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Why are we discussing desalination?

97.5% of all water on Earth is salt water, and of the remaining 2.5%, more
than two thirds is inaccessible ice and permanent snow cover. Water is
acutely, unevenly distributed and large parts of the world are already
experiencing either water stress or water scarcity. According to the UN, by
2030 under a business as usual scenario, water demand will exceed supply
by 40%, with up to two thirds of the global population inhabiting areas that
are officially defined as water stressed.

Desalination
Production of drinking water from seawater is technologically achievable for several decades.
Until now, however, application of seawater desalination ("desal") on a large scale is primarily
limited to arid regions of the world that have a cheap supply of energy, such as in the Middle
East. Saudi Arabia uses this technology and produces 30% of the world's output of desalinated
seawater.
Desalination is a technology that is used to separates dissolved salts and
other minerals from seawater or other salty water. It provides clean drinking
water. The Desalination Plant uses reverse osmosis process, which removes
the salts and other minerals from the water as it passes through the layers of
extremely thin membranes under high pressure. The pure water is then

further mixed with other drinking water supplies and sends directly towards
the users.
In this process, Fresh water, which has a very small quantity of salt, is passed
through the membrane. After passing through the membrane, it leaves a
concentrated salt stream which is then discharged back to the ocean.
Approximately, 40 to 45 liters of drinking water is produced from 100 liters of
raw seawater. The advantage of the desalination process is that the raw water
source is independent of rainfall, so we are capable of providing water
throughout the year and produces drinking water.

Where does the left over salt go?


The unused seawater (about 55%), containing dissolved salts and minerals, is returned to the ocean via an
outlet tunnel, and dispersed 1. 2 kilometers out to sea in water approximately 20 meters deep. The salty
concentrated water, called brine, is released through a one meter diameter pipeline containing eight
diffuser heads. The brine then mixes with the surrounding seawater and is dispersed by strong tidal
currents in the ocean. The increased salinity level does not cause stress to marine life. In fact the outlet
structure has created an artificial reef which is a new habitat for sea creatures .

Application of desalination processes


The proper choice of a desalination technology will depend on the feed water
quality, which is mainly characterized by its total dissolved solids content (TDS
value). Different feed water qualities and their corresponding salt content are
given in Table.

Description of Desalination Plant


Source water intake facilities
General description

Pretreatment processes
General description
The pre-treatment process improves the quality of the raw feedwater to ensure consistent
performance and the desired output volume of the desalination process. Almost all desalination
processes require pre-treatment of some kind. The level and type of pretreatment required
depends on the source and quality of the feedwater and the chosen desalination technology. For
source water of poor quality, pretreatment can be a very significant portion of the overall plant
infrastructure. The potential influences on public health and the environment from the
pretreatment process operations are associated with the chemical conditioning (addition of
biocides, coagulants, flocculants, antiscalants, etc.) of the source water prior to pre-treatment and
with the disposal of the residuals formed during the pre-treatment process. Pretreatment, when
required, normally involves a form of filtration and other physical-chemical processes whose
primary purpose is to remove the suspended solids (particles, silt, organics, algae, etc.) and oil
and grease contained in the source water when membrane desalination is used for salt separation.
For thermal desalination processes it protects downstream piping and equipment from corrosion
and from formation of excessive scale of hard deposits on their surface (scaling). Biofouling is

most often mitigated using an oxidant although non-oxidizing biocides are also utilized. Potential
public health effects associated with pre-treatment are typically associated with the by-products

formed during the chemical conditioning process and their potential propagation into the finished
fresh water.
Post-treatment
Product water from desalination plants is characteristically low in mineral content, alkalinity, and
pH. Therefore, desalinated water must be conditioned (post-treated) prior to final distribution and
use. Typically, post-treatment of product water includes one or more of the following processes:
Stabilization by addition of carbonate alkalinity;

Corrosion inhibition;
Re-mineralization by blending with high mineral content water;
Disinfection;
Water quality polishing for enhanced removal of specific compounds (i.e., boron, silica,
NDMA, etc.).

Post-treatment of permeate produced by the desalination system is needed for two key reasons:
to protect public health (by disinfection and mineral addition) and to safeguard the integrity of
the water distribution system. In some cases the same post-treatment process and conditioning
chemicals allow achievement of both goals. For example, addition of calcium and magnesium
salts to permeate provides not only essential minerals but also stabilizes the product water and
thereby protects the water distribution system against corrosion.
Usually, the ultimate application dosage of any multi-purpose chemical is determined by the
minimum dosage needed to achieve all purposes for which the conditioning chemical is added.
If the use of the same chemical is not found to be cost effective to achieve
both the public health and the corrosion protection goals, than a combination
of chemicals that yield the lowest overall cost of water production may be
used to meet all post-treatment goals. For example, typically calcium

hypochlorite addition for disinfection meets the public health goals for
pathogen inactivation and also adds some calcium. Therefore, calcium
hypochlorite addition is typically combined with the feed of corrosion
inhibitor to the desalination plant permeate, thereby achieving both public
health

and

corrosion

protection

goals

at

minimal

life-cycle

cost.

In seawater desalination it commonly ranges from 55 to 68 bars]. Operating


pressures for the purification of brackish water are lower due to the lower
osmotic pressure caused by lower feed water salinity. A flow sheet of a
reverse osmosis based desalination plant is shown in Fig.
The process includes the following stages:
Water abstraction
Pre-treatment
Pumping system
Membrane separation unit
Energy recovery system
Post-treatment
Control-system

The abstraction

of feed water can be realized either through coast- and

beach wells or through open seawater intake systems. Coast- and beach
wells provide better quality water with less turbidity, algae and total
dissolved solids than open seawater intakes but require more space. In
brackish water desalination, wells are used to abstract feed water. Pretreatment includes all activities to adjust the intake water in constitution and
pH-value. Particulate matter is removed from the feed-water and chemicals
are added to prevent scaling and fouling. The pumping system is required to
overcome height differences within the distribution chain and to apply the
necessary pressure to the feed. The membrane is capable of separating salt
from water with a rejection of 9899.5%, depending on the membranes in
use. The energy recovery system is responsible for the transfer of potential
energy from the concentrate to the feed. Current energy recovery systems

such as work exchangers operate with efficiencies of up to 96% [13]. In posttreatment (6) permeate is re-mineralized, re-hardened, disinfected by
chlorination and adjusted to drinking water standards. A control system
maintains a continuous and reliable production. Fig. shows a simplified
reverse osmosis scheme with energy recovery system and open seawater
intake.

Characteristics of Reverse Osmosis Process

4. Terms and Equations of Reverse Osmosis


There is a set of terms and equations used to define the parameters
governingtransport across a membrane. This paper presents the concepts of
Reverse Osmosis and the equations used to describe them.

OSMOTIC PRESSURE
The osmotic pressure, Posm, of a solution can be determined experimentally by
measuring the concentration of dissolved salts in solution:

5. Factors Affecting RO Membrane Performance


Reverse osmosis (RO) technology can be a complicated subject, particularly
without an understanding of the specific terminology that describes various
aspects of RO system operation and the relationships between these operating
variables.
This bulletin defines some of these key terms and provides a brief overview of
the factors that affect the performance of RO membranes, including pressure,
temperature, feedwater salt concentration, permeate recovery, and system pH.
[19]

Definitions

Recovery: the percentage of membrane system feedwater that emerges

from the system as product water or "permeate". Membrane system design is


based on expected feedwater quality and recovery is fixed through initial
adjustment of valves on the concentrate stream. Recovery is often fixed at the
highest level that maximizes permeate flow while preventing precipitation of
super-saturated salts within the membrane system.
Rejection: the percentage of solids concentration removed from system

feedwater by the membrane.


Passage: the opposite of "rejection", passage is the percentage of dissolved

constituents (contaminants) in the feedwater allowed to pass through the


membrane.
Permeate: the purified product water produced by a membrane system.
Flow: Feed flow is the rate of feedwater introduced to the membrane

element, usually measured in gallons per minute (gpm). Concentrate flow is the
rate of flow of non-permeated feedwater that exits the membrane element. This
concentrate contains most of the dissolved constituents originally carried into
the element from the feed source. It is usually measured in gallons per minute
(gpm).
Flux: the rate of permeate transported per unit of membrane area, usually

measured in gallons per square foot per day (gfd).


Dilute solution: purified water solution, RO system product water.
Concentrated

solution: brackish water solution such as RO system

feedwater.

Effect of pressure
Feed water pressure affects both the water flux and salt rejection of RO
membranes. Osmosis is the flow of water across a membrane from the dilute
side toward the concentrated solution side. Reverse osmosis technology
involves application of pressure to the feedwater stream to overcome the

natural osmotic pressure. Pressure in excess of the osmotic pressure is applied


to the concentrated solution and the flow of water is reversed. A portion of the
feedwater (concentrated solution) is forced through the membrane to emerge as
purified product water of the dilute solution side please see Figure. [19]

As shown in Figure water flux across the membrane increases in direct


relationship to increases in feedwater pressure. Increased feedwater pressure
also results in increased salt rejection but, as Figure demonstrates, the
relationship is less direct than for water flux.
Because RO membranes are imperfect barriers to dissolved salts in feedwater,
there is always some salt passage through the membrane. As feedwater
pressure is increased, this salt passage is increasingly overcome as water is
pushed through the membrane at a faster rate than salt can be transported.
However, there is an upper limit to the amount of salt that can be excluded via
increasing feedwater pressure. As the plateau in the salt rejection curve (Figure)
indicates, above a certain pressure level, salt rejection no longer increases and
some salt flow remains coupled with water flowing through the membrane.

Effect of temperature
As Figure demonstrates, membrane productivity is very sensitive to changes in
feedwater temperature. As water temperature increases, water flux increases
almost linearly, due primarily to the higher diffusion rate of water through the
membrane.

Increased feedwater temperature also results in lower salt rejection or higher salt passage.
This is due to a higher diffusion rate for salt through the membrane.
The ability of a membrane to tolerate elevated temperatures increases
operating latitude and is also important during cleaning operations
because it permits use of stronger, faster cleaning processes. This is
illustrated by the comparison of the pH and temperature ranges of thinfilm composite (TF) membrane and a cellulose acetate (CA) membrane in
Figure.

Effect of salt concentration


Osmotic pressure is a function of the type and concentration of salts or organics contained in
feedwater. As salt concentration increases, so does osmotic pressure. The amount of feedwater
driving pressure necessary to reverse the natural direction of osmotic flow is, therefore, largely
determined by the level of salts in the feedwater.
Figure demonstrates that, if feed pressure remains constant, higher salt
concentration results in lower membrane water flux. The increasing osmotic
pressure offsets the feedwater driving pressure. Also illustrated in Figure is
the increase in salt passage through the membrane (decrease in rejection)
as the water flux declines.

Effect of recovery
As shown in Figure, reverse osmosis occurs when the natural osmotic flow
between a dilute solution and a concentrated solution is reversed through
application of feedwater pressure. If percentage recovery is increased (and
feedwater pressure remains constant), the salts in the residual feed become
more concentrated and the natural osmotic pressure will increase until it is
as high as the applied feed pressure. This can negate the driving effect of
feed pressure, slowing or halting the reverse osmosis process and causing
permeate flux and salt rejection to decrease and even stop (please see
Figure).

The maximum percent recovery possible in any RO system usually depends not
on a limiting osmotic pressure, but on the concentration of salts present in the
feedwater and their tendency to precipitate on the membrane surface as
mineral scale. The most common sparingly soluble salts are calcium carbonate
(limestone), calcium sulfate (gypsum), and silica. Chemical treatment of
feedwater can be used to inhibit mineral scaling.

Effect of pH
The pH tolerance of various types of RO membranes can vary widely. Thinfilm composite (TF)membranes are typically stable over a broader pH range
than cellulose acetate (CA) membranes and, therefore, offer greater
operating latitude (please see Figure ).
Membrane salt rejection performance depends on pH. Water flux may also be
affected. Figure shows that water flux and salt rejection for Thin Film
membranes are essentially stable over a broad pH range.

As illustrated in Figure the stability of TF membrane over a broad pH range


permits stronger, faster, and more effective cleaning procedures to be used
compared to CA membranes.
6. Mass Transfer for reverse osmosis
There are two basic types of mass-transport mechanisms in membranes. In
the first type, using tight membranes, which are capable of retaining solutes
of about 10 oA in size or less, diffusion-type transport mainly occurs. Both
the solute and the solvent migrate by molecular or Fickian diffusion in the
polymer, driven by the concentration gradients set up in the membrane by
the applied pressure difference. In the second type, a sieve-type mechanism
occurs where the solvent moves through the micropores in viscous flow, and
the solute molecules small enough to pass through the pores are carried out
by convection with the solvent.
For diffusion-type membranes, the steady-state equations governing the
transport of solvent and solute are given below:

c
At steady state, the solute diffusing through the membrane must equal
the amount of solute leaving in the downstream or product (permeate)
solution,

where cw2 is the concentration of solvent in stream 2, kg solvent/m3. If


the stream 2 is dilute in solute, cw2 is approximately the density of the

solvent. In reverse osmosis, the solute rejection R is defined as the


concentration difference across the membrane divided by the bulk
concentration on the feed or concentrate side (fraction of solute
remaining in the feed stream):

where B is in 1/atm, which must be determined experimentally. Usually,


Pw / Lm or Aw and DsKs / Lm or As are given in the literature.

7. Flux
The total resistance at the end of filtration test (Rf) was calculated with the permeate flux and TMP at
the end of each permeate test. The resistance at the end of filtration test (Rf) includes the resistance
by concentration polarization, cake layer and adsorbed layer.
The membrane rinsed with deionized water was used for another pure water flux
(PWF) test to evaluate the resistance after hydraulic rinse (Rhy). The membrane
was operated for 3 minutes before the PWF test to stabilize the permeate flux
and pressure

Then, the third pure water flux test was performed to determine the
resistance after chemical cleaning (Rch).
The relationship between TMP and operating parameters (time or permeate
flux) were illustrated in Figure 5.
Theoretically, the relationship among the flux, the driving force and
resistances can be expressed by Darcys law as shown in Equation

,where is the osmotic pressure by concentration polarization, Rm is the


intrinsic

membrane

resistance,

Rcp

is

the

resistance

by

concentration

polarization, Rcl is the resistance by cake layer, and Ra is the resistance by


adsorbed layer. In ultrafiltration and microfiltration of drinking water, the effect
of the osmotic pressure by concentration polarization on the flux was neglected
due to low concentration of solute in surface water treatment applications.
Although it depends on the definition of authors, it can be said that Rch is
closely related with Ra, Rhy with Rcp, and Rf with Rcl

8. Critical Flux

Critical flux is defined as the permeate flux of a membrane system under


which no or little fouling is observed. Higher critical flux with low resistance
to filtration results in lower capital and operating costs [21].

Critical flux has been proposed as a method for measuring the maximum
flux or TMP that can safely be applied and still keep the system running
effectively, i.e. with no or little fouling and with reduced frequency of
chemical cleaning.
Field et al. (1995) introduced the concept of critical flux, working on constant
flux filtration of yeast cells with MF. They defined the critical flux as the flux
below which an increase of TMP with time did not occur. Howell (1995)
defined the critical flux as the flux below which there is no deposition of
colloids on the membrane.
All the definitions of critical flux are related with fouling of the system. Based
on theoretical definitions of mass transport, the critical flux can be defined
more generally as the flux at which the hydrodynamic force transporting the
particle towards the membrane pore is exactly balanced by the opposing
back transport forces (Bowen et al. 1999). It should be recognized, however,
that diffusion is a statistical process and that not all particles in a population
will follow the same path. As a result, conditions that are believed to prevent
the average particle from depositing on a membrane surface will not
guarantee that all particles of a particular size and density will remain
detached from a surface. This also leads to the inference that there is no
such thing as a critical flux at which there will be zero fouling. Rather, critical
flux should be considered to be the operating condition that separates slow
fouling from rapid fouling.
Factors effecting the critical flux
Ionic strength
PH
Zeta potential
Particle concentration and size, and nature and concentration of organic
materials

Membrane surface characteristics


Hydraulic conditions
Ionic Strength
Ionic

strength

and

especially

multi-valent

ions

affect

electrostatic

interactions between particles (DLVO theory) and the molecular size of


polyelectrolytes such as humic materials [8].
PH
In general, an increase in pH increases the electrostatic repulsion between
the membrane and particles, which are typically negatively charged in
natural waters. As a result, higher flux is

often observed with an increase in pH (Mnttri and Nystrm, 2000;


Metsmuuronen et al., 2002; Chen, 1998). Yuan and Zydney (2000) reported
increased hydraulic resistance of humic acid deposited at lower pH.
Zeta potential
Conversely, Huisman et al. (1999) investigated critical flux as a function of
zeta potential. They found that the critical flux was affected neither by
membrane zeta potential nor by particle zeta potential. The size of particle
that they used was too large to be affected by zeta potential (0.53 m silica
particle).
Particle concentration and size, and nature and concentration of
organic materials
In general, the critical flux decreased with increasing concentration of
particles. However, addition of larger particles resulted in higher critical flux.
Generally, the critical flux decreased with increasing concentration of
dissolved organic materials are reported that the role of dissolved matter in
determining critical flux was small since the difference in fouling resistance
was only about 5% for the DOC variation of 300 ~ 1200 mg/L. It has been
noted that addition of particles reduced the amount of adsorbed NOM on
membrane and this could have an impact on critical flux.
Membrane surface characteristics
Membrane surface characteristics can affect the critical flux. The critical flux
was larger for hydrophilic than for hydrophobic membranes. Mnttri and
Nystrm (2000) reported significant irreversible fouling of the most
hydrophobic

membrane

due

to

sorption

of

the

organic

solutes

by

hydrophobic interaction with the membrane.


Hydraulic conditions
Critical flux is affected by hydraulic conditions. The critical flux increased as
crossflow velocity increased due to the erosion of the deposited layer. The
impact of Reynolds number and wall shear stress can be understood in same
way, i.e. higher Reynolds number (Wu et al., 1999) and wall shear stress
(Gsan-Guiziou et al., 2002) resulted in higher critical flux. Interestingly,

Bacchin et al. (1996) reported that crossflow was useless when filtering a
destabilized colloidal suspension.

Although sub-critical flux operation can improve system performance by


reducing fouling, the operation can still encounter problems. Operation at a
very low flux may not be economical. Operation at constant permeate flux
can result in local fluxes that are too high in some regions of a filter (Cho and
Fane, 2002). However, it seems clear that systems with a high critical flux
and with significantly larger particles can benefit from operating below the
critical flux (Vyas et al., 2002) [21].
Critical Pressure
The effect of the gel layer on the flux through an ultrafiltration membrane at
different feed pressures is illustrated in Figure 6.9. At a very low pressure p1,
the flux Jv is low, so the effect of concentration polarization is small, and a
gel layer does not form on the membrane surface. The flux is close to the
pure water flux of the membrane at the same pressure. As the applied
pressure is increased to pressure p2, the higher flux causes increased
concentration polarization, and the concentration of retained material at the
membrane surface increases. If the pressure is increased further to p3,
concentration polarization becomes enough for the retained solutes at the
membrane surface to reach the gel concentration cgel and form the
secondary barrier layer. This is the limiting flux for the membrane. Further
increases in pressure only increase the thickness of the gel layer, not the
flux.
Experience

has

shown

that

the

best

long-term

performance

of

an

ultrafiltration membrane is obtained when the applied pressure is maintained


below the pressure p3 shown in Figure 6.9. We can call this the critical
pressure. Operating at higher pressures does not increase the membrane
flux but does increase the thickness and density of retained material at the
membrane surface layer. Over time, material on the membrane surface can
become compacted or precipitate, forming a layer of deposited material that
has a lower permeability; the flux then falls from the initial value. When
constant flux operatio became common in the 1990s, the term critical flux
was coined [22]. This flux is shown in Figure 6.9. It is the flux at which the

first gel layer forms on the membrane surface. The best long-term
performance of an ultrafiltration/microfiltration fixed flux system is obtained
when the fixed flux is set below the critical flux.

Membrane fouling
Two fouling mechanisms are generally observed for membrane processes:
surface fouling and fouling in pores. However, RO membranes do not have
distinguishable pores and are considered to be essentially non-porous. Thus, the
main fouling mechanism for RO membranes is surface fouling. Surface fouling
can occur from a variety of contaminants, including suspended particulate
matter (inorganic or organic), dissolved organic matter, dissolved solids, and
biogenic material. [23] In addition, fouling can develop unevenly through a
membrane module or element and can occur between the membrane sheets of
a module, where spacers are located to create space for the concentrate
stream. [24] Overall, seawater RO plants, particularly those treating water from
an open water intake, are primarily fouled by organic and particulate material,

while brackish water RO plants are fouled by dissolved inorganic salts and
precipitation. However, both types of RO can experience both general groups of
contaminants. In addition, the types of problematic foulants are site-specific,
particularly for brackish water RO, and can depend on pretreatment processes.
The capacity of water to foul RO membranes is often described using the silt
density index, or SDI. The SDI of water is determined from the fouling rate of a
0.45 mm filter at a pressure of 207 kPa (30 psi) and is described in the AST
standard method D4189 [25]. The equation used to calculate SDI is as follows:

Where t is the total elapsed flow time, and t1 and t2 are the times (in seconds)
required to filter 500 mL of water initially and after t minutes, respectively. [25,
26] The experiment is setup as a dead-end filtration with continuous flow under
pressure, and the membrane is perpendicular to the permeate flow. The total
time t is chosen (the standard is 15 min), and the sample flows though the filter
during the entire 15 min. As water flows through the membrane, foulants will
continuously accumulate on and foul the membrane; therefore, t1 is expected to
be smaller than t2. Both conventional and membrane pretreatment lower the
SDI of feed water, but each pretreatment choice may have negative and positive
aspects (technologically and financially).
An SDI of 3 or less is preferred for RO influent. However, many plants tolerate
SDI values between 4 and 5, which is often the achievable range through
conventional pretreatment .
Kremen and Tanner (1998) showed the relationship between SDI and water
fouling propensity by relating the SDI to a total flow resistance. The total flow

resistance (Rt) is the combination of two resistances, the resistance of the filter
(RP) and the resistance of the foulant (on the filter) (RF). The theoretical
relationship between SDI and Rt, shown in Fig. 6, displays an exponential
relationship between increasing SDI and increasing foulant resistance (or
increasing foulant accumulation on the membrane).
Figure 21

This relationship indicates far greater fouling resistance between SDI values
of 4 and 5 than between SDI values of 1 and 4. Therefore, ideally, a
pretreatment scheme that can lower the SDI
Foulants
Rejected constituents by the RO membrane pose a general fouling risk to
plant operation.
Foulants can be classified into four categories [27]:
Chemical foulants, which cause scaling
Physical foulants or particulate matter, which is related to deposition of
particles on the membrane surface

Biological foulants, which can either deteriorate the membrane or form a


biofilm layer, which inhibits flux across the membrane.
Organic foulants, which can interact with the membrane
Chemical foulants
Scaling of a reverse osmosis membrane occurs if concentrations of sparingly
soluble salts, i.e. divalent and multivalent ions exceed their solubility level.
Concentrations in the feed channel inside a module increase, and with
increasing recovery, the risk of scaling grows. However, solubility levels only
define the minimum concentration level at which scaling might occur. In
practical operation, even at higher concentrations scaling may not occur due
to the long induction times of crystallisation. However, it is common practice
not to exceed solubility limits. Dissolved inorganics most likely to cause
scaling are Ca2+, Mg2+, CO3 2!, SO4 2!, silica and iron.
Particulate fouling
Particulate matter in natural waters can be classified according to Potts et.
al. [44] into four different categories depending on particle size:
Settable solids > 100 m
Supra-colloidal solids 1100 m
Colloidal solids 0.0011 m
Dissolved solids <10 A
Particles larger than >25 m can be easily removed by various treatment
options such as screens, cartridge filters, dual-media filters etc. The most
common inorganic particles are aluminum

silicate clays (0.31 m) and colloids of iron, e.g. iron oxide, aluminum oxide
and silica. The most problematic feeds are those containing colloidal
particles not easily removed by granular beds either because of their minute
size or because of electrostatic repulsion effects of the media. In such cases
it is necessary to add a coagulant or flocculating agent. The most frequently
used coagulants are ferric chloride, alum and cationic polymers. The
polymeric coagulants are effective in very small dosages but can cause
membrane fouling difficulties [43]. The presence of suspended solids can be
monitored by the silt density index (SDI) test, turbidity analysis, zeta
potential measurement and particle counting. For prevention of colloidal
fouling, membrane manufacturers require a turbidity NTU <0.2, zeta
potential > !30 mV and SDI <35 [43]. Waters from wells are much less
loaded with colloidal material and often no further reduction of colloid
content is needed.
Biofouling
All raw waters contain microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, algae, viruses
and higher organisms such as protozoa, living or dead, or biotic debris such
as bacterial cell wall fragments.
At the large membrane surface dissolved organic nutrients of the water are
concentrated due to concentration polarisation. Microorganisms entering a
RO system therefore find ideal growth conditions resulting in possible
formation of a biofilm [28].
Biofilm formation consists of three stages:
Transport to the membrane surface
Attachment to the surface and
Biofilm growth
Biological fouling can influence the performance of an RO system, resulting
in increased pressure loss along the feed channel and significant flux decline.
Biofouling cannot be easily removed because microorganisms are protected

from shear forces and disinfectants by a gel like layer. If the gel layer is
partly removed by disinfection, e.g. chlorination, dead cellular matter serves
as additional nutrient leading to intensive biologic re-growth. It is therefore
essential for good RO performance to reduce biological fouling to a minimum
by effective pre-treatment [29].
The potential for biofouling is higher with open intake water than with well
water with its higher water quality. Pre-treatment is generally required for
surface water to prevent biofouling. For a bacterial count higher than 106
CFU/ml significant biofouling problems have to be expected
It was found that mainly the hydrophobic humic substances are deposited on
the membrane surface and that the adsorption process is favoured with
positively charged, high molecular mass compounds. Similarly, the most
hydrophilic membranes have been found less prone to fouling by organic
colloids, i.e. humic acids .
In RO operation it is recommended that humic acids are removed prior to
filter pre-treatment by flocculation, coagulation with hydroxide flocs,
ultrafiltration or adsorption on activated carbon. Other organic foulants in
natural waters are oil and grease droplets.
Key parameters
Scaling and fouling are the main problems in seawater and brackish water
desalination and the potential for scaling and fouling will strongly depend on
the water composition. The abundance of water constituents can never be
fully integrated in a process designing exercise. However, water quality can
be characterized by certain key parameters which are used to gain
information about the tendency of the feed water to cause scaling and
fouling.
Parameters that are commonly used to characterize the feed water are:
The SDI Index (Silt Density Index), which describes the fouling potential of
the feedwater and is determined in filtration tests with the feed or raw water
using porous microfiltration membranes.

The content of Ca2+ and Mg2+ in the feedwater gives information about
the hardness of the water, which causes calcinations of pipes. Total hardness
is defined by the content of calcium, magnesium, barium and strontium in
solution. However, in general only the amount of calcium and magnesium
are used to characterize the hardness of a feedwater.
The solubility product, which gives information about the limiting salts and
the potential for scaling.
The conductivity is directly proportional to the content of dissolved salts in
the water and is also used to determine the amount of dissolved salts in the
feed. Conductivity of sea water depends strongly on temperature. Therefore,
if salinity is to be calculated from conductivity, temperature must be
measured at the same time as conductivity, to eliminate the temperature
effect and obtain salinity.
The TDS (total dissolved solids) characterizes the content of dissolved
solids in the feed, butdoes not differentiate between different salts.

10. What is red tide?

Algal can refer to either microscopic (seen only under a microscope) plant-like cells or larger aquatic
plants that can be seen with the unaided eye, such as sea lettuce. Both types of algae can be found

in seawater, brackish water, or fresh water. The term algal suggests plants that

Approximately 70 percent of HAB species are dinoflagellates, and some of


these produce toxins that are among the most potent known to man.
Diatoms are organisms with a cell wall of glass (silica) that can be individual
cells or attached in chains. They can float at the waters surface or sink to
the depths of the ocean. Blue-green algae (also called Cyanobacteria) are
among the oldest bacteria found on earth. They have plant pigments like
algae, but they do not have an internal microstructure like that of the
diatoms and flagellates. Individual cells, filaments, or colonies often float at
the surface of the water and generally appear blue-green.

Effect of Red Tide


Red tide is a complex phenomenon involving many different types of
creatures with different characteristics covering large areas. They disrupt the
ecosystems causing large scale environmental damage. Most of the red tides
cause large scale fish kill and the killed fish will be washed to the shores
resulting with a bad smell on the beaches. It is also not safe to eat the fish
caught in the red tide areas, which will result in loss of livelihood to
fishermen during the red tide. The below picture shows about 70 tons of fish
killed in Asmak fish farm, Quriyat, Oman during 2008 red tide.

Controls Parameters to be Taken


MEDRC believes that some of the needed research activities to develop
strategies to understand the reasons for outbreak of red tide and its control
could be the following;