation stripped of all vegetation. Internal dikes may be constructed to create cells within the pond and to allow transfer from cell to cell and disposition of salts in a progressive evaporation sequence (Tanji et al., 1985). As the salinity of water affects the evaporation rate, it has been suggested the use of an evaporation factor of 0.7 for multiplying by the calculated solar evaporation rate to account for the effect of salinity (Mickley et al., 1993). The availability of water, salt, solar radiation and flat land open the doors for the use of solar ponds as an attractive source of renewable energy (Burston and Akbarzadeh, 1995). The effectiveness for generating electricity for solar ponds requires: all-year solar exposure, large volumes of brine, as well as an adequate source of fresher water, low cost flat land of low permeability, distant from shallow aquifers, relatively low winds, and a consistent electricity demand (Ahmed et al. 2000). The deserts of Egypt are suitable for using solar ponds as most of the locations meet the requirements for an effective utilization of solar ponds. When designing evaporation ponds it is preferred to use small ponds connected by pipelines than to design large ponds. Smaller ponds are easy to manage especially in windy weathers where the generated waves can damage 36

the banks of pond requiring costly maintenance (Ahmed et al., 2000). Also, the use of smaller ponds allow ease of operation during periods where there is a decrease in disposal rate, and thus less operators attention is required for the smaller pond than a large pond. 2.6.1.a. Enhancements of Evaporation Ponds Evaporation ponds are also taken as a great opportunity to develop resource recovery measures such as aquaculture, brine shrimp, beta-carotene production, harvesting of salts, and as a solar ponds for electricity generation (Ahmed et al., 2000). The use of evaporation bonds as solar ponds will allow the integrity of the system as using the generated electricity as a supplementary source of power, thus relieving the pressure on the current distressed power sources. To overcome the drawback of the low evaporation rates and increase the efficiency of evaporation, wet surfaces (capillaries or clothes) exposed to wind actions can be used where surface density can be high enough to generate a reasonable evaporation flow. Thus, the surface would be wetted by capillarity effect and the water evaporates leaving solids of the brine crystallize on the surfaces. The final solid waste could then be properly managed by an authorized company or even could be reused (Arnal et al., 2005) Wind-Aided Intensied eVaporation (WAIV) is an enhanced evaporation technology particularly used for reverse osmosis (RO) concentrate to increase natural evaporation. The technology exploits wind energy to evaporate wetted surfaces which are packed in high density per footprint. These surfaces are deployed in arrays with large lateral dimensions and significant heights of about three or four meters (Gilron et al., 2003). Wetting of the surface is occurred by a pump that brings the rejected brine from a pond or from a storage tank to a distribution network on top of the vertical surfaces from which the vertical surfaces are fed by gravity. The driving power of wind drives away excess humidity from the vertical installed surfaces raising the magnitude of 37

evaporation of a factor of 15-20 times compared to the conventional evaporation ponds, then excess brine is allowed to return to pond by gravity through an impervious surfaces (concrete) sloping back to the pond. There are many advantages for the WAIV technology including minimizing the land use of evaporation ponds, increasing the efficiency of evaporation, simple and yet reliable, ideal for inland desalination plants, reduction of up to 50% in treatment costs of RO rejected waste and it can be used in minerals harvesting where product is commercially valuable (Lesico CleanTech). Mahmoud (2011) introduced the concept of a two-cell evaporation pond tends to store water in the buffering cell in order to use it in maintaining minimum water level instead of using supplementary fresh water to feed the pond. The pond is divided into a buffering cell and an evaporation cell. The concept was adopted in order to avoid that tight corner of choosing between the pond area large enough to avoid overtopping and not too large to avoid draught during hot summers. He wrote a computer model in BASIC language to simulate the pond performance. The model calculates the pond water depth, salinity and efficiency. The output is introduced in both forms of tabulated data and graphics. The model is run with real data of the closed basin of Toshka Project in Egypt as a case study. Sensitivity analysis shows that the pond efficiency is very sensitive to its size and less sensitive to drainage water salinity, while pond depth has very small effect. The results indicate that there is significant effect of the salinity increase due to salt accumulation on evaporation rates and pond size. The pond size is selected with the maximum efficiency resulting from one hundred year routing. Different scenarios show that the use of the proposed design of a two-cell pond tends to increase the overall efficiency from 68-80% for one-cell pond to 97-100% for two-cell pond.


2.6.2. Disposal in Municipal Sewerage Systems The disposal of brine in municipal sewerage systems is used in many small RO plants. This process has the advantage of lowering the BOD of the domestic sewage. Nonetheless, TDS increases and may have some effects on the microorganisms of the system and may make the treated effluent unsuitable for irrigation purposes. In addition, the design capacity of the existing sewerage system may not be able to accommodate the increase in discharge (Ahmed et al., 2000). 2.6.3. Salt Production The approach to extract all the salts from the reject brine has been taken seriously for the advantages of being environmentally friendly and producing commercial products. Studies have yielded the SAL-PROC technology introduced by Geo-Processors Pty Limited. SAL-PROC is an integrated process for sequential extraction of dissolved elements from inorganic saline waters in the form of valuable chemical products in crystalline, slurry and liquid forms. The mechanism of the process involves multiple evaporation and/or cooling, supplemented by mineral and chemical processing adding to this that no hazardous chemical is used in the process. The technology is based on simple closed processing and fluids flow circuits which enables utilization of inorganic saline waters to extract a group of valuable chemicals (Ahmed et al., 2002).


Figure 2.14. A Typical SAL-PROC process There is a wide range of different product streams that can be produced from SAL-PROC depending on the chemical composition of the saline waters. As shown in Figure 2.14, sodium chloride salt is only one of a range of the chemical products of commercial value which can be processed from using the technology. The recovered chemical products are of high quality and in demand by different industries (Ahmed et al., 2002). However, economic success depends not only on the technology to bring about selective salt recovery but also on the local salt market and the challenges associated with marketing each salt (Mickley, 2010). Application areas for the SAL-PROC products are identified by the market as follows (Ahmed et al., 2002): Feedstock, fillers, reagents, coating material and supplements for: o Animal dietary needs o Fire retardants o Manufacture of magnesium metal o Manufacture of light-weighted and fire-proof plaster boards and other building products o Manufacture of salt-tolerant building footing, wall panels and other construction products o Application in tanneries o Production of quality paper products o Manufacture of plastics, paint, ink, and sealant products o Soil conditioners for remediation of sodic and acidic soils o Sealants for irrigation channels and earthen ponds 40

o Stabilizers for road base construction o Dust suppressant o Flocculating agents for water/wastewater treatment Ahmed et al. (2002) performed a desktop pre-feasibility study on reject brine from Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) desalination plants indicated that various types of salts including gypsum, sodium chloride, magnesium hydroxide, calcium carbonate, sodium sulphate and calcium chloride can be produced. The study showed that by processing 405 ML of reject brine per year from the PDO desalination plants, it is possible to produce commercial salts worth US $895,000 annually. Depending on the chemical composition of the saline feed water the process route may involve one or more steps of reaction and evaporation and/or cooling supplemented by conventional mineral and chemical processing steps. From the studies on the PDO-RO desalination plants, there were three proposed process routes for the treatment of the rejected brine. Figure 2.15 schematically shows a comprehensive overview for the three process routes (Ahmed et al., 2002). The use of waste effluent as a resource is the main attractiveness of the SAL-PROC technology as well as the low-value chemicals as the reagents for the recovery of saleable chemical products which offer higher return from their sale, surpassing the cost of the operation. Mostly the treatment facility is of low electricity, where the main usage of electricity would be for the operation of pumps and agitators in the chemical reactors and fluid transfer circuits (Ahmed et al., 2002)


Figure 2.15. Proposed Process Routes for the Treatment of Reject Brines Generated by PDO-Operated RO Desalination Plants (Ahmed et al., 2002)


2.6.4. Deep Well Injection

Deep well injection is presently applied worldwide for disposal of industrial, municipal and liquid hazardous wastes. In recent years this technology has been given serious consideration as an option for brine disposal from land based desalination plants. For example, for the United States, its considered the third most used method for brine management comprising 17 percent of the disposal methods. It comes after disposal into surface water which covers 41 percent and disposal into sewers with 31 percent (Mickley, 2006). Of the extremely important aspects in the design of injection wells, is the site selection, which is dependent upon geological and hydrogeological conditions. It is worth noting that injection wells should not be located in areas vulnerable to earthquakes or regions with mineral resources (Ahmed et al., 2000). A typical waste injection well injects the waste liquids at depths ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand feet. Low cost when compared to the alternatives of landfilling and chemical treatment (often costing 80% less), and relatively high success rate are among the reasons for the earlier growth of deep-well injection as a waste disposal option (Lehr, 1986). Deep-well injection is typically employed for larger desalination plants (e.g., > 3,800 m3/day) because the costs for developing deep-injection wells are relatively high and are not largely reduced for smaller flows. For example, the typical capital cost of a 3,000-m-deep well is reported at $8.1 million for a concentrate flow of 3,800 m3/day, which decreases to only about $5.1 million for a concentrate flow of either 380 or 38 m3/day (Malmrose et al., 2004). These costs exclude any pretreatment or standby disposal system. While capital costs for well injection are about average of typical inland concentrate management methods, the annual operating costs are relatively low as a percentage of total operating costs (Mickley, 2006).


Stephen (1986) made some modifications to the existing techniques for impact assessment calculations and presented several management tools that can be useful in assessing the environmental impacts resulting from saltwater disposal injection wells. He stated the most useful of these tools, which include: (a) calculations of radius of endangering influence using Cooper-Jacob method and Theis non-equilibrium equation; (b) potentiometric head contour maps; (c) formation hydraulic transmitting properties; and (d) water quality. Whereas his modifications included: (a) estimates of radius of endangering influence that require observed initial hydrostatic heads and aquifer hydraulic transmitting properties for the injection interval; and (b) the geochemical characterization of nearby suspected ground water contamination using all major ion concentrations in a trilinear diagram of water quality analysis, instead of using only chloride as a brine tracer. Once an aquifer is contaminated, these chloride-rich brines are not easily or inexpensively removed. Stephen (1986) Underground migration of injection fluids possible pathways have been discussed by Canter, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Fryberger and Tinlin. These include: (a) corroded or improperly plugged injection wells where the intended receiving interval or adjacent saline aquifers are hydraulically connected to freshwater geological horizons; (b) abandoned exploration wells located within the radius of endangering influence created from nearby active injection wells; (c) fracturing of geologic units resulting in the hydraulic interconnection of the injection horizon, adjacent saline aquifers, and/or freshwater aquifers; or (d) different combinations of the above. Saripalli et al. (2000) gave a variety of processes that contribute to the reduction in permeability of the host formation or the perforations or screens that are placed in the wells injection interval. These processes include particle/colloid migration into the formation, bacterial growth, emulsification of fluids, and precipitation of dissolved matter, flow of unconsolidated sands into well bores, scale formation and entrapment of gases. 44

He also introduced a measure of the effects of plugging and damage to subterranean formations on injection well performance. It was expressed by injectivity (I) which is defined as the ratio of injection rate (q) to the difference between well flowing pressure (Pwf) and the average formation pressure (Pr) given by the following equation.
I q Pwf Pr


Several factors affect the injectivity, which include the physical and chemical quality of the injected fluid, injection rate and pressure, as well as the nature and physical properties of subterranean strata. Its worth noting that one of the most important constraints on stable injectivity is the presence of suspended solids in the injection fluid. High TSS, low injection rate, low injection pressure, and low porosity and permeability of the well strata all lead to rapid well plugging and diminished injectivity (Saripalli et al., 2000). Saripalli et al. (2000) also introduced the half-life concept of an injection well which is defined as the time required for its injectivity to decline to half its initial value. This is a good indicator of the well performance. Two relevant questions that engineers must answer while designing and maintaining a deep-well injection facility are: (1) what is the water quality (TSS) criterion to be imposed on the inuent waste streams to ensure a given injector half-life, and, conversely (2) given a certain inuent waste stream quality, what is the expected half-life of the injection well? He stated that, as the plugging of an injection well occurs and the formation gets worse, the need of larger injection pressures becomes crucial to maintain a given flow rate, which can lead to well failure, causing the spread of contamination and compromising safety. In addition, the build-up of high subsurface pressures can cause the fracturing of confining strata and create pathways for the vertical migration of injected fluid.


The tubing-and-packer design considerations were introduced by Shekan and Kwiatkowski (2000). The tubing and packer assembly is installed inside the final cemented casing of the injection well. Other design considerations include compatibility of the concentrate with the tubing material (corrosion potential), anticipated permeate and concentrate flows, tubing diameter selection in the retrofit of existing deep injection wells, and annular monitoring systems for leak detection. Shahatto (2003) investigated the effect of abstracting brackish water for desalination and subsequent brine injection into the same coastal aquifer. A 2D vertical model was built for a cross section perpendicular to the shore line. For all simulations, the code ROCKFLOW has been used. The results of the simulation scenarios showed that the injected brine sinks faster than it can be transported horizontally by the groundwater flow and could form a salty lens at the aquifer bottom around the injection well or above a low permeability layer. Also, when the desalination plant is shutdown and in the absence of pumping and injection, the formed salty plume around the injection well during the operation of desalination plant is spread to the sea with time. The remediation could happen by extracting of this brine followed by mixing with less saline water (dilution) and re-injection in the aquifer or disposal into the sea at an appropriate distance from the reef. Williams and Feeney (2003) suggested a hypothetical system of discharge and recharge wells. The main problem of case study was that disposing reject brine to the Pacific Ocean was difficult to permit. The marine sanctuary restricts any discharges into the ocean that may injure a sanctuary resource. Because a change in seawater salinity may injure plants and animals in the marine sanctuary, brine disposal is effectively prohibited. So, they took two actions. First, the desalination plant is operating such that the brine is the same chemistry as seawater. This was achieved by pumping a mixture of freshwater from onshore and seawater from offshore as feedwater to the desalination unit. Second, they designed a system with two production wells and a horizontal 46

brine injection well such that some of the brine is recirculated back into the two production wells. This system was designed using SEAWAT (Gue and Langevin, 2002). Nassar (2007) developed a methodology in assessing the environmental impacts of desalination plants discharging brine through injection into underground. He used laboratory and computational methods to simulate the phenomena of subsurface brine disposal by injection. He prepared a setup for a seepage tank of dimensions 1.42m long, 0.1m wide, and 0.6m height with two well configurations to represent to a 2D flow in the vertical plane experimentally. SEAWAT was used for building the computational model. The results were used for calibrating the computational model simulated. Preliminary design charts for the management of the production and injections well fields for the desalination plants were created in terms of four design parameters, which are relative salt concentration (RSC); production and injection rates (Qd, Qr), well spacing (S) and simulation period (T). Also the study showed that on the long run, the injection well will affect the salinity of the production well and it was shown through the developed design charts that assess the time-varying effect for the different design scenarios. Navarro and Carbonell (2007) have studied the contamination of groundwater in a specific aquifer in Spain that was caused by the disposal of some byproducts. These byproducts are resulting from the extraction of dry raw materials in quarries. The migration of pollutant is resulting from the fluctuation in the potentiometric head. The hydrogeochemical processes associated with uncontrolled waste disposal in these landfill areas were studied along a flow path that crosses the contaminated area. A transport model was developed to study te reactions associated with the different mineral phases through inverse modeling. This transport model was used also to simulate the dilution phenomenon associated with the pollution after the potential removal of the sources of contamination.


Ali (2009) studied the environmental impacts of the disposal of gas production by-products waste water in deep aquifers. He studied the sustainability of the proposed option of Mansoura Petroleum Company, a gas and oil production company with a large concession area in the Nile Delta around Mansoura city, of using a flooded gas production well for the disposal of water resulting from the gas extraction process for a timeframe of fifty years. He used groundwater flow modeling to obtain the flow pattern for the area and developed a contaminant transport model to predict the extent of contamination resulting from the disposal of produced water into El-Wastani formation. Ali (2009) assumed a single injection well with a rate of 220m3/day for 50 years, and he showed that the 10% relative contamination line will migrate vertically upward into the main water bearing formation (Meet Ghamr) for a distance of about 150m while the lateral extent is about 1800 m. He also introduced multiple future scenarios for a conservative approach for the assessment; these scenarios indicated negligible impacts on the top 300-400 m of groundwater aquifer around the disposal well. He also recommended that such disposal should be accompanied with a system of monitoring wells that should be placed down gradient and regularly monitored. 2.6.5. Aquaculture Aquaculture is a growing industry. Moderately saline effluent can be used to culture fish though rigorous monitoring is required. Species reported to grow well in high salinity water in Australia are brine shrimp (Artemia salina), Barramundi (Lates calcarifer), Black Bream (Acanthopagrux butcheri), Red napper (Pagrus auratus), Milk Fish (Chanos chanos), Mullet (Mugil cephulux) and Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus). Having brine shrimp production downstream from finfish culture has advantages in that the brine shrimp utilize nutrients generated from fish culture, while providing food for fish fry (Ahmed et al.). It is worth noting that brine shrimp have the ability to live in water of


very high salinity levels and can tolerate varying levels of salinity from 5 g/L up to 250 g/L (Daintith, 1996). Evaporation basins can also provide a foundation for algae production. Dunaliella salina grows and produces commercial grades of beta-carotene at salinities greater than 200 g/L. Other species of salt tolerant algae (more correctly, a blue green bacteria) may also have commercial application (Ahmed et al. 2000).




3.1. Introduction As abovementioned, two main disposal alternatives will be evaluated. The first alternative is the evaporation pond whereas; the second alternative is injection in the deep aquifers. In this chapter, the evaporation pond alternaive is assessed and evaluated. In order to obtain a faire comparison between the two disposal alternatives, an existing evaporation pond in Sinai has been selected as a case study. The data of this evaporation pond were collected and analyzed to be used in the evaluation of the evaporation pond alternative. The description of the existing evaporation pond and the details of the evaluation of the pond disposal alternative are presented below. 3.2. Case Study Description Three desalination plants were constructed in Central Sinai under the umbrella of the LIFE Sinai program. The three plants, located in AlMeswateya, Al-Monbateh and Bir Beda are now operating and they produce a total of 600m3 of potable water per day (i.e. 200m3/plant/day) benefiting more than 6,000 inhabitants of Central Sinai. The locations of the three desalination plants are shown in Figure 3.1. The plants are named based on their location. Al-Monbateh was taken as a case study for the simulation of desalination and the disposal of the byproduct (reject brine) of the desalination process. Figure 3.2 shows a layout for Al-Monbateh desalination plant and the disposal area.


Figure 3.1. The Sinai Peninsula with the Location of the Case Study

Figure 3.2. Layout For The Project Area of Al-Monbateh Desalination Plant


The desalination plant receives water from Al-Monbateh deep well which taps the Lower Cretaceous aquifer of Sinai. The plant runs on two identical reverse osmosis (RO) units with a recovery rate of 70 percent (recovery rate is described as the percentage of the permeate water produced to the feed water). Each unit has a production capacity of 10m3/h of fresh water over an operation period of 10 hours per day to produce a total production of 200 m3/day. Product water is collected in a product tank with capacity of 200 m3 from where a product pumps transfer the water to tankers. The produced water quality is according to the WHO drinking water standards. The reject brine produced undergoes a further treatment in order to reduce the final brine volume for final disposal. Two reject RO modules are provided to receive and treat the byproduct of the two main RO units. The design parameters for the main and the reject RO units are listed in Table 3.1 and Table 3.2 Table 3.1. The Design Parameters for Each of the Main RO Units Description Unit Operation period 10 Hours/day Feed water design temperature 20-30 oC Feed water quality ~2200 mg/L TDS Reverse Osmosis recovery 70 % Feed water flow 14.29 m3/h Brine flow 4.29 m3/h RO permeate flow 10 m3/h Treated water quality 500 mg/L TDS

Table 3.2. The Design Parameters for Each of the Reject RO Units Description Unit Operation period 10 Hours/day Feed water design temperature 20-30 oC Feed water quality 11176 mg/L TDS Reverse Osmosis recovery 70 % Feed water flow 4.29 m3/h Brine flow 1.29 m3/h RO permeate flow 3 m3/h Treated water quality ~173 mg/L TDS 53

The raw water from Al-Monbateh well is branched by pipes connection to a 300m3 raw water tank which collects and stores the water before feeding the two reverse osmosis (RO) units. The raw water is chlorinated before storage in the raw water tank as a pretreatment step. Two filter-feed pumps (one per each RO module) take water from raw water tank and feed it to pretreatment system. Suspended solids are removed by the manual multimedia filter. Each RO module has one filter. This filter is operated manually with backwashing required once per day. One backwash assistance pump is used for backwashing. A de-chlorination dosing set for dosing sodium meta-bisulphate is used to remove chlorine before RO membranes. After filtration, the filtered water complies with the guidelines for feeding RO membranes, mainly that there shall be no chlorine present, dissolved iron shall be less than 0.01 mg/l, and the silt density index (SDI) is less than 3. In addition, antiscalant chemicals are added to prevent scaling of calcium sulphates where chemical mixing takes place in-line. Chlorination and pH adjustments dosing sets are used as a post treatment step for the permeate water produced from each RO unit. The treated product water is collected in the product tank with a capacity of 200m3 from where a product pumps transfer the water to tankers to be delivered to the nearby habitants. Each main RO module produces 4.29 m3/h of brine (total of 8.58m3/h) at TDS concentration of about 11,176 mg/L. The reject brine from each main RO module is collected in a buffer tank from which is treated by a second RO unit called Reject RO unit. Each reject RO unit produces 3 m3/h of permeate water at TDS of 173 mg/L and a concentrate with flow of 1.29m3/h at about 35,950 mg/L. The permeate water from both reject RO units (i.e. 6 m3/h) is mixed with approximately 1 m3/h of the final reject from both reject RO units resulting a final solution of 7 m3/h at concentration of less than 5,000 mg/L. This final mixture is pumped to the elevated irrigation tank to be used for irrigation purposes. The remaining final reject (i.e. 1.6m3/h at 35,950 mg/L) is 54

disposed as final brine and is managed by evaporation using evaporation ponds. The disposal area is divided into two identical connected lined evaporation ponds with bottom dimensions of 44.0 m length, 33.0 m wide and 1.25 m depth and 2:1 horizontal to vertical side slopes. Figure 3.3 shows a schematic diagram for the operation of the Al-Monbateh desalination plant.


Figure 3.3. Schematic Operation Diagram for the Al-Monbateh Desalination Plant


The Al-Monbateh well penetrates two of the most potential aquifers in Sinai: the Upper Cretaceous and the Lower Cretaceous aquifers. The Lower Cretaceous, which is the producing aquifer for the Al-Monbateh well, is considered to be the aquifer with the greatest development potential among the other aquifer systems in Sinai. The two aquifers are saline aquifers, and regardless of the spatial salinity variation in both aquifers the Lower Cretaceous has less groundwater salinity than the Upper Cretaceous in most of the aquifers extent. Figure 3.4 shows a schematic representation of the stratigraphic units in Central Sinai.

Figure 3.4. Typical Stratigraphic Succession in Central Sinai (Ghoubachi, 2010)


3.3. Description of Al-Monbateh Disposal System The current disposal system in Al-Monbateh desalination plant consists of two adjacent connected evaporation ponds with dimensions of 44 m length, 33 m wide and 1.25 m height each and the sides of the ponds are constructed with a horizontal to vertical slope of 2:1 (Figure 3.5). The ponds are lined to assure that the concentrate treatment takes place through evaporation only and to avoid water seepage thus prevent salts from reaching to the underlying groundwater that might cause contamination to the nearby shallow dug-wells. The design of the ponds was based on a constant inflow rate of 1.6 m3/hr of reject brine resulting from the desalination process of the RO units of AlMonbateh plant with total daily working hours of 10 hours (i.e. total daily brine discharge is 16 m3). A constant evaporation rate of 6 mm/day was assumed and no seepage takes place as the ponds are lined. The provided area should provide a safe disposal for the current system under the given design criteria and operation rules. It is worth noting that one of the obvious drawbacks of the current disposal system is that the system has a limited operation period (e.g., no more than 10 hours per day assuming the availability of electric power).

Figure 3.5. Plan and Cross-Section of the Evaporation Ponds 58


Overtopping Problem in Al-Monbateh Disposal System

During a field visit to the evaporation ponds, the operator of the plant stated that after five months from the operation of the desalination plant, continuous overtopping of the water above the safe allowable level was recorded. As a quick solution, the operator of the plant has to use additional pumping system to pump out some of the reject from the pond and unsafely dispose it few meters away from the evaporation pond leaving the brine to spread on the ground surface to be treated by both evaporation and seepage. This brings the critic of constructing lined evaporation ponds to avoid contamination of the underlying groundwater. It also refutes the design environmental requirements of a safe disposal of the reject brine. In addition to a running cost of the pumping unit(s) attached to the system. Accordingly, the data of Al-Monbateh Disposal System with the current configuration will not provide a fair comparison to the two disposal alternatives, as the dimension of the evaporation pond was underestimated. To overcome this issue, an additional task was taken in this research, where we had to identify the reasons for the overtopping problem in Al-Monbateh and obtain the proper dimension of the pond to be used in the comparison. The main cause of overtopping problem could be one or a combination of the following possible reasons: 1. Assumption of constant evaporation rates along the 12 months of the year which was taken equal to 6 mm/day. 2. Ignoring the rainfall on the evaporation pond area as an additional inflow to the ponds. 3. Neglecting the effect of salinity variation of the reject brine inside the evaporation ponds on the evaporation rates. Further explanation for the effect of salinity on the evaporation rates is discussed later in section 3.7.


4. Increasing the desalination plant operation period per day more the designed period (i.e. 10 hours per day) resulting in an increased inflow to the ponds. For the comparison and assessment of the current disposal system (i.e., evaporation ponds) with the other disposal options to be fair and feasible, the evaporation pond option has to safely dispose the brine alone without any supplementary units being attached. Since the current pond cannot act solely as a safe disposal option, there was a need to find the appropriate dimensions of the pond that comprise a safe option for disposing the reject brine. This can be done by identifying the main cause(s) of overtopping and taking into account these causes then hypothetically modify the dimension of the evaporation pond to assure safe disposal of the reject brine. For reject brine to be safely disposed, the disposal option has to be developed and assessed in terms of its technical viability, its effect on the environment, and its economic feasibility. An assessment for the current evaporation ponds was performed using a MATLAB code which comprises both water and salt balance for the pond. The flowchart of the code is shown Figure 3.6.


Figure 3.6. Flow Chart for the Assessment Process of the Evaporation Pond 3.5. Simulation Model

A MATLAB code is written to simulate pond routing that utilizes water and salt balance. The input data are the simulation routing period in days, the desalination plant outflow rates as the inflow rates for the ponds, the rainfall and evaporation rates on a monthly basis, the inflow water salinity, the pond dimensions, and the pumping characteristic if needed (i.e., if the depth of water inside the pond increases above the maximum allowed depth inside the pond that was taken as 1.0 m which is about 80% of the total depth of the pond). The model outputs are the cumulative water storage, water depth, water salinity at every time step, number of overtopping occurrence, the maximum cumulative water storage, maximum water depth, maximum water salinity at different pumping rates. Also, the pond efficiency which is defined as the ratio of the summation of the periods of non-overtopping to the overall period of the


routing can then be calculated. The time step is chosen to be one day and the inflow to the ponds is divided equally on both ponds. The simulation model is used to assess the current pond dimensions taking into consideration the reasons causing the overtopping as described in section 3.4. Due to lack of data at Al-Monbateh desalination plant location, the actual evaporation rates and rainfall on a monthly basis were obtained from the nearest available five meteorological stations. The Inverse Distance method was utilized to calculate the estimated rainfall and the evaporation rates at AlMonbateh location. The Inverse Distance method is a weighted average method, where weights for each meteorological stations are inversely proportionate to its distance from the point being estimated which is AlMonbateh location. The formula of the inverse distance may be written as (Lam, 1983)


i 1 N i 1

2 i

2 i


Where, Px: estimate of rainfall/evaporation rate for the ungauged station Pi: rainfall/evaporation rate values of rain gauges used for estimation di: distance from each location the point being estimated N: numbers of surrounding stations The available data at the five stations are the monthly rainfall and the reference evapotranspiration rates ET0. An empirical relation between the evapotranspiration rates ET0 and the pan evaporation rates Ep is introduced as follows:
ET0 K p E p


where, Kp is the pan coefficient. 62

The most widely used table of Kp values to estimate ET0 from Ep is the one provided by Doorenbos and Pruitt (1977). The table gives the Kp values for National Weather Service (NWS) class A evaporation pans located over grass surfaces having a range of upwind grass fetch distances as described in Doorenbos and Pruitt (1977). More recently, Allen and Pruitt (1991) published the original Kp values (Table 3.3) used to develop the Doorenbos and Pruitt (1977) table. The Kp values in the table vary depending on the fetch, wind speed, and relative humidity (Snyder et al., 2005), a constant value of 0.7 is assumed for calculation in the current simulation model. Table 3.3 Kp Values from Allen and Pruitt (1991) Corresponding to Mean Relative Humidity (%) and Wind Run (km/day) Data
Relative Humidity (%) 30 30 30 30 57 57 57 57 84 84 84 84 Fetch (m) Wind Run(Km/day) 84 260 465 700 84 260 465 700 84 260 465 700 100 0.74 0.66 0.58 0.5 0.81 0.73 0.66 0.59 0.85 0.78 0.71 0.65 1 0.55 0.5 0.45 0.4 0.64 0.58 0.52 0.45 0.73 0.65 0.59 0.53 10 0.66 0.6 0.52 0.45 0.75 0.68 0.6 0.53 0.82 0.75 0.67 0.61 1,000 0.77 0.7 0.62 0.55 0.83 0.77 0.7 0.63 0.87 0.81 0.75 0.68

The values of pan evaporation rates are multiplied by a pan factor to convert them to the equivalent lake evaporation values. Usually this dimensionless factor is equal to 0.7 (Chow et al., 1988), but this value varies by season and location. It will be assumed equal to 0.75 in this case. Available Meteorological Stations As above-mentioned, five meteorological stations are available in the vicinity of Al-Monbateh plant. The location of these stations are shown in Table 3.4 and Figure 3.7.


Figure 3.7. The Location of the Five Meteorological Stations and AlMonbateh Desalination Plant Table 3.4. Location of the Five Meteorological Stations
Station Location Latitude (N) Longitude (E) Distance to Al-Monbateh plant (km) Aqaba Airport 29.63 35.01 137 Aqaba Port 29.48 34.98 148 Port Said 31.28 32.23 201.5 BeerSheva 31.23 34.78 83 Ismailia 30.6 32.25 190

Table 3.5 summarizes the available evapotranspiration rates and the estimated evaporation rates for the five meteorological stations. In addition, Table 3.6 depicts the recorded rainfall data and estimated rainfall at AlMonbateh obtained from the five meteorological stations

Table 3.5. Available Evapotranspiration Rates and Estimated Evaporation Rates for the Five Meteorological Stations
ET0 (mm/day) Month January February March April Aqaba Aqaba airport port 3.08 2.83 3.74 3.31 5.28 4.3 6.48 5.59 Port Said 2.06 2.83 3.29 4.1 Beer Sheva Ismailia 2.06 2.59 2.46 3.41 3.19 4.57 4.49 6.13
Estimated ET0 at AlMonbateh (mm/day) Estimated Evaporatio n Rate (mm/day)

2.41 2.94 3.87 5.14

2.58 3.15 4.15 5.50


May June July August September October November December

8.93 10.46 10.12 9.96 7.96 6.32 4.88 3.38

7.27 8.41 8.09 7.98 7.02 5.46 3.97 2.92

4.5 5.23 5.77 5.51 5.29 3.95 2.85 2.31

5.91 6.07 6.06 5.53 4.59 3.72 2.89 2.12

6.95 7.73 7.61 6.94 5.77 4.45 2.8 2.2

6.64 7.30 7.22 6.83 5.74 4.54 3.40 2.49

7.12 7.83 7.74 7.32 6.15 4.87 3.65 2.67

Table 3.6. Available Rainfall Data and Estimated Rainfall for the Five Meteorological Stations
Aqaba airport 5 6 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 2 4 8 Rainfall (mm) Aqaba Port port Said 6 18 11 12 8 10 5 5 3 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 8 6 7 2 16 Beer Sheva 45 40 36 10 1 0 0 0 0 3 20 39 Estimated rainfall at AlIsmailia Monbateh (mm) 7 26.01 6 23.92 7 21.07 2 6.81 2 1.65 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.25 2 2.68 6 12.58 5 22.64

Month January February March April May June July August September October November December


Water and Salt Balance

The water balance for both inflow to the evaporation pond and its outflow can be expressed as: Water inflow = Reject brine discharge + Rainfall Water outflow = Evaporation + Pumped-out water Accordingly, the storage volume and water characteristics inside the pond can be obtained from the simple mass balance calculations as: Water storage = Cumulative inflow water Cumulative outflow (3.5) (3.3) (3.4)


water Water depth = Storage water / Area of pond (3.6)

On the other hand, salt balance can be expressed as:

Salt inflow = Salt concentration of reject brine discharge (3.7) Salt outflow = Salts dissolved in Pumped-out water Salt storage = Cumulative inflow salts Cumulative outflow salts Salinity = Mass of dissolved salts in storage / Pond water mass Salt depth = Un-dissolved salt volume / Area of pond (3.8) (3.9) (3.10) (3.11)

Salt storage is divided into dissolved and un-dissolved salts according to the solubility of the salt mixture. Solubility is the concentration limit of dissolved slats after which salts are transformed from a solution state to crystal state. These crystals deposit on the bed of the pond. It is assumed that the deposited salts never transfer into solution again. Figure 3.8 illustrates the solubility of the most common salts at different temperatures (Volland, 2005). In the case study considered here, the average temperature is around 20 C. As there are no available data of salt texture formation, it is assumed that Sodium Chloride (NaCl) is dominant. Hence, a solubility value of 34 grams of dissolved salts in 100 grams of water is considered. This value is equivalent to 340,000 part per million (ppm), which is about ten times the typical sea water salinity


Figure 3.8. Solubility of Some Common Salts at Different Temperatures (Volland, 2005). 3.7. Effect of Salinity on Evaporation Rates

Different studies have been made to find the relation between evaporation rate and water salinity. According to the water report number 13 of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (Johnston et al., 1997) a correction factor Y is used to reduce evaporation rate due to the increase in water electrical conductivity as follows:
Y 1.3234 0.0066 EC

for EC up to 60 dS/m


Where, Y is a correction factor according FAO's formula [dimensionless] and EC is the electrical conductivity of water [dS/m]. From the above equation (3.12), it is clear that the evaporation rate decreases linearly with the increase of water electrical conductivity, which is a direct measure of water salinity. Substituting water salinity in parts per million (ppm) instead of electrical conductivity in dS/m, which is a direct measure to water salinity assuming that 1 dS/m 640 ppm, and using a dimensionless parameter = Y/1.3234 to keep its value equal to unity with fresh water of zero salinity. Equation (3.12) becomes:


8 10 6 S 1.0 for water salinity up to 38,400 ppm


Where, is a correction factor [dimensionless], and S = salinity of water [ppm]. Another study was made to estimate this relation at Lake Qaroun in Egypt (Ali, 1998), field measurements led to the following formula:

3 10 6 S 1.0 for water salinity up to 72,400 ppm


Where, is s correction factor [dimensionless], and S = salinity of water [ppm]. Equation (3.13) shows the linear relation of evaporation rate reduction with the increasing of water salinity. As the salt concentration in evaporation ponds may go beyond these limitations, equations (3.13) and (3.14) do not satisfy higher salinity levels. Another study was conducted at the Dead Sea in Jordan Valley (Niemi et al., 1997). This study depended on field data where evaporation rates corresponding to 39 different water salinities were measured. These measured data could be put in the following formula:

2 10 6 S 1.0 for water salinity up to 267,000 ppm


Where, is a correction factor [dimensionless], and S is the salinity of water [ppm]. The advantage of equation (3.15) is its validity for higher water concentration values than equations (3.13) and (3.14). That makes it more suitable to be used to simulate the performance of evaporation ponds, especially for long durations. Figure 3.9 summarizes the three equations and shows a comparison among them.


Figure 3.9. Salinity effect on evaporation rate (Mahmoud, 2011) 3.8. Results and Discussion

The simulation model is run with the plant inflow and the expected rainfall as the total inflow to the pond while the outflow is the evaporation and the pumped out volumes, when needed, with a simulation routing period of 25 years (i.e. 300 months) while the area of the evaporation ponds is the actual constructed area and no seepage is considered due to the lining of the bottom and sides of the ponds. The pond started operation in late in 2011 in September, so that its evaporation rates and rainfall were put first in their arrays in the model. The pond performance under the native design criteria the outflow rates is more than the inflow rates and thus continuous drought occurs no flooding occurs during the age of the pond as both the inflow and outflow rates are assumed to be constant during the life time of the pond. During operation the water salinity concentration increases until it reaches its maximum saturation, which is taken as 340,000 ppm. Once the water solution reaches its maximum concentration, the dissolved salts is transformed into un-dissolved salts and deposits on the bed of the pond. This concentration goes very high when water depth inside the pond becomes very small or becomes zero. At zero level of water inside the pond, all accumulated dissolved salts become un-dissolved and 69

create a layer of salt at the bottom of the pond. The thickness of this layer increases as the sequence of zero water levels continues, however, the simulation results of the exiting pond shows that the water depth is accumulating and no zero water levels will be witnessed. To investigate the causes of the problem, different combinations of the four mentioned causes in section 3.4 are tested and the pond performance is checked. Each possible cause is identified alone at first and the depth is then plotted against the simulation period to check the pond performance. Figure 3.10 shows the effect of each cause alone, where Figure 3.10 (a) shows the effect of rainfall, Figure 3.10 (b) shows the effect of actual evaporation rates, Figure 3.10 (c) shows the effect of the salinity, and Figure 3.5d shows the effect of increasing the working hours of the plant to double the designated working hours. It can be shown that the effect of rainfall only or the actual evaporation rates only doesnt cause the overtopping of the pond after five months of operation as reported by the plant operator. However from Figure 3.10 (c) and 3.10 (d) overtopping occurs after 1 year and 3 years respectively which is also not the claim of the working staff at the Al-Monbateh desalination plant.



Figure 3.10. Pond Performance with the Effect of the Four Possible Causes of Overtopping (a) Effect of Rainfall Only, (b) Effect of Actual Evaporation Rates, (c) Effect of Salinity, and (d) Effect of Increasing Working Hours Different combinations of the four possible causes are studied to reach the most possible reason to the overtopping problem that lead the operator to attach a pumping unit after the operation of the plant by only five months. Figure 3.11 summarizes three of the considered combinations. From Figure 3.11 (a), it can be concluded that the combination of both rainfall and the actual evaporation rates doesnt cause the overtopping of the brine from the pond, however from Figure 3.11 (b) the combination of rainfall, actual evaporation rates, and considering the effect of salinity on evaporation rates resulted in overtopping occurrence after 16 months and 15 days prior to the pond operation date. Finally, Figure 3.11 (c) depicts the combination of all the four possible causes of the overtopping problem. In Figure 3.11 (c) in addition to considering the actual evaporation rates, actual rainfall, and effect of salinity, the desalination plant is assumed to run for three different operating hours: 16, 18, and 20 hours per day instead of 10 hours per day. The combination of these four possible reasons proved a good agreement between the simulated model and the actual case which properly investigates the cause of that early overtopping. 72

The pond performance curve shows that the water level exceeds the safe overtopping level after four months and 12 days, 5 months, and 6 months for 16, 18, and 20 operating hours respectively. Also, the pond will flood after the first five months and 21 days, 7 months, and 12 months and 9 days for 16, 18, and 20 plant operating hours respectively. Thus, it is suggested that the problem may occurred because of a combination of the four possible reasons. It is worth to mention that Figure 3.11 reflects the importance of considering the effect of salinity of the reject brine on the evaporation ponds, however for more investigation on the salinity effect, sensitivity analysis of the salinity effect and the reduction factor is discussed in section 3.7.


Figure 3.11. Pond Performance Curves after Combination of Different Possible Causes. (a) Combination of Both Rainfall and Actual Evaporation Ponds, (b) Combination of Rainfall, Actual Evaporation Ponds and Salinity Effect on Evaporation Rates, and (c) Combination of Rainfall, Actual Evaporation Ponds, Salinity Effect on Evaporation Rates, and Increasing the Plant Working Hours.


3.9. Sensitivity Analysis for the Effect of Salinity on the Pond Performance The correction factor which is calculated using equations 3.13, 3.14 and 3.15 derived based on empirical relationships depends on the coefficient of salinity term in the equations. Thus a general form for the equation can be formulated replacing the numerical coefficients of each equation to a constant C. The equation of the salinity effect on the evaporation rates can then be expressed as:

C 10 6 S 1.0


Where, is evaporation rates reduction factor [dimensionless], C is the coefficient of salinity [dimensionless], and S is the water salinity [ppm]. Several attempts were reported in literature to estimate the values of the coefficient C. A detailed review of these attempts is presented in Mahmoud, 2011. To investigate the importance of the salinity effect on reducing the evaporation rates and accordingly on the design of evaporation ponds, 4 simulations were conducted with different values for the coefficient C. A summary of these values are presented in the table below.

Table 3.7. Summary of C Values and Comments Simulation C Value Comments No. 1 0 No effect for salinity for comparison 2 2 As estimated from Dead Sea in Jordan Valley (Niemi et al., 1997). 3 3 As estimated from lake Qaroun study in Egypt (Ali, 1998) 4 8 As suggested by FAO's formula Figure 3.12 shows the sensitivity analysis and the evaluation of the effect of changing the coefficient C on the pond performance. Figure 3.7 shows the pond performance in case of ignoring the salinity effect on the evaporation 75

rates in solid line for comparison. It is evidence from Figure 3.12 that the salinity has a major influence on the evaporation pond performance. The comparison indicates that with ignoring the effect of salinity (i.e., C = 0) the maximum water depth in the pond did not exceed 0.5m, whereas the maximum depth could reach a value of 1.8 to 3.4m when the value of C changes between 8 to 2. This not only proves the importance of considering the effect of salinity on the evaporation rates, but also emphasis the importance of accurately determine the appropriate value of C.

Figure 3.12. The Effect of the Salinity Coefficient Variation on the Pond Performance 3.10. New Dimensions for the Evaporation Ponds for Safe Disposal A large number of trials of changing the bottom dimensions, the depth, and the side slopes of the pond are carried out to obtain the pond dimensions needed for the evaporation pond to act independently as a safe disposal option for the reject brine. Eleven alternatives are identified out of the trials as safe dimensions. Figure 3.13 presented the top areas, the bottom areas and the depths of the 11 alternatives. The figure shows that the top required area is a value near 6000 square meters, while the bottom area varies between 2000 to 3000 square meters and the depths ranges from two to three meters.


7000 6000 5000 Area (m2) 4000 3000 2000 1000 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Alternative 8 9 10 11
Top Area Bottom Area Depth

3.5 3 2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0 Depth (m)

Figure 3.13. Top and Bottom Areas and Depths of the 11 Safe Alternative Dimensions for the Evaporation Ponds Table 3.8 lists the dimensions of the 11 alternatives, the depth, bottom area, side slopes, top area, volume and the relative lining cost compared to the existing evaporation pond as well as the relative volume. Since, the 11 alternatives assure that the evaporation pond will act solely without the need of any supplementary units attached to it (i.e., pumping units), then the decision on which alternative is the better will be based upon the economical side through calculating the expected cost of the pond. The cost of the evaporation ponds are discussed in details in section 3.11. The total cost is plotted against the 11 alternative in Figure 3.14, it can be seen that the lowest cost comes from alternative number six with 60m length and 50m wide with side slopes 6:1 and two meters deep. The pond performance of the new chosen dimensions is shown through Figure 3.16 (a) and (b). Figure (a) shows the variation of the water depth along 25-years simulation period. The water inside the pond increases with times to reach 1.60 m and doesnt flood out of the pond, while Figure (b) illustrates the salinity variation over time inside the pond. The results of the simulation model


show that the solubility is reached 14 times where the salts are separated to form a salt layer in bottom of the pond.

Millions Total Cost (EGP)





1.78 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Alternative 8 9 10 11

Figure 3.14. The Total Cost of the 11 Safe Alternative Dimensions of the Evaporation Pond


Table 3.8. The 11 Safe Disposal Dimensions Alternatives of the Evaporation Pond
Pond Number BaseCase 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 L (m) 44 60 55 55 55 50 60 55 55 50 50 45 W (m) 33 54 55 50 50 50 50 55 50 50 50 45 d (m) 1.25 2.5 2.75 3 2.5 2.75 2 2 2.25 2.5 2.5 2.75 S (S:1) 2 4 4 4 5 5 6 6 6 6 6 6 Bottom Relative Area Lining 2 (m ) Cost 1452 3240 3025 2750 2750 2500 3000 3025 2750 2500 2500 2025 1.00 3.17 3.18 3.15 3.22 3.23 3.32 3.34 3.39 3.55 3.44 3.29 Ltop (m) 49 80 77 79 80 77.5 84 79 82 80 80 78 Wtop (m) 38 74 77 74 75 77.5 74 79 77 80 80 78 Top Area (m2) 1862.0 5920.0 5929.0 5846.0 6000.0 6006.3 6216.0 6241.0 6314.0 6400.0 6400.0 6084.0 Volume (m3) 2063.44 11200.00 11979.00 12462.00 10546.88 11176.17 8928.00 8978.00 9786.94 10562.50 10562.50 10401.19 Relative volume 1.00 5.43 5.81 6.04 5.11 5.42 4.33 4.35 4.74 5.12 5.12 5.04

Figure 3.15. Typical Cross-Section of the Evaporation Pond


Figure 3.16. Pond Performance For The New Dimensions of The Pond For 25Years Routing Period. (a) Pond Water Depth and (b) Salinity Variation Further researches are recommended for a better estimate for the effect of salinity on the evaporation rates as the given relationships assume a linear change with salinity. The lower vapor pressure and lower evaporation rate of saline water result in a lower energy loss and, thus, a higher equilibrium temperature than that of freshwater under the same exposure conditions. The 80

increase in temperature of the saline water would tend to increase evaporation, but the water is less efficient in converting radiant energy into latent heat due to the exchange of sensible heat and long-wave radiation with the atmosphere. The net result is that, with the same input of energy, the evaporation rate of saline water is lower than that of freshwater. However, there is no simple relationship between salinity and evaporation except those presented earlier in the section 3.7 which are site dependent and changed from a certain location to another, and there are always complex interactions among site-specific variables such as air temperature, wind velocity, relative humidity, barometric pressure, water surface temperature, heat exchange rate with the atmosphere, incident solar absorption and reflection, thermal currents in the pond, and depth of the pond. As a result, there is a need to study in depth the effect of salinity on evaporation rates and the dependency on the geographical location and In case of location dependency, field experiments are needed formulate relationships for the different regions of Egypt. 3.11. Cost of the Evaporation Ponds

Although sizing of an evaporation pond is a relatively straightforward procedure once appropriate evaporation data and inflows are available, the costs associated with pond construction are highly site specific and quite variable. Therefore, generic cost estimating of evaporation ponds from typical handbook-type and previous studies data is very difficult and subject to a wide range of accuracy. However, by gathering site-specific data, a reasonably accurate cost estimate can be made. In general, it is anticipated that evaporation ponds most likely will be competitive for relatively small plants in remote, inland locations with high evaporation rates. The major factors contributing to the cost of an evaporation pond are: land costs, earthwork, lining, operation and maintenance. The cost of land can vary greatly from site to site, it can easily vary by a factor of 10 or more, depending on the exact location near the city. In our case, the cost of a feddan is assumed EGP 10,000 as an average for rural areas. Its worth noting 81

that in large evaporation ponds, there is a distinction between evaporative area and total area which is important in determining the land requirements, thus an area correction factor shall be provided to multiply times the evaporative area to calculate the total area. Like the cost of land itself, the cost of earthwork is very site specific, depending on whether the terrain is flat or hilly, rocky or sandy, forested or clear, etc. In selecting a site for an evaporation pond, such factors must be considered. The earthwork cost is taken as EGP 20 per cubic meters. Once it has been constructed, the pond operates essentially maintenance free. Periodic maintenance is required only for the repair of the dike or liner, pipe, flow control devices, etc. Operating costs also include security and damage inspection. A total capital operating costs is assumed to be 5 percent of the total costs. The costs of installing liners include those for material and construction. Figure 3.17 illustrates the lining elements of the existing evaporation pond which is used in calculating the cost of the new evaporation pond. Figure 3.18 shows a group of charts created for estimation of the liners cost based on the given lining elements and their up-to-date unit costs.

Figure 3.17. Typical Lining Cross-Section for the Existing Evaporation Pond



Lining Cost (EGP/m2) 200 175 150 125 100 75 50 0 2000

Side Slope = 2:1

Depth = 1m Depth = 2m Depth = 3m

4000 6000 Pond Area (m2)



400 350 Lining Cost (EGP/m2) 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 2000

Side Slope = 4:1

Depth = 1m Depth = 2m Depth = 3m

4000 6000 Pond Area (m2)





Side Slope = 6:1

Lining Cost (EGP/m2)

Depth = 1m Depth = 2m Depth = 3m

450 350
250 150 50 0 2000 4000 6000 Pond Area (m2) 8000 10000

Figure 3.18. Cost of Liners per Bottom Area Square Meter for Different Pond Depths and Side Slopes

For comparing between the current provided disposal option and the other alternative (i.e., deep well injection) the cost of the option is calculated using the mentioned above cost elements. For the current evaporation pond, two other elements are added which are: the cost of the pumping unit and its operation cost, and the cost of the environmental penalty resulting from the unmanaged disposal. Figure 3.19 shows the cost of existing evaporation ponds and the new proposed ponds with the safe dimensions. Since the frequency of operating the pump, the operating duration and the operating discharge and head are not known then the cost of the pumping unit and its associated operation cannot be estimated with the given information. Soil salinization, loss of crop yield, and contamination of the underlying groundwater are examples of the environmental penalties resulting from the unmanaged disposal. The penalties can be expressed by an additional cost added to the cost of the existing evaporation pond. The two costs along the lifetime of the ponds are expressed in Figure 3.19 by dashed bars stacked over 84

the cost of the native cost of the pond. These costs are uncertain and can be more of less than the stacked values on the graph. The figure shows that the cost of the safe ponds is about 1.885 million Egyptian pounds while 0.541 for the existing one. An increase of 250% in the cost proves the significant importance of considering the effect of salinity on the evaporation ponds design as discussed in the previous section of this chapter.
2 1.8 1.6 1.4 1.2 1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0 Existing Pond New Pond 0.541 Uncertain Uncertain 1.885

Figure 3.19. The Total Cost of the Existing and the New Evaporation Ponds

Total Cost (EGP x 1,000)





In order to assess the option of the injection of the reject brine into deep aquifers and to simulate the transient state flow conditions in this study, the MODFLOW code is utilized. MODFLOW is the U.S. Geological Surveys three-dimensional finite-difference groundwater model (McDonald and Harbaugh 1988; Harbaugh and McDonald 1996). Originally conceived solely as a groundwater-flow simulation code, MODFLOWs modular structure has provided a robust framework for integration of additional simulation capabilities that build on and enhance its original scope. The family of MODFLOW-related programs now includes capabilities to simulate coupled groundwater/surface-water systems, solute transport, variable-density and unsaturated-zone flow, aquifer system compaction and land subsidence, parameter estimation, and groundwater management. Integrated to this code is another popular transport code, MT3DMS (Zheng et al., 1990, 1999) that uses the flow output of MODFLOW and runs solute transport simulation in an efficient manner. Coupled with these two models is the variable density flow SEAWAT code. It is a generic MODFLOW/MT3DMS-based computer program designed to simulate three-dimensional variable-density groundwater flow coupled with multi-species solute and heat transport. The program has been used for a wide variety of groundwater studies including those focused on brine migration in continental aquifers as well as those focused on saltwater intrusion in coastal aquifers. These three codes are considered reasonable modeling tools for the current simulation.


It is worth noting that MODFLOW was modified to solve the variabledensity flow equation by reformulating the matrix equations in terms of fluid mass rather than fluid volume and by including the appropriate density terms. Fluid density is assumed to be solely a function of the concentration of dissolved constituents; the effects of temperature on fluid density are not considered. Temporally and spatially varying salt concentrations are simulated in SEAWAT using routines from the MT3DMS program. SEAWAT uses either an explicit or implicit procedure to couple the groundwater flow equation with the solute transport equation. The flow modeling in this study is conducted using MODFLOW within the framework of the graphical user interface GMS (Groundwater Modeling System). GMS is a comprehensive graphical user environment for performing groundwater simulations. The entire GMS system consists of a graphical user interface (the GMS program) and a number of analysis codes (MODFLOW, MT3DMS, SEEP2D, SEAWAT, etc). This chapter presents the mathematical formulation of MODFLOW code (used for simulating the flow), MT3D code to simulate the brine transport and SEAWAT for the variable-density flow simulation of brine. 4.1. Mathematical Model of MODFLOW Code

The following partial differential equation represents the three dimensional movement of groundwater through the porous medium:
Ss h h h h ( K xx ) ( K yy ) ( K zz ) q s t x x y y y z


where K xx , K yy , and K zz are values of hydraulic conductivity along the x, y, and z coordinate axes, which are assumed to be parallel to the major axes of hydraulic conductivity [LT-1]; h is the potentiometeric head [L]; qs is a volumetric flux per unit volume and represents sources and/or sinks of water [T-1]; Ss is the specific storage of the porous material [L-1]; and t is time [t] 88

Equation (4.1) describes groundwater flow in heterogeneous and anisotropic medium, under the condition that the principal axes of hydraulic conductivity are aligned with the coordinate directions. It also represents the unsteady state conditions. In case of having a homogeneous medium, then equation (4.1) can be written as:
Ss h 2h 2h 2h K ( 2 2 2 ) qs t x y z


In case of having a steady state condition, then equation (4.2) becomes:

0 h h h ( K xx ) ( K yy ) ( K zz ) q s x x y y y z


In case of having a homogeneous medium in addition to a steady state condition, then equation 4.3 reduces to:
0 K( 2h 2h 2h ) qs x 2 y 2 z 2


The analytical solution of the flow equation is possible only for very simple systems. In real field applications, however, the aquifer conditions of heterogeneity and anisotropy and the irregularity and complexity of the geologic structures and boundary conditions preclude the possibility of using such analytical solution. Therefore, a numerical method must be developed to get the approximate solution. One such approach is the finite-difference method, in which the partial derivatives are replaced by terms calculated from the differences in head values at these points. The process leads to systems of simultaneous linear algebraic difference equations; their solution yields values of head at specific points and times. 4.2. Mathematical Model of MT3DMS Code

Once reject brine produced from the desalination plant is injected in the disposal well, the solutes associated with this water such as the dissolved solids, heavy metals, and antiscalant (which are added to the water prior to 89

desalination as well as the backwash water of the membranes of the desalination plants) start to mitigate in the groundwater system. Two main mechanisms affect the solute migration: advection and dispersion. The mass balance equation for a solute species is written as a partial differential equation in three dimensions and has the form (e.g., Javandel et al., 1984):
N q C C ( Dij ) (Vi C ) s C s Rk t xi x j xi k 1


where C is the concentration of solutes dissolved in groundwater [ML-3]; t is time [T]; x is the distance along the respective Cartesian coordinate axis [L]; Dij is the hydrodynamic dispersion coefficient [L2T-1]; V is the seepage or linear pore water velocity [LT-1]; qs is the volumetric flux of water per unit volume of the aquifer representing sources (positive) and sinks (negative) [T-1]; Cs is the concentration of the source or sink [ML-3]; is the porosity of the porous medium [dimensionless]; and

k 1

is the chemical reaction term [ML-3T-1].

The first term on the right hand side of equation (4.5) accounts for solute dispersion (both mechanical dispersion and molecular diffusion) while the second term accounts for advective transport. The third term gives the effect of sources or sinks in the system and the last term deals with the chemical reactions that may be encountered for some solutes. The components of the dispersion tensor, Dij, are given as (Bear, 1972):
Dij ij T V ( L . T ) ViV j V D * ij


where ij is the Kroneker delta (ij = 1 for i = j and ij = 0 for i j), L and T are the longitudinal and transverse local dispersivities, respectively, |V| is the magnitude of the velocity, and D* is the effective coefficient of molecular diffusion. Equation (4.5) is the governing equation underlying the transport model, and equation (4.6) is an auxiliary equation that relates the dispersion 90

coefficients needed in (4.5) to flow velocity and aquifer dispersivity. The transport equation is linked to the flow equation through the following relationship:
Vi K ii h xi


where Kii is a principal component of the hydraulic conductivity tensor [LT-1], is the effective porosity, and h is the hydraulic head [L]. The hydraulic head is obtained from the solution of the three dimensional groundwater flow equation:
h h ( K ij ) qs S s x j t xi


where Ss is the specific storage of the porous materials [L-1]. It should be noted that the hydraulic conductivity tensor (K) actually has nine components. However, it is generally assumed that the principal components of the hydraulic conductivity tensor (Kii, or Kxx, Kyy, Kzz) are aligned with the x, y and z coordinate axes so that non-principal components become zero. This assumption is incorporated in most commonly used flow models, including MODFLOW. Several numerical approaches can be used to solve the transport equation; for example, finite differences, finite elements, method of characteristics, and random walk particle-tracking methods. In this study, MT3DMS (Zheng and Wang, 1999; Zheng, 2006) is used for solving the transport equations. MT3DMS is a model for simulation of advection, dispersion and chemical reactions of solutes in groundwater flow systems in either two or three dimension. The model uses a mixed Eulerian-Lagrangian approach to the solution of the advection-disperive- reactive equation, based on combination of the method of characteristics and the modified method of characteristics. The model program uses a modular structure similar to that implemented in MODFLOW that is being used here for flow solution. The modular structure of the transport model makes it possible to simulate the advection, dispersion, 91

source/sink mixing, or chemical reactions independently without reserving computer memory space for unused options. The MT3DMS transport model was developed for use with any blockcentered finite difference flow model such as MODFLOW and is based on the assumption that changes in concentration field will not affect the flow field significantly. After a flow model is developed and calibrated, the information needed by the transport model can be saved in disk files which are then retrieved by the transport model. The transport model can be used to simulate changes in concentration of single-species miscible salinity in groundwater considering advection, dispersion and some simple chemical reactions, with various types of boundary conditions and external sources or sinks. MT3DMS accommodates the following spatial discretization capabilities and transport boundary conditions: (1) confined, unconfined or variably confined/unconfined aquifer layers; (2) inclined model layers and variable cell thickness within the same layer as present in both modeled aquifers as discussed in Chapter five; (3) specified concentration or mass flux boundaries; and (4) the solute transport effects of external sources and sinks such as wells, drains, rivers, areal recharge and evapotranspiration. 4.3. Mathematical Model of SEAWAT Code

The SEAWAT (Guo and Langevin, 2002) program was developed to simulate three-dimensional, variable-density, transient groundwater flow in porous media. The source code for SEAWAT was developed by combining MODFLOW and MT3DMS into a single program that solves the coupled flow and solute-transport equations. Since both aquifers being modeled (the producing aquifer and the injection aquifer) are saline aquifers, use of a code that solves the variable-density groundwater flow is important and thus it is the code implemented in this study. The SEAWAT code was tested by simulating five benchmark problems involving variable-density groundwater flow. These 92

problems include two box problems, the Henry problem, Elder problem, and HYDROCOIN problem, and it was found that SEAWAT results compare well with those of SUTRA (a computer model for simulation of variable-density saturated-unsaturated flow with solute or energy transport developed by Voss, 1984). Also, the SEAWAT code was used by Nassar (2004) to simulate the unsteady two-dimensional phenomena of subsurface brine disposal and to verify using the code in solving the variable density flow through an experimental seepage tank with known extraction and injection rates as well as known initial and injection salinities. The results of the simulated model using SEAWAT showed a good agreement with that of the experimental setup, thus proving the reliability of using the code in simulating the current densitydependent groundwater flow and the solute migration in this study. SEAWAT is based on the concept of freshwater head, or equivalent freshwater head, in a saline groundwater environment as discussed later in Section 5.5 (Model Calibration). The governing equation for the variabledensity groundwater flow is as follows:
0 h C . 0 K 0 h0 z S s ,0 0 s q' s , 0 h C t


where 0 is the fluid density [ML-3] at the reference concentration and reference temperature; is dynamic viscosity [ML-1T-1]; K0 is the hydraulic conductivity tensor of material saturated with the reference fluid [LT-1]; h0 is the hydraulic head [L] measured in terms of the reference fluid of a specified concentration and temperature (as the reference fluid is commonly freshwater). Ss,0 is the specific storage [L-1], defined as the volume of water released from storage per unit volume per unit decline of h0; t is time [T]; is porosity [-]; C is salt concentration [ML-3]; and q's is a source or sink [T-1] of fluid with density s. The associated solute transport equation is defined as:


k b K d 1

(C k ) k k k t .( D.C ) .(qC ) q' s C s ,


where, b is the bulk density (mass of the solids divided by the total volume) [ML-3]; Kdk is the distribution coefficient of species k [L3M-1]; Ck is the concentration of species k [ML-3]; D is the hydrodynamic dispersion coefficient tensor [L2T-1]; q is the specific discharge [LT-1]; and Csk is the source or sink concentration [ML-3] of species k. The viscosity effects were neglected in this study so the term
0 is taken

equal to one, and fluid density was treated as a simple linear function of only one solute species which is the salt concentration of the reject brine dealt with in this study. It is worth noting that under the SEAWAT approach, the two separate computer programs, MODFLOW and MT3DMS, are modified and combined into one program. Among these modifications are the conversion of volumetric fluxes to mass fluxes and the addition of relative density-difference terms and solute-mass accumulation terms to the basic finite-difference equation solved by MODFLOW. Additionally, modifications are made to each of the stress packages of MODFLOW because mass fluxes and freshwater heads are used in SEAWAT. Modifications of MT3DMS are relatively minor and mainly affect internal data transfer and manipulation (Guo and Langevin, 2002).



This chapter describes the development of a three-dimensional groundwater model to simulate groundwater flow in both the Lower and the Upper Cretaceous aquifers of the study area to simulate the case of the injection of the reject brine. The model is developed using the following steps: 1. Defining the model domain (i.e., areal and vertical extents of the model); 2. Defining the boundary conditions; 3. Defining sources and sinks in the studied domain (i.e., wells, recharge zones, rivers or streams if any, etc); and 4. Calibrating the model by adjusting model parameters (e.g., hydraulic conductivity) until model performance matches observed field data A three dimensional domain is selected for flow and transport modeling around Al-Monbateh desalination plant within which a hypothetical disposal well is located. To simulate the actual case of the Al-Monbateh production well, which taps the Lower Cretaceous aquifer in Sinai, and the proposed injection well with their relatively small production and injection rates, a local model has to be developed as the salinity plume is not expected to migrate for long distances. However, the available data and potentiometric maps do not provide sufficient information to develop a local simulation model. Thus, creating a regional model and cutting it around the production and injection wells for locally studying the flow and transport (cake-cutting process) is adopted for the sake of a better modeling through a finer grid as discussed later in this chapter.


Figure 5.1 shows the location of Al-Monbateh well with respect to the water contours of the Lower Cretaceous aquifers. It can be seen that the nearest available contour map is the 50 m above mean sea level (amsl) contour at a distance of 8 km south of the well while no available data in the other three directions for a local simulation model.

Figure 5.1. The Potentiometric Map for the Lower Cretaceous Aquifer with the Location of Al-Monbateh well. The geometric characteristics of the regional model domain are determined based on the hydrogeologic framework of the study area and the available potentiometric maps. The model is composed of four main layers: (1) the upper conductive aquifer of the Upper Cretaceous formation, (2) the lower conductive aquifer of the Lower Cretaceous formation, (3) a thin clay layer separating the two previous aquifers, and (4) an impervious rock layer for the Jurassic sedimentary rocks underlying the Lower Cretaceous formation. Figure 5.2 shows a typical stratigraphic succession in the studied area. The regional model dimensions are not uniformly set as discussed in Section 5.3.1. It


extends an average of 50 km in the north-south direction and an average of 70 km in the east-west direction.

Figure 5.2. Typical Stratigraphic Succession in Central Sinai (Ghoubachi, 2010) 5.1. Description of Study Region

The study area is located in the central eastern portion of Sinai and is bounded by longitudes 33 46 34 32 E and latitudes 30 25 30 58 N. It occupies an area of about 3,000 km2 which encompasses 4.9% of Sinai Peninsulas total area. Three aquifer systems are bounded by the chosen model domain: the Eocene, the Upper Cretaceous aquifer and the Lower Cretaceous aquifer. The domain encompasses about 20% of the total area of the Lower Cretaceous sandstone aquifer, known as Malha formation, which is the producing aquifer of Al-Monbateh well. The Eocene forms the mountainous areas of the study region so it is assumed that the Upper Cretaceous extends in these areas as no data is available for the Eocene aquifer. 97

The area is an arid area with scarce and irregular seasonal rainfall. The surroundings are not very well developed and the number of habitants is small because of the limited availability of fresh water resources, except for some spots where deep wells penetrate either the Upper Cretaceous or the Lower Cretaceous aquifer and produce brackish groundwater mainly used for irrigation and planting of some salt-tolerant plants such as olives. The water quality of these aquifers is not promising for a domestic use for those habitants, however, desalination offers a great alternative for freshwater by desalting the produced brackish water of the aquifers underlying the study area. Through a field visit to Al-Monbateh well and its present desalination plant, it was found that the life of people there is very primitive. During surveying the habitants of the visited site, it was also found that before the construction of the desalination plant, they depended on buying freshwater for their domestic uses from Al-Arish city which is about 70 km away, or sometimes from rainfall harvesting during the rain seasons. It is also important to mention that the area began to act as an attraction point for other nearby habitants who are to some extent still depending on buying freshwater from Al-Arish. The area is now witnessing small local development which has put more pressure on AlMonbateh desalination plant, resulting in more demand and probably resulted in the operation of the plant more than the designated daily working hours (i.e. 10 hours). This has some important implications for the disposal system as was discussed in Chapter 3. 5.2. Conceptual Flow Model

The modeling domain and the boundary conditions dictate how groundwater is perceived to flow in the system. As indicated by the head contours, groundwater of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer moves from the southeast to the northwest direction while it flows from the south to the northeast direction in the Lower Cretaceous aquifer. The two aquifers are assumed to be hydraulically not connected since both the head contours and the iso-salinity contours do not comply with each other at any point along the 98

domain. A clay layer with very low hydraulic conductivity is then assumed to separate the two aquifers. The salinity of the Upper Cretaceous is found to be higher than that of the Lower Cretaceous aquifer, thus the injection is assumed to be screened in the upper formation and due to the presence of the clay layer, and the proposed injection would be isolated from the Lower Cretaceous aquifer, the producing aquifer for Al-Monbateh well. However, the maps of the aquifers, whether the heads or the altitudes of the top or the bottom of the layers, are usually developed based on data from sparse wells which casts some uncertainty as to whether the two aquifers are totally separated or not. This is evaluated using different scenarios in the flow and solute transport simulations. The Upper Cretaceous aquifer is believed to be unconfined aquifer with variable thickness ranging from 400 m to 800 m, whereas the Lower Cretaceous aquifer is considered in many studies (Ghoubashi, 2011 and Dames and Moore, 1985) to be confined except for a narrow outcropping strip along the southern terminal of the aquifer, which is outreached in the studied area. Thus, the aquifer is taken as confined in the studied domain. Its thickness varies from few meters in a small portion of the study domain to about 600 m towards the east direction. 5.3. Numerical Flow Model Development

5.3.1. Areal and Vertical Extent The model consists of two main water-bearing formations, the Upper Cretaceous Carbonate aquifer and the Lower Cretaceous Sandstone aquifer. The deposition of Upper Cretaceous is assumed to extend from the land surface downward to the clay inter-beds of the Lower Cretaceous aquifer. The Eocene formation which overlies the Upper Cretaceous aquifer only appears in the mountainous areas of the study region. The top of the Lower Cretaceous aquifer is defined by the lower surface of the Upper aquifer which is composed of limestone and marl with shale 99

interbeds. The base of the aquifer is also defined by the top of the Upper Jurassic and no connectivity is expected between the two aquifers, and therefore, the model is truncated at the base of the Lower Cretaceous aquifer. Figures 5.3, 5.4 and 5.5 presents the vertical extends of the two aquifers through the contour maps of the top and the bottom levels of the aquifer. 5.3.2. Groundwater Levels and Movement The groundwater levels for both the Upper Cretaceous carbonate and the Lower Cretaceous sandstone (Malha Formation) are obtained from the Groundwater Sector in the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation (MWRI). The potentiometric maps are based on the water levels data collected from numerous deep wells tapping both aquifers dated back to 2002. The potentiometric map of the Upper Cretaceous (Figure 5.6) shows that groundwater flows from the southeast to the northwest with an average hydraulic gradient of 0.005 till the mid of the modeled area and then moves with a relatively mild hydraulic gradient of 0.0017 for the rest of the domain. The map indicates that a highest potentiometric level, within the study area, of 300 m.a.m.s.l. (meters above mean sea level) is observed at the southeastern part of the model where it starts fluxing into the model domain and terminates the study area at a potentiometric level of 50 m.a.m.s.l. The recharge to the Upper Cretaceous aquifer occurs through direct infiltration of rainfall or from surface flow on its exposed areas where the estimated rate of recharge to the Upper Cretaceous aquifer is about 190,000 m3/day (Dames and Moore, 1985) The potentiometric surface map of the Lower Cretaceous aquifer (Figure 5.7) indicates that water moves from the southern part of the model with an average hydraulic gradient of 0.006 and diverts eastward to exit the eastern boundary to Wadi Arava Rift in Palestine with a water level of 50 m.a.m.s.l.. The Malha aquifer system is believed to function as an unconfined aquifer only at a limited zone (1 to 2 km) near its southern outcrops at which recharge to the aquifer takes place, and is confined elsewhere, being capped by the overlying Upper Cretaceous complex. 100

The potentiometric maps prove that the two aquifers are not hydraulically connected where the Lower Cretaceous sandstone aquifer is believed to be confined over the studied domain while the Upper Cretaceous carbonate aquifer is considered unconfined. 5.3.3. Groundwater Quality Figure 5.8 represents the iso-salinity contour map of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer system. It indicates a general trend of salinity increase towards the north. The concentration ranges from 3,000 mg/L near the southeastern boundary to 10,000 mg/L at the northwestern boundary with a mild salinity gradient in the southeastern northwestern direction till the middle of the study domain where the slope steeps sharply until the end of studied area. Figure 5.9 represents the iso-salinity contour map of the Lower Cretaceous aquifer. It shows a general increase of groundwater salinity towards the northwestern direction. The Lower Cretaceous aquifer within the studied area has a salinity range of 2,000 to 10,000 mg/L. It can be shown from the iso-salinity figures that the groundwater quality of the Lower Cretaceous aquifer is generally better than that of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer. This supports the presence of more wells tapping the Lower Cretaceous than the Upper Cretaceous in the study region. For the same point in a horizontal plane, the average salinity difference between the two aquifers is about 1,000 mg/L. Thus, the injection of the reject brine will take place in the Upper Cretaceous aquifer.


Figure 5.3. Contours of Top Level of the Upper Cretaceous Aquifer


Figure 5.4. Contours of Base Level of the Upper Cretaceous Aquifer


Figure 5.5. Contours of Base Level of the Lower Cretaceous Aquifer


Figure 5.6. The Potentiometric Map of the Upper Cretaceous Aquifer


Figure 5.7. The Potentiometric Map of the Lower Cretaceous Aquifer


Figure 5.8. The Iso-salinity Contour Map of the Upper Cretaceous Aquifer in Sinai (EPIQ Water Policy Team, 1998)


Figure 5.9. The Iso-salinity Contour Map of the Lower Cretaceous Aquifer in Sinai (EPIQ Water Policy Team, 1998)


5.3.4. Aquifer Hydraulic Properties Potentiometeric maps of both the Upper and Lower Cretaceous aquifers indicate that the two aquifers are not hydraulically connected and are separated by a clay layer extending between the two aquifers. Thus, three hydrogeologic units are included in the model and they are defined based on the available data as follows: The Upper Cretaceous Carbonate water-bearing formation having a high hydraulic conductivity The Lower Cretaceous Sandstone water-bearing formation with a higher hydraulic conductivity than that of the Upper. Fine grained thin layer of clay with a very low hydraulic conductivity which extends in the entire model domain separating the two previous hydrogeologic units. The potentiometric maps of both the Upper and the Lower Cretaceous aquifers are presented in Figures 5.6 and 5.7. It can be seen that the water levels in the Upper Cretaceous is higher than that of the Lower Cretaceous by almost 100 meters. For the Upper Cretaceous carbonate aquifer, a value of 1x10-4 m-1 is assumed for the specific storage and a specific yield of 0.05. This assumption is based on the average values for unconfined and carbonates formations. For the Lower Cretaceous sandstone aquifer, the specific storage is assumed to be 1x10-5 m-1 and a value of 0.15 for the specific yield.


5.3.5. Domain Spatial Discretization for the Regional Model The regional model is divided into a total of nine vertical layers (numerical layers) of which hydraulic parameters are required to be identified. Six layers comprise the Upper Cretaceous aquifer and one transition clay layer is assumed between the Upper Cretaceous and the Lower Cretaceous aquifers with a thickness of 10 meters. The eighth and the ninth layers comprise the Lower aquifer. At any location, the thickness of each of these two layers is taken as half the total thickness of the Lower Cretaceous aquifer at that location. The first six layers that form the Upper Cretaceous are divided as follows. The bottom five layers have thickness of 50 meters each while the upper most layer has a thickness equal to the remaining portion of the aquifer till the top of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer. In the horizontal direction each of these layers is divided into grid cells with size of 250m in both X and Y direction. This results in a total number of model cells of 514,560. However, not all of these cells contribute in the calculations as some of these cells are inactive cells due to the irregular geometry of the study region in all directions. These inactive cells are handled in the MODFLOW environment as an array with certain flags. The flags are used to indicate whether the cell is active or inactive within each layer so that it is taken into consideration in the model simulation or not. A model grid of 268 rows, 320 columns and 9 layers is used to represent the study area. The study focuses on the salt migration in the host formation of the injection process which is the Upper Cretaceous aquifer. Therefore, the discretization is increased in the injection aquifer and the layer thickness is limited to 50 meters whereas a coarser grid is used in the Lower Cretaceous aquifer. The nine layers of the model are conceptualized as shown in Figures 5.11 and 5.12. To summarize the model conceptualization: Layers two to six have a uniform thickness of 50 m each while layer one is the remaining thickness of the aquifer from the top of layer two to the top of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer;


Layer 7 is a transition clay layer between the two water-bearing formations which acts as an impervious layer between the Upper and the Lower Cretaceous aquifers; Layers 8 and 9 have non-uniform thickness varying from one grid cell to another with a value equal half the total thickness of the Lower Cretaceous aquifer.

5.3.6. Domain Spatial Discretization for the Local Model The local model is extracted from the regional model and is developed to allow for a finer gird in order to better simulate the salts migration. The salinity plume migration distance is expected to be small due to the low injection rates of the Al-Monbateh desalination plant (i.e., 16 m3/day). The local model is taken 5 km x 5 km (Figure 5.10) where the boundaries are set such that the southern boundary is 2 km away from the injection well and the western boundary is 3 km away from the well.

Figure 5.10. The Location of the Local Model With Respect to the Regional Model The local model domain is divided into 12 layers, the upper most six layers comprise the Upper Cretaceous aquifer with the last five layers having a thickness of 50 meters each while the top layer has a thickness equals to the 111

remaining thickness of the aquifer. The seventh layer is the transition clay layer separating the two aquifers, and the lower five layers comprise the Lower Cretaceous aquifer with each layer thickness equal to one fifth the total thickness of the aquifer. In the horizontal direction each of these layers is divided into grid cells with size x = 50 m and y = 50 m resulting in a total number of cells of 10,000. Figure 5.13 shows a plan view and typical crosssections (East-West and South-North) for the local model and the suggested location of the injection well is also shown in the figure.


Figure 5.11. Typical Cross-Sections (East-West) in the Conceptual Regional Model (row 169 and row 230)

Figure 5.12. Typical Cross-Sections (South-North) in the Conceptual Regional Model (column 80 and column 186)


Figure 5.13. Plan View and Typical Cross-Sections (East-West and South-North) for the Local Model (The location of the injection well is shown as a black dot)


5.4. Boundary and Initial Conditions and Implementation of MODFLOW The dependence of head on fluid density has important implications for assigning boundary heads, particularly when the density of the boundary head changes during the simulation. In this study, it is initially assumed that there is no change in salinity concentration at the boundaries as the injection wells are far from the domain boundaries and thus the plume migration of the injected reject brine will not reach the boundaries of the model. Initial conditions represent starting values for the dependent variable, such as freshwater head for groundwater flow and concentration for solute transport, at some starting time. Initial conditions for both flow and transport must be specified for transient simulations. For this study region, the point-water heads (saline water heads) are converted to freshwater heads and assigned to the model boundaries. In the chosen study region, the model boundaries are chosen based on the hydrologeologic conditions of the Lower Cretaceous aquifer. The upper (northern) boundary is taken as no-flow boundary as it comprises the terminal of the Lower Cretaceous, where the aquifer changes into deeply faulted limestone region towards the north side, therefore, the northern boundary can be considered as no-flux. The other three boundaries, the south, the west and the east are considered specified head boundaries and the assigned freshwater head values are determined at the points where the boundaries intersect with the saline water contours. The boundaries of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer have the same extent as that of the Lower Cretaceous. However, the four boundaries are specified head boundaries obtained from the intersection of the model boundaries with the saline water contours of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer which are converted into equivalent freshwater heads.


5.4.1. Injection Well First a base case scenario representing the current condition is established. In the base case the calibration parameters are estimated such that model predicted heads match measured head to a certain degree of tolerance. After establishing the base case the flow field is updated to account for the presence of the proposed injection well at a distance of 200 m north Al-Monbateh. This location is selected downgradient from the production well as the flow moves in the south-north direction. The well package in MODFLOW is used to simulate the production and injection wells in the study region. For each cell at the well location, a negative flow value (m3/day) is assigned to indicate a volumetric extraction whereas a positive value is assigned for the injection rates. Based on the data provided from Al-Monbateh desalination plant, the reject brine volume is estimated to be 16 m3/day. The regional study area encompasses nine deep production wells, two of which tap the Upper Cretaceous aquifer while the other seven tap the Lower Cretaceous aquifer. Figure 5.14 shows the location of the wells with respect to the model boundaries while Table 5.1 gives the technical and hydrogeologic data of the wells

Figure 5.14. Satellite Images Showing the Location of the Study Area and the Location of the Nine Wells within the Study Region


Table 5.1. Technical and Hydrogeologic Data of Wells in Study Region

Well Location Lat. (N) Gebel Libni Talaat El Badan Halal 1 Halal 2 3044' 3029' 3041' 3041' Long. (E) 3353' 34 3' 3410' 34 9' Producing aquifer U. Cr. U. Cr. L. Cr. L. Cr. Yield (m3/hr) 11 10 35 Well Type and Use Production / Agriculture Test Productive / Abandoned Production / Agriculture Production / Agriculture Production / Agriculture and desalination Depth to Water 220 163 160 140

Monbateh Sabha Hodeibiya Gaifi Garour

3039' 3043' 3035' 3035' 3029'

3413 3425' 3413' 3422' 3420'

L. Cr. L. Cr. L. Cr. L. Cr. L. Cr.

30 -

167 -

5.4.2. Hydraulic Conductivity For better simulation for the aquifers in the study area, the modeled layers are taken heterogeneous. Thus the values of the hydraulic conductivity for the Upper Cretaceous aquifer and the Lower Cretaceous aquifer differ spatially, while a single value (i.e., homogenous conditions) is assigned for the clay layer separating the two aquifer. 5.5. Model Calibration Calibration is the process of modifying the input parameters to a groundwater model (e.g., hydraulic conductivity) until the output resulting from the numerical simulation model matches an observed set of data (e.g., water levels). One of the tools provided in GMS for model calibration is automated parameter estimation. Automated parameter estimation is supported in GMS for the MODFLOW simulations using PEST, a general purpose parameter estimation utility (Doherty, 1994). With automated parameter estimation, inverse modeling is used to iteratively adjust a set of parameters 117

and repeatedly launch the model until the computed output matches fieldobserved values. In this study, the parameter estimation program PEST is used to calibrate the flow model using the hydraulic conductivity as the calibration parameter and the water heads as the calibration target. It implements a nonlinear least squares regression method to estimate model parameters by minimizing the sum of squared weighted residuals. Due to variation in the salinity of the groundwater over the area of the two simulated aquifers, the density varies spatially. Thus, the measured heads, known as point-water heads which are the heads in terms of the native aquifer waters, are not the freshwater heads which MODFLOW reads and writes. Since PEST is supported for the MODFLOW simulations, then the calibration targets which are the water heads must be read in terms of freshwater heads. To evaluate the freshwater heads from the point-water heads, the relationship between salt concentration and fluid density is required as well as the relationship between the freshwater and point-water heads. For isothermal conditions, fluid density is predominantly affected by the salt concentration. An empirical relation between the density of saltwater and concentration was developed by Baxter and Wallace (1916):

f EC ,


where is the water density at any concentration level [ML-3], f is the freshwater density [ML-3], E is a dimensionless constant having an approximate value of 0.7143 for salt concentrations ranging from zero to that of seawater, and C is the salt concentration [ML-3]. For two piezometers open to a given point, N, in an aquifer containing saline water, with piezometer A containing freshwater and piezometer B containing water identical to that present in the saline aquifer at point N, the freshwater head at point N is the elevation of the water level in piezometer A above datum as shown in Figure 5.15, and is given by:



PN ZN f g


where h f is the equivalent freshwater head [L], PN is the pressure at point N within the saline water [ML-1T-2], f is the density of freshwater [ML-3], g is the gravitational acceleration [LT-2], and Z N is the elevation of point N above an arbitrary datum [L].

Figure 5.15. Two Piezometers, One Filled with Freshwater and the Other with Saline Aquifer Water, Open to the Same Point in the Aquifer. For the Lower Cretaceous aquifer, a set of six points is selected to represent the observation data. Two of them are the available most recent measured heads of Al-Monbateh and El-Halal-2 wells obtained from the North Sinais General Directorate of Groundwater dating back to 2009, while the other four observation points are chosen at the locations of known head contours. For the Upper Cretaceous aquifer, a set of eight points is selected to represent the observed heads. These eight points are chosen at the location of known head contours. The locations of points for the Upper and the Lower Cretaceous aquifers are shown in Figures 5.16 and 5.17, respectively. The calibration process is performed as follows: a set of observed water heads is provided, the flow model is executed several times, and the model solution is imported to GMS each time. GMS automatically compares the 119

computed solution to the observation points, and the residual errors are calculated. The sum of squared weighted residuals, with the weights assigned based on the reliability and quality of each observation point, is then calculated and compared to previous iterations. The process is repeated until the minimum sum of squared weighted residuals is obtained. A plot showing the value of the objective function (sum of squared weighted residuals) with the number of model runs (iterations) is prepared and updated each time. This allows the modeler to observe the calibration process and judge whether the model is converging or diverging. After PEST converges to an optimum solution, the solution is imported to GMS, and a calibration goodness of fit (target bar) which represents the magnitude of the residual error is displayed next to each observation point as shown in Figures 5.16 and 5.17. The size of the target bar is based on the standard deviation of the measurement error which is determined automatically by assigning the limit intervals of the observation point. A standard deviation of 0.75 m is considered for both aquifers. Two parameterization schemes within PEST can be used; either to estimate a single value for the hydraulic conductivity assuming a homogeneous aquifer domain or to use different values at scattered points, known as Pilot Points, to account for the heterogeneity of the aquifer until the objective function is minimized. A common strategy is adopted to improve the first scheme by subdividing the model domain into zones of assumed uniform parameter values based on geological or other information. Unfortunately, such information is often absent or unreliable. Furthermore, there can be a considerable degree of variation of hydraulic conductivity within each geologic unit. As a result, the pilot points methodology is very attractive; where instead of creating a zone and having the inverse model estimate one value for the entire zone, the value of the parameter within the zone is interpolated from the pilot points. Using this technique, PEST is asked to assign hydraulic conductivities to discrete points within the model domain. The hydraulic conductivity at each cell or node of the 120

numerical groundwater model is then calculated from the hydraulic conductivities assigned to these pilot points using a spatial interpolation algorithm such as Kriging or Inverse Distance Weighted (IDW) interpolation. In this study the pilot points parameterization scheme is adopted with six scatter points for each of the Lower Cretaceous and the Upper Cretaceous aquifers and the IDW interpolation is utilized. Many trials were performed for obtaining the most appropriate locations for the pilot points within the model domain to obtain a minimum sum of squared residuals. Figure 5.16 shows the locations of the best six pilot points in the Upper Cretaceous aquifer whereas Figure 5.17 shows the locations of the best six pilot points in the Lower Cretaceous aquifer.

Figure 5.16. Location of the Six Pilot Points Shown by the Triangular Symbol on the Model Domain with the Potentiometric Map in the Background. Also Shown are the Box Plots of the Errors Associated with each Observation Point as Estimated from the Calibration Process for the Upper Cretaceous Aquifer.


Figure 5.17. Location of the Six Pilot Points Shown by the Rhombus Symbol on the Model Domain with the Potentiometric Map in the Background. Also Shown are the Box Plots of the Errors Associated with each Observation Point as Estimated from the Calibration Process for the Lower Cretaceous Aquifer. It is worth noting that during extracting the local model from the developed regional model, the same pilot points sets of the Upper and the Lower Cretaceous aquifer are used for interpolation for creating the heterogeneity fields of the aquifers. Calibration targets are created in both aquifers for validating the extraction process of the local model. 5.5.1. Estimated Parameters The estimated parameters from the inverse modeling approach are the horizontal hydraulic conductivities of the Lower Cretaceous and Upper Cretaceous aquifers. An anisotropy value of 1:3 is assumed for obtaining the values of the vertical hydraulic conductivities of the modeled aquifers. The parameter estimation program, PEST, requires specifying an acceptable interval for the estimated parameter. The lower and upper limits defining this interval are given in Table 5.2. Also, the estimated hydraulic conductivity values for the six pilot points for each aquifer obtained through the calibration process are listed in the table.


Table 5.2. Parameter Estimation (PEST) Calibration Parameters and Estimated Values and the Acceptable Intervals
Parameter Hydraulic conductivity for the Upper Cretaceous aquifer Hydraulic conductivity for the confining clay layer Hydraulic conductivity for the Lower Cretaceous aquifer Point 1 Point 2 Point 3 Point 4 Point 5 Point 6 One value for the layer Point 1 Point 2 Point 3 Point 4 Point 5 Point 6 Estimated Acceptable Interval Value (m/day) Lower limit Upper limit 0.136568 17.86299 0.00029 1 1000 1.135464 1.131695 0.186727 3.26x10-6 0.0001 0.390443 0.28771 269.2224 0.06921 12.67441 21.58198 1x10-7


5.5.2. Assessment of Calibration The results of the calibration are assessed by comparing the simulated and measured heads as shown in Figures 5.18 and 5.19. The computed water heads after the calibration process are plotted against the observed heads at the available observation points for both the Upper Cretaceous and Lower Cretaceous aquifers. The 45 degree line is also shown which represents the perfect match between the modeled heads and the observed heads. The figure shows that the simulated heads are very close to the observed heads. It should be emphasized that the heads for both aquifers are either obtained from the observed heads from the wells tapping the aquifers or the available potentiometric maps as discussed earlier. Tables 5.3 and 5.4 summarize the comparison between the observed and the computed heads at the eight points of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer and the six points of the Lower Cretaceous aquifer.


Figure 5.18. Comparison between the Computed Heads after Calibration and the Observed Heads for the Eight Observation Points of the Upper Cretaceous Aquifer.

Figure 5.19. Comparison between the Computed Heads after Calibration and the Observed Heads for the Six Observation Points of the Lower Cretaceous Aquifer.
Table 5.3. Comparison between the Observed Heads and the Model Computed Heads for the Upper Cretaceous Aquifer. Point Observed Computed Residual % of Head (m) Head (m) (m) Residual 1 50 51.13 -1.13 -2.27 2 100 99.70 0.30 0.30 3 100 100.70 -0.70 -0.70 4 150 149.41 0.59 0.39 5 150 147.84 2.16 1.44 6 200 199.54 0.46 0.23 7 200 200.33 -0.33 -0.16 8 250 248.98 1.02 0.41


Table 5.4. Comparison between the Observed Heads and the Model Computed Heads for the Lower Cretaceous Aquifer.
Point 1 (Halal-2) 2 (Monbateh) 3 4 5 6 Observed Head (m) 30 34 100 50 50 100 Computed Head (m) 32.63 33.58 100.10 48.70 50.68 100.19 Residual (m) -2.63 0.42 -0.10 1.30 -0.68 -0.19 % of Residual -8.76 1.23 -0.10 2.59 -1.35 -0.19

To ensure that there is no trend in the errors, the percentage error (residuals divided by the observed heads) are plotted for observation points of the Upper and Lower Cretaceous aquifers in Figure 5.20. No correlation appears to exist between the residuals. Also it can be seen from the figure that the maximum error does not exceed 9% at one point only whereas all the other points have errors below 3%.
4.00 2.00 0.00 % Residual 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

-4.00 -6.00 -8.00 -10.00 Lower Cretaceous Upper Cretaceous

Figure 5.20. Percentage Error at each of the Eight and Six Observations used in the Model Calibration for the Upper and the Lower Cretaceous aquifer.



Transport Model The transport model utilizes the flow results from MODFLOW and

incorporates advection and dispersive transport processes. Geochemical reactions that may take place, especially for heavy metals, are not considered as they are not present in the case of reject brine injection. The purpose of the transport simulations is to forecast the release and migration of the salts associated with the injected reject brine from the proposed injection well located 200 m north Al-Monbateh production well. The aim is to use these transport simulations to analyze different injection scenarios and to examine the effects of different geologic interpretations and structures on the distance traveled by the salt plume and the area impacted by the contamination. This allows calculating the average salinity change for the affected domain of the injection zone and thus an evaluation of the environmental penalty resulting from the injection process in the Upper Cretaceous aquifer. The results of the flow model are used as the input for the transport model along with relevant transport parameters. The used SEAWAT code was developed by combining MODFLOW and MT3DMS into a single program that solves the coupled flow and solute-transport through the governing equations of the three-dimensional, variable-density, transient groundwater flow and solute transport in porous media. 5.7. Base Case Scenario The calibrated parameters are used to perform the base case simulations which represent the current situation. The production rates of the wells in the study region are taken as listed in Table 5.1. The resulting heads of the Upper and Lower Cretaceous aquifers in the model domain are presented in Chapter six. In the base case, the clay layer is assumed to separate the Upper and the Lower Cretaceous aquifers. This assumption is driven from the potentiometric 126

maps of the two aquifers. It might not be a conservative assumption because there is uncertainty about the extent of the clay layer and whether it covers the modeled region. The injection will take place in the Upper aquifer while the production aquifer is the bottom aquifer which raises the risk of leakage of the concentrate to the producing aquifer if that clay layer has a limited extent. However, the effect of this assumption and the uncertainty associated with the clay extension will be examined in Chapter six. The specific storage and the specific yield are also required for the modeling of the study region. Specific storage values are assumed 0.0001 m-1 and 0.00001 m-1 for the Upper and Lower Cretaceous aquifers, respectively, whereas the specific yield is taken 0.05 and 0.15 for the Upper and Lower aquifers, respectively. The assumption is based on the typical ranges for specific yield for various aquifer materials described by American Society of Civil Engineers (1996) in the Hydrology Handbook. The values for carbonate (limestone) units usually range between 0.5 and 5% and for sandstone units; they range from 5 to 15%. For the transport simulations, the parameters used are the porosity and the porous medium dispersivity for the two water-bearing formations. Porosity is a critical parameter that determines how fast groundwater is moving and thus how fast any solute dissolved in water will be moving. Usually the values of the effective porosity for carbonate (limestone) ranges between 0.07 and 0.56 and for sandstone they range from 0.14 to 0.49 (McWorter and Sunada, 1977). Values of porosity of both the Upper and Lower Cretaceous aquifers are very limited and not reported in most reports, however, they are taken as 0.35 and 0.30, whereas a value of 0.4 is assumed for the porosity of the clay layer. Many flow and transport simulation trials are performed for obtaining reasonable values for both the longitudinal and transverse dispersivities. A constant value for the ratio between the transverse to the longitudinal dispersivity is set equal to 0.2 for both the horizontal and vertical transverse dispersivities. Trials for longitudinal dispersivity of 100, 200, and 500 m for 127

the Upper Cretaceous aquifer and 50, 100, and 200 m for the Lower Cretaceous aquifer are carried and the chosen longitudinal dispersivities are 200 m and 50 m for the Upper and Lower Cretaceous aquifers, respectively. The initial salinity of the water of both aquifer are assigned to the model grid based on the iso-salinity contour maps presented earlier in this chapter. After establishing the base case, the flow field is updated to account for the proposed injection well. The same model is used to obtain the transient state flow field after adding the injection rate (16 m3/day). Different injection scenarios are studied and the results are presented and discussed in the next chapter.



This chapter presents the results of the groundwater flow and transport simulations associated with different injection scenarios. The simulation model is run for a simulation time frame of 25 years. The base-case calibrated flow model is first used for transport modeling followed by the modeling of the different proposed injection scenarios. Some cases are also considered addressing sensitivity and uncertainty issues as stated in chapter five. The developed model is then used to simulate the case of extraction of AlMonbateh well from the Lower Cretaceous aquifer and the injection of the reject brine in the Upper Cretaceous aquifer. Although the injection rate might seem small (i.e., 16 m3/day) but it can result in an environmental deterioration and economic penalty on a long-term basis. Injection of brine in deeply seated layers of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer will result in increased concentration of the salts in the water stored in the aquifer, which will result in an increased cost of a later desalination of the stored water. This issue is addressed in this chapter where the affected volume, the corresponding increased water salinity resulting from the injection, and the economic penalty are calculated from the model results. The first case is the simulation of an extraction of 300 m3/day from the Lower Cretaceous Sandstone aquifer through Al-Monbateh well and an injection of 16 m3/day of reject brine in the Upper aquifer. The injection well location is chosen such that the flow in the Upper Cretaceous aquifer moves the reject brine to the northwest direction away from the domain of extraction, regardless of the fact that the two aquifers are hydraulically not connected that was based on the available potentiometric maps. This arrangement ensures that 129

no brine will migrate downwards to the extraction area in case the clay layer is not present in some areas. Simulation is run for 25 years to study the extent of the increased salt concentration plume in both the horizontal and vertical directions around the injection well. Three injection scenarios are studied: Scenario one: Injection through a 100 m screen located at the bottom of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer Scenario two: Injection through a 50 m screen located at the bottom of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer Scenario three: Injection through a 50 m screen the end of which is at a distance of 50 m from the bottom of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer


Groundwater Flow Results of the Base-Case Calibrated Model The calibrated parameters are used to perform the base case simulations

which represent the current situation. The production rates of the wells in the study region are taken as listed in Table 5.1. The resulting head distribution of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer in the model domain is shown in Figure 6.1 while the resulting heads of the Lower Cretaceous aquifer are shown in Figure 6.2. The same model is used to obtain the transient state flow field after assigning the injection rate (16 m3/day) for 25-years period. Continuous injection commonly leads to a buildup of head around the injection well which can create a strong vertical gradient leading to a vertical movement of the reject through the clay layer to migrate to the Lower Cretaceous aquifer. However, due to the small injection rate, the simulation results show an expected small increase in the heads around the injection well which does not exceed one meter.


Figure 6.1. The Head Distribution of the Upper Cretaceous Aquifer for the Base-Case Calibrated Model

Figure 6.2. The Head Distribution of the Lower Cretaceous Aquifer for the Base-Case Calibrated Model 6.2. Results of the First Injection Scenario The injection takes place in the lowest 100 m of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer and just above the clay layer separating the two aquifers. Figure 6.3 shows a plan view for the study area and a zoom-in view around the disposal well to clearly show the concentrated salt plume. It is shown that after 25 years of continuous injection of the reject brine, the concentrated salt plume with a 131

concentration contour 4.5 kg/m3 (4,500 ppm) migrates a distance of about 225 m west and 150 m north of the injection location while about 100 m east and south of the injection point. The extent of the plume is more stretched in the northwest direction which is aligned with the direction of groundwater flow in this aquifer. To depict the full three dimensional view of the concentrated salt plume, two vertical cross sections passing through the well and oriented south-north and west-east are shown Figure 6.4. It is shown that the plume did not migrate downward and did not reach the Lower Cretaceous aquifer (i.e., the source of feed water) because of the presence of the clay layer with the very low hydraulic conductivity. Figure 6.5 exhibits the time evolution of the relative concentration at different distances along the northwest direction from the point of injection. It can be observed that as we go farther from the injection point, the relative concentration decreases. At 250 meters away from the injection well, the curve is almost horizontal and no change in the concentration is witnessed.

Figure 6.3. Injection Results of the First Injection Scenario showing the Salt Plume Distribution after 25 years of Continuous Injection in Plan View. 132

Figure 6.4. Injection Results of the First Injection Scenario showing the Salt Plume Distribution after 25 years of Continuous Injection. The Top Part is a East-West Cross-Sectional View and the Lower Part is a South-North CrossSectional View.

8 7 Relative Concentration 6 5 4 3 2 250 m 200 m 150 m 100 m 50 m

0 0 5 10 15 Time (years) 20 25

Figure 6.5. Relative Concentration Curves at Different Distances From the Injection Well for Scenario One. 133


Results of the Second Injection Scenario The injection in this scenario is assumed to occur through a 50-m screen

located at the bottom of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer. The resulting plume is shown in Figures 6.6 and 6.7. After 25 years of continuous injection, the concentrated salt plume with the concentration contour 4.5 kg/m3 migrates a distance of about 225 m west and 150 m north of the injection location while about 100 m east and south of the injection point. The extent of the plume is more stretched in the northwest direction where the flow of the groundwater occurs. The two vertical cross sections passing through the well show that the plume did not migrate downward and did not reach the Lower Cretaceous aquifer because of the presence of the clay layer. However an upward migration of about 75 m above the injection location is observed. The presence of the clay layer beneath the injection zone bounds the salt migration downwards in the vertical direction and helps the salt to spread more laterally. The area impacted by the increased salinity is relatively smaller than that of the first scenario and so is the volume. This is discussed in details in Section 6.6 6.4. Results of the Third Injection Scenario Similar to the previous two injection scenarios, the injection takes place in 50 m of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer at a distance of 50 m above the clay layer separating the two aquifers. Figure 6.8 shows a plan view for the resulting plume and a zoom-in view around the disposal well to clearly show the plume. It is seen that after 25 years of continuous injection at a rate of 16 m3/day, the concentrated salt plume migrates a distance of about 175 m west and 125 m north of the injection location while about 125 m east and south of the injection point. Figure 6.9 depict the full three dimensional view of the concentrated salt plume. It shows two vertical cross sections where the salt plume migrates downwards a distance of 75 m to reach the clay layer and migrates 100 m 134

above the injection point. Compared to the second injection scenario, the absence of the clay layer just below the injection zone gives the plume the freedom to spread downwards in the vertical direction. The horizontal extent of the plume is relatively smaller than both the first and second scenarios. However, the vertical migration is slightly larger which results in a larger impacted volume. This result and the economic implications are discussed in the environmental penalty of injection in Section 6.6

Figure 6.6. Injection Results of the Second Injection Scenario showing the Salt plume Distribution after 25 years of Continuous Injection in Plan View.


Figure 6.7. Injection Results of Second Scenario showing the Salt plume Distribution after 25 years of Continuous Injection. The Top Part is a EastWest Cross-Sectional View and the Lower Part is a South-North CrossSectional View.

Figure 6.8. Injection Results of the Third Injection Scenario showing the Salt plume Distribution after 25 years of Continuous Injection in Plan View.


Figure 6.9. Injection Results of the Third Injection Scenario showing the Salt plume Distribution after 25 years of Continuous Injection. The Top Part is a East-West Cross-Sectional View and the Lower Part is a South-North CrossSectional View. 6.5. Uncertainty in the Clay Layer Extent The clay layer separating the Lower and Upper Cretaceous aquifers is assumed to extend entirely between the two formations based on the available potentiometric and iso-salinity maps of both aquifers. However, there is no guarantee that clay is laterally continuous and forms a complete confining layer to the Lower Cretaceous aquifer along the full extent of the model domain. If the clay layer is fully separating the Lower Cretaceous aquifer from the Upper Cretaceous aquifer, then little or no migration downwards from the injection zone to the lower aquifer would be expected. The uncertainty in the lateral extent of the clay layer is addressed by changing the hydraulic properties (i.e., the hydraulic conductivity) of the clay layer beneath the injection zone for a distance of 250 m in both x and y directions to the that of either the Upper or the Lower Cretaceous aquifers. The transport simulation results of the two cases differ slightly. The case of 137

assigning the hydraulic conductivity values of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer is discussed with the understanding that the other case yields more of less similar results. As the injection takes place in the lowest 50 m of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer, Figure 6.10 displays the results of addressing the impact of uncertainty in lateral extent of the clay layer beneath the injection zone located in lowest 50 m of the Upper aquifer. The figure shows the salt plume in the Upper aquifer. The plume in this case spreads laterally equally in all direction comparing to the previous three injection scenarios and with almost a distance of 200 m around the injection point. Figure 6.11 shows the salt concentration plume in plan view at successive 50 meters downwards from the start of the Lower Cretaceous aquifer till the bottom of the aquifer. The plume in the Lower aquifer takes a stretched shape like previous scenarios with elongation in the direction of groundwater flow to the northwest. The cross-sections shown in Figure 6.12 indicate that the vertical migration is larger than the previous injection scenarios and reaches 175 m upwards from the point of injection and downwards to the Lower Cretaceous aquifer.

Figure 6.10. Injection Results of Uncertainty in Clay Layer extension showing the Concentrated Salt plume Distribution after 25 years of Continuous Injection in Plan View. 138

Figure 6.11. Injection Results of Uncertainty in Clay Layer Extension showing the Salts Concentration Plume Distribution in Plan at Successive 50 meters downwards from the Injection Zone after 25 years of Continuous Injection.


Figure 6.12. Injection Results of Uncertainty in Clay Layer Extension showing the Salt plume Distribution after 25 years of Continuous Injection. The Top Part is a East-West Cross-Sectional View and the Lower Part is a South-North Cross-Sectional View. 6.6. The Environmental Penalty of Injection The injection of reject brine into groundwater aquifers has a number of environmental implications and undesirable effects. These include changing the hydraulic properties of the receiving aquifer such as reduction in permeability of the host formation or the perforations or screens that are placed in the wells injection interval. This can be caused by particle/colloid migration into the formation, bacterial growth, emulsification of fluids, and precipitation of dissolved matter. Another impact is the fracture of the host geologic units resulting in the hydraulic interconnection of the injection horizon and adjacent aquifers. Also the build-up of high subsurface pressures can cause the fracturing of confining strata and create pathways for the vertical migration of injected fluids. Corroding or plugging of the injection wells are also environmental penalties which add costs due to required maintenance. If a plugging of an injection well occurs and the formation gets worse, the need of 140

larger injection pressures becomes crucial to maintain a given flow rate, which can lead to well failure, causing the spread of concentrated reject brine and compromising safety. In this study we only focus on one of these environmental impacts resulting from the injection of the reject brine in the deep aquifer and translate it into an equivalent cost. The environmental penalty used here is defined as the increased cost of desalination of the aquifer water volume that experiences an adverse increase in salinity after the end of the simulation compared to the background salinity of the aquifer. The addressed environmental impact as defined above provides the convenience of a relative comparison between the different scenarios using this measure. Another reason behind using it is the possibility of expressing the impact on the desalination costs where desalination holds a great potential as a future water resource. In this environmental penalty approach, a benchmarked change in salinity of 1,000 ppm is taken as the reference to account for the total volume estimation. In other words, if a salinity of a certain volume of water has increased by 1,000 ppm or more in the grid cells then an active flag is assigned to the cell and this volume is taken in consideration in estimating the total volume. The water volume is calculated by multiplying the volume of the grid cells times the porosity of the layer. This volume of the water is then multiplied by the salinity of each grid cell after the 25-year simulation period to estimate the mass of the salts of the affected volume. By summation of the mass salts of the total affected grid cells and dividing by their total volume, an average salinity can then be estimated. Using the same active flag array of the affected grid cells, and with the same approach used above, the average salinity is calculated for the native water of the aquifer. It should be noted that the background and the increased


salt concentrations vary from one cell to another in the model grid cells. In summary, the equations used to obtain the average salinity are written as:
Vw nVg
S avg ik1 SiVgi ik1 Vgi

(6.1) (6.2)

where Vw is the water volume [m3], n is the aquifer effective porosity [dimensionless], Vg is the grid cell volume [m3], Savg is the average salinity [kg/m3], S is the salinity [kg/m3], and K is the number of active flagged cells (the cells with a salinity increase of 1 kg/m3 or more) Without regard to the injection taking place in the Upper Cretaceous aquifer and the production is from the Lower Cretaceous aquifer, the increase in salinity of the Upper Cretaceous will reflect in an increased cost of desalination in case of a future utilization of the aquifer. The environmental penalty is the increased cost of desalination due to the salinity change that the native aquifer water has experienced. Excel spreadsheet is used to perform the calculation and MATLAB is used for preparing and handling the output data of the GMS software to be input for the spreadsheet. Figure 6.13 shows a screenshot of the Excel spreadsheet developed.

Figure 6.13. Screenshot of the Excel Spreadsheet Used for Calculation of the Environmental Penalty Affected Volume. 142

6.6.1. The Environmental Penalty of the Three Injection Scenarios The injection of the reject brine in the Upper Cretaceous aquifer will negatively impact a volume of water and change its average salinity. The simulation of a 25-year period of continuous injection using the first injection scenario has affected a water volume of about 2.625 million cubic meters of the Upper Cretaceous. The average salinity of the affected volume has increased by 164 % reaching a value of 9,680 ppm whereas the native average salinity of the affected volume is 3,660 ppm. For the second injection scenario, the affected volume of water of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer reaches 2,143,750 cubic meters where its average salinity increases to reach 9,790 ppm with a percentage increase of 167% after 25-years of continuous injection. The third injection scenario involves the injection takes place at distance 50 meters above the bottom of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer and the screen length is 50 meters. For this scenario, the average salinity of a total affected water volume of 2,712,500 m3 changes from 3,660 ppm to 8,800 ppm. In other words the average salinity has increased by 140% after continuous injection of the reject brine for 25-years. For the three addressed scenarios, there is no effect on the Lower Cretaceous aquifer due to the presence of the confining clay layer between the two aquifers which separates the injection host formation from the extraction aquifer. 6.6.2. The Environmental Penalty for the Uncertainty in the Clay Layer Case Figures 6.11 through 6.12 give a three dimensional perspective for the injection transport results over 25-years of continuous injection. It is shown that the salt plume migration in the Lower Cretaceous aquifer is significant comparing to the first three injection scenarios. Also the vertical migration of the salts in the Upper aquifer is significantly larger than that of the three 143

injection scenarios. Thus it is expected that a high environmental penalty will result. For the Upper Cretaceous, the affected water volume is about 5.95 million cubic meters and its salinity increases by 75 % reaching a value of 6,410 ppm. For the Lower Cretaceous, the water volume affected is in the order of 16.9 million cubic meters and its average salinity has increased by 130 % to reach a value of 4,750 ppm instead of a native average salinity of 2,070 mg/L. 6.7. The Cost of Injection for the Three Injection Scenarios The costs associated with injection wells are highly site specific and quite variable. Therefore, generic cost estimates of injection wells from typical handbook-type data is very difficult and subject to a wide range of uncertainty. However, by gathering site-specific data, a reasonably accurate cost estimate can be made. The major factors contributing to the cost of an injection well are: pretreatment, pumps, site tests (i.e., logging, surveying, and testing), injection well components, drilling, monitoring, maintenance and operating costs. For the pretreatment, the rejected water may require pretreatment in an above-surface facility to prevent plugging in the receiving formation. When significant suspended solids are present, such as when concentrate is mixed with membrane pre-filter backwash and periodic cleaning waste, typical pretreatment consists of total suspended solid removal is required. Also pH adjustment may be necessary. Pumps are used in above-surface facilities to inject the concentrate. The flow and pressure requirements are site specific. The discharge head will vary depending upon the geologic conditions and depth of the injection zone. In this study, the injected volume is very small, thus the required head from the simulation did not exceed one meters and the injection can take place by free-fall of the concentrate. Deep injection wells are normally multi-cased. Usually the use of more than one casing to provide transition zones and isolate contaminated aquifers from water contained in shallower or deeper aquifers is adopted. It is not 144

common to inject water in an aquifer where the source of water is seated in deeper than the injection aquifer so the contaminated water does not seep downwards to the source aquifer. However, in this study since the iso-salinity maps shows that the Upper Cretaceous aquifer has higher salinity values than that of the Lower Cretaceous aquifer and Al-Monbateh is extracting from the Lower Cretaceous aquifer, the injection takes place in the Upper Cretaceous aquifer. The monitoring is required to ensure compliance with environmental regulations. Also periodic samples can be taken and analyzed to determine if there has been any leakage of the concentrate to the feed water aquifer. In general, the most critical areas are that around the injection location in the Lower Cretaceous aquifer. The operating costs for disposal wells are generally low. Well maintenance consists of periodically checking the casing and repairing it if required. In this study, an inclusive cost for the injection well of EGP 4,000 per meter are assumed based on surveys of recent deep injection well costs. The total cost of the injection wells considered here is the cost of well installation, operation, and maintenance in addition to the cost of the environmental penalty which is the difference between the desalination cost of the total affected water volume before and after the injection. The depths of the injection well are 611 m, 611 m, and 561 m for the three scenarios, respectively. Thus the inclusive cost of the injection well is calculated. Future extraction and utilization of the saline water of the Upper Cretaceous aquifer in desalination is expected and of a possible choice since the great achievements in desalination technology have now moved the costs for desalting in many applications from the realm of "expensive" to "competitive". The desalination cost is a function of the feed water salinity, where an increase in the salts concentration of the feed water will reflect on an increased desalination costs. The costs of unit cubic meter desalination using RO processes as a function of feed water salinity and the plant capacity are 145

shown in Figure 6.14. Table 6.1 summarizes the total cost estimates for the three injection scenarios.
1.2 3000-5000 ppm 1 5000-10000 ppm

Cost (USD/m3)





0 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 9000 10000

Plant Capacity Figure 6.14. Unit Cost of Brackish Water RO Desalination with Plant Capacity (Khidr, 2012).

Table 6.1. Summary of the Costs of the Injection Wells of the Three Scenarios
Scenario Depth (m) Well Cost (EGP) Affected Volume (m3) Salinity (ppm) EGP per m3 Environmental Penalty Cost (EGP) Total Cost of Injection (EGP)

1 2 3

611 611 561

2,444,000 2,444,000 2,244,000

2,625,000 2,143,750 2,712,500

9,700 9,800 8,800

1.77 1.82 1.44

4,646,250 3,901,625 3,906,000

7,090,250.00 6,345,625.00 6,150,000.00

Figure 6.15 shows the cost estimated for the three scenarios. The black portion gives the cost of the well drilling and ooperating, whereas the grey component pertains to the environmental penalty. It can be seen from the figure that the third disposal scenario yields the lowest well installation cost and the lowest environmental penalty. Therefore, the third scenario gives the lowest total cost among the three scenarios.



8 7.09 7 6 5 4 3 2.444 2.244 Scenario 3 2 1 0 Scenario 1 Scenario 2 2.444


Figure 6.15. The Cost of Disposal of the Proposed Three Injection Scenarios. Figure 6.16 recalls back the costs of the current disposal system of the AlMonbateh desalination plant (i.e., the lined evaporation ponds) and sets the costs of the two different alternatives together in one graph for a relative comparison. The figure shows that the deep well injection disposal option yields an exaggerated cost compared to that of the evaporation ponds, whether compared to the current ponds or the proposed ponds which takes into account the actual evaporation rates, rainfall, and salinity effects. The assessment results stand in a favor of the evaporation ponds choice regardless of the fact that the sizing was not properly done. This supports the use of evaporation ponds for membrane concentrate disposal as it is most appropriate for smaller volume flows as well as for regions having a relatively warm, dry climate with high evaporation rates, level terrain, and low land costs.

Total Cost (EGP)




7 6.15 Uncertain Costs 0.541 Exiting Pond New Pond 1.885 Deep Well Injection


Total Cost (EGP)

4 3 2.244 2 1 0

Figure 6.16. The Total Costs of the Different Disposal Options.


The Proposed Potential Areas for Future Extraction of Feed Water within the Study Area Sinai could be self sufficient in satisfying its domestic water demand under

the proper water management. Extensive development in the socio-economic, industrial and agricultural sectors is expected to be stressed in the future. The Lower Cretaceous aquifer is the most prospective aquifer in Sinai as mentioned earlier by many researches. The aquifer is not yet effectively utilized nor precisely evaluated, although it represents a strategic reserve for future economic development. Spatially distributed areas of good quality groundwater suitable for various types of development are identified and the suitable areas for domestic and irrigation purposes are delineated in this study based on four design criteria. Three of the criteria pertain to the Lower Cretaceous aquifer and these are the depth to water (which can also be referred as depth to aquifer), the thickness of the aquifer and the quality of the water (e.g., salinity). The forth criterion is the topography of the area. The results can be considered to be useful for preparing preliminary groundwater development plans for the studied domain. The desalination potential is addressed through a preliminary estimate for the water needed for a 148

domestic usage in the area and a projection for the two common brine disposal options is applied for the proposed exploitation scheme. The costs of the two disposal options are studied and presented as a function of the demand. The desalination technology proposed is the RO process with a recovery rate of 70% and a reject brine concentration of 12,000 mg/L as given in Al-Monbateh desalination plant (i.e., the first stage of desalination only is taken). The cost elements of the evaporation ponds are taken as discussed earlier in Chapter three whereas the injection wells as presented in this chapter. The evaluation of groundwater development in the study area relies on four criteria as mentioned above. The study area is divided into polygons with high, fair, and low development priority and values of 3, 2, or 1 is assigned for each polygon. The four criteria are included in the evaluation by summation of the polygonal values of each criterion and averaging the results to get a value between 1 and 3 expressing the priority of the groundwater development with 3 as highest and 1 as lowest. It is worth noting that the water quality criterion was given a higher weight in the averaging process. Figure 6.17 shows the polygons of each criterion and their priority with the lighter color giving the highest while the darker giving the lowest groundwater development priority. Figure 6.18 presents the results of the averaging (i.e., overlying the four criteria) and the spatial potential areas are expressed in lightest colors.


Land Levels

Depth to the Lower Cretaceous Aquifer

Thickness of the Lower Cretaceous Aquifer

Salinity of the Lower Cretaceous Aquifer

Figure 6.17. The Four Criteria for Potential Groundwater Development. The most suitable areas are chosen as shown in Figure 6.19 and the expected demand is calculated based on the population density of north Sinai. The World Bank (2012) (, accessed on: May, 2012) estimated the current population density as approximately 44. However, a value of 100 capita per square kilometer and 200 cubic liters as a daily consumption are assumed in estimating the total demand. Three zones are identified and the estimated future demand is 7600 m3/d, 7100 m3/d, and 4000 m3/d for the three areas shown in the figure. It is worth noting the Al-Monbateh well lies in the highest priority zone.


Figure 6.18. The Overly of the Four Potential Criteria (the light color expresses the high potential while the dark color expresses low potential).

Figure 6.19. The Proposed Suitable Areas for Groundwater Development.


The developed regional model is utilized to simulate the proposed extraction and injection of the brine. The groundwater heads after the 25-year simulation for the Upper and Lower Cretaceous aquifers are shown in Figures 6.20 and 6.21, respectively. The change in regional water heads is minute if compared to that of the base-case scenario. The resulting flow fields are used in the solute transport simulation. Figure 6.22 shows the transport simulation results where the simulation is conducted under the total extraction and injection rates. The figure shows the lateral migration of each injection well field on the regional model grid where each cell has dimensions of 250 x 250 meters. Five injection wells are assumed for the studied domain as a preliminary step for injection. For the first injection well field, the maximum lateral migration is about 700 m, while it is 600 m for the second zone and only 375 m for the third injection area. The same approach for evaluation of the environmental penalty used in the local disposal scenarios is applied in the regional case and the affected volumes are estimated as well as the increased desalination costs in case of future extraction. The calculation of the environmental penalty is based on the present value of money and does not consider the expected achievements in the desalination technologies which will reflect on reduced costs of desalination. A detailed study regarding the allowable injection rate and required pressure is required before any step of groundwater development, desalination, and injection of brine. However, the assumed hypothetical case can be beneficial in a future detailed study with a proper management scheme for the extraction and injection wells.


Figure 6.20. The Head Contours of the Upper Cretaceous Aquifer for the Proposed Potential Extraction and Injection Model (The proposed wells and the existing wells are presented as black dots).

Figure 6.21. The Head Contours of the Lower Cretaceous Aquifer for the Proposed Potential Extraction and Injection Model (The proposed wells and the existing wells are presented as black dots).


Figure 6.22. Injection Results of the Upper Cretaceous Aquifer for the Proposed Potential Extraction and Injection Model (The proposed wells and the existing wells are presented as black dots).



The Cost of the Different Disposal Options for the Proposed Groundwater Development Potential The cost of disposal for the two proposed alternatives (evaporation pond

and deep well injection) can be estimated based on the cost elements discussed earlier in this chapter and in Chapter three during the evaluation of the current disposal system of Al-Monabateh plant. The cost of the environmental penalty is added also to the cost of implementation of the injection wells. For calculating the cost of the lined evaporation ponds, the model discussed in Chapter three is used for the proper sizing of the ponds using the same criteria of the actual evaporation rates, rainfalls and effect of salinity on reducing the evaporation rates. Different production rates are assumed and the corresponding expected reject brine is used as the input water to the pond. The size is obtained then the cost is roughly estimated based on this size. Table 6.2 shows the estimated costs with different extraction discharges. Table 6.2. The Estimated Costs of the Lined Evaporation Ponds with Different Extraction Rates Extraction (m3/d) Product (m3/d) Brine (m3/d) Pond Cost (EGP) 3200 2240 960 53,992,185 6400 4480 1920 105,785,145 9600 6720 2880 156,461,681 16000 11200 4800 261,733,144 24000 16800 7200 392,857,283 The cost of the deep well injection disposal option is estimated by assuming a number of injection wells for the three proposed groundwater development zones. Both the well implementation costs and the environmental penalty costs are added to express the total cost of the wells. Table 6.3 shows the estimated costs of the deep injection disposal option.


Table 6.3. The Estimated Cost of the Deep Well Injection Disposal Option Implementation Extraction Production Reject Brine Number of Cost 3 3 3 (m /d) (m /d) (m /d) Injection Wells (EGP) 4650 9300 15200 21000 23860 26720 3255 6510 10640 14700 16702 18704 1395 2790 4560 6300 7158 8016 1 2 3 4 5 5 2,592,000 5,168,000 7,640,000 10,108,000 13,016,000 13,016,000

Volume Affected (m3) 43,750,000 86,406,250 146,562,500 190,312,500 217,656,250 234,062,500

Penalty Cost (EGP) 39,943,750 78,888,906 133,811,563 173,755,313 198,720,156 213,699,063

Total Cost (EGP) 42,535,750 84,056,906 141,451,563 183,863,313 211,736,156 226,715,063


Figure 6.23 presents the costs of the two brine disposal options as a function of the product water quantity. Shown are the total cost of the evaporation ponds and the total cost of the deep well injection. The two cost components of the deep well injection are presented with the dashed lines. The figure shows that the cost of the deep well injection is generally less than that of the lined evaporation ponds and the cost difference increases with increasing the product water (i.e., increasing the reject brine) which can give a preliminary claim that deep well injection is a favorable option in case of large brine volumes. However evaporation ponds for membrane concentrate disposal are most appropriate for smaller volume flows, which was the case in Al-Monbateh desalination plant. 450 400 350
Total Costs (EGP)
Total Cost of Evaporation Ponds Total Cost of Injection Injection Wells Capital Cost


300 250 200 150 100

Penalty of Injection

0 0 5000 10000 15000 20000
Product Water (m3/day)

Figure 6.23. The Cost of Disposal of Different Alternatives with the Product Water Quantity. Although the deep well injection proves an economic feasibility, but there are many advantages associated with the use of the evaporation ponds: (1) they are relatively easy and straightforward to construct; (2) properly constructed evaporation ponds are low maintenance and require little operator attention 157

compared to mechanical equipment; (3) except for pumps to convey the concentrate water to the pond, no mechanical equipment is required; and (4) for smaller volume flows, evaporation ponds are frequently the least costly means of disposal, especially in areas with high evaporation rates and low land costs. Taking into consideration that injecting back the reject brine is a conservative water mass attitude which means that the reject water will be locally stored again in the aquifer domain and thus decrease the quantity loss of water. Achievements in the desalination technologies are expected in the future which may overcome the higher costs associated with higher salinity waters. Despite the inherent advantages of evaporation ponds, they are not without disadvantages that can limit their application. First, they can require large tracts of land if they are located where the evaporation rate is low or the disposal rate is high. Second, they mostly require impervious liners of clay or synthetic membranes such as polyvinylchloride (PVC) or Hypalon, and this requirement substantially increases the costs of evaporation ponds. Third, seepage from poorly constructed evaporation ponds can contaminate underlying potable water aquifers and cause an increased environmental penalty. Lastly, there is little economy of scale for this land-intensive disposal option. Consequently, disposal costs can be large for all but small-sized membrane plants. It is worth noting, however, that regardless of the high cost of the lined evaporation ponds, they can be utilized as solar ponds and thus they provide a renewable energy source for the desalination plant where the energy is to be harnessed for operating high compression pumps needed for reverse osmosis modular systems the promising desalination technology. And the reasons are obvious, since Egypt has great potential of brackish water wells, immense amounts of solar radiation in remote areas and future integrated development projects are located at a distance from the Nile water.





Awareness of increasing water scarcity has driven efforts to seek for nonconventional water resources. Atop of these resources is the saline water of both the sea and the groundwater aquifers. Desalination of brackish water holds a great promise as a freshwater resource which helps ameliorate the stress on the Nile River as the only renewable source of water in Egypt. Brackish groundwater is usually present in vast quantities, where inland desalination can be utilized. In parallel with the implementation of an inland desalination plant, a disposal system for the produced reject brine has to be developed. This disposal should have the mildest effects on the environment and be cost effective. The two main disposal alternatives, the evaporation ponds and the deep injection into saline aquifers, are addressed through a field case study, AlMonbateh desalination plant that already exists in Central Sinai. For the assessment of the current disposal system of the plant, the evaporation ponds, a MATLAB simulation code utilizing the water and salt balance was developed for the evaluation process considering the effect of salinity on the evaporation rates and its projection on the area of the pond. The current disposal system malfunctioned after a couple of months of operation and concentrate started to flood, and thus pumping units were attached and an unmanaged disposal took place on land surface few meters away from the constructed lined evaporation ponds. For a fair comparison between the current disposal and other alternatives, the code is used for investigating the cause of 159

the problem. It is found that the main issue is the reduced evaporation rates due to the high salinity of the reject. New dimensions are calculated for an independent evaporation pond disposal alternative and the associated approximate cost of the pond is calculated. Sensitivity analysis for the effect of salinity is carried out for assessing its importance in the design of the ponds. Deep injection of the reject brine in saline aquifers is studied as an alternative for the evaporation pond. The injection host is the Upper Cretaceous aquifer while the extraction of Al-Monbateh well is from the Lower Cretaceous aquifer. The fact that the two aquifers are not hydraulically connected is strengthened by the different water head and salinity values for the same spatial point at the two aquifers. For the proposed injection scheme, the groundwater flow direction around the disposal well is simulated and the possibility of such disposal and its short- and long-term sustainability are evaluated in this study. An environmental penalty is defined for the study as the volume of the groundwater flow that is adversely affected by the increased salinity of more than 1,000 ppm and its projection on the cost of desalination, in case of future utilization of the resource. In order to investigate the abovementioned issues, a regional threedimensional numerical groundwater flow and solute transport model is applied and used to evaluate the impact of the proposed disposal and address the uncertainty associated with the subsurface characteristics, processes and injection location of the reject brine. The different versions of the groundwater model are developed and run using well established groundwater packages. The USGS groundwater flow model, MODFLOW, and the associated solute transport model, MT3DMS, in conjunction with SEAWAT for variable density groundwater flow simulation are used in this study. The simulation timeframe is taken as 25 years of continuous injection of the reject brine from AlMonbateh desalination plant. For the small injection rate associated with the plant, a local model is extracted from the regional model and a finer grid


discretization is used for a more accurate simulation of the groundwater flow and salt transport. Two water-bearing formations are modeled, the Upper and the Lower Cretaceous aquifers. Confined aquifer conditions are assumed for the Lower Cretaceous while unconfined conditions are assumed for the Upper aquifer. Specified head boundaries are assigned to the lateral model boundaries expect for the northern boundary of the Lower Cretaceous aquifer that is assigned as a no-flow boundary. This is because it represents a deeply faulted limestone unit terminating the Lower Cretaceous aquifer. No recharge is assumed for both modeled aquifers. The groundwater flow model is calibrated using the head values extracted from potentiometric maps of both aquifers and from two wells tapping the Lower Cretaceous aquifer. Hydraulic conductivity is considered the calibration parameter, and the calibration is performed using the Pilot Points method integrated with the PEST (parameter estimated) code. The calibration process is assessed using the sum of squared errors (the difference between the observed and the simulated heads). Heterogeneity fields for both aquifers are created as a result of calibration. After the calibration is done, the base case scenario for the flow and solute transport is developed based on the current production from the two aquifers from the present nine wells in the regional study domain. The reject brine injection is at a rate of 16 m3/day, and the local model is utilized in the simulation of the injection scenarios. Preliminary groundwater development potential areas are identified in the study area based on four criteria; the topography of the area, the depth to the producing aquifer which is the Lower Cretaceous aquifer, the thickness of the aquifer and the salinity of the water. A projection of the two disposal alternatives is carried on the potential areas for extraction in order to assess the environmental and economic feasibility of the different alternatives for brine disposal in case desalination is utilized in future development expansion. The


regional model is used to assess the environmental impacts and penalty resulting from the deep well injection option. 7.2. Conclusions

After analyzing the results presented throughout this study and the case study on the two disposal alternatives, the following conclusions can be drawn from the analysis: 1. Salinity effect on evaporation rates is a critical factor in the design of evaporation ponds. 2. For small disposal volumes the evaporation pond design is very sensitive to the side slopes while not in case of large volumes. 3. Deep well injection is an attractive disposal alternative for large disposal volumes but probably not so for small volumes compared to lined evaporation ponds, however several aspects involve the decision on which is the better alternative and the most appropriate alternative is highly site specific. 4. It is anticipated that evaporation ponds most likely is a competitive option for relatively small plants in remote, inland locations with high evaporation rates. 5. Although deep well injection causes unpleasant impacts which are reflected on an increased cost for desalination, but the option preserves the amount of reject brine produced in the host formation instead of losing these volumes through evaporation. These volumes might be a great resource of water in the future especially with the rapid evolution of the desalination technologies and the ever decreasing costs. 6. For the case study, the injection at a distance of 50 meters above the clay lens is found to be the most economic among the deep injection options. 7. For the case study, the lack of a clay lens beneath the injection zone has high environmental penalty for the Lower Cretaceous, thus accurate


aquifer characterization is important before choosing the injection well location. 7.3. Recommendations for Future Work

Based on the results of this study and through the literature for the previous studies of the disposal options, the following is recommended for future studies: 1. Study in depth the effect of salinity on evaporation rates and the dependency on the geographical location. 2. In case of location dependency, field experiments are needed to formulate relationships for the different regions of Egypt. 3. Consider the chemical characterization of the injected reject brine in the injection simulation as well as the temperature of the injected fluid to account for the effects of viscosity variations on groundwater flow. 4. Survey the potential aquifers for brackish groundwater for desalination with an estimate of the stored volumes and the allowable exploitable volumes for the main brackish aquifers in Egypt. 5. Study the possible development schemes for Central Sinai and other areas rich with brackish water through the appropriate management and decision-making tools. 6. Investigate the possible enhancements for the addressed disposal alternatives and especially for the evaporation ponds, like the use of the evaporation pond as a source of renewable energy (i.e., solar pond) for operating the desalination plant thus achieving the integrity of an independent system of producing fresh water, 7. Study the use of unlined evaporation ponds, with the environmental impacts and penalties associated with the expected seepage 8. Study the feasibility of using mechanical evaporation in the disposal of the concentrate.


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