Rain water collected from storm drains is purified with reverse osmosis water processors and used for landscape irrigation and industrial cooling in Los Angeles and other cities, as a solution to the problem of water shortages.
In industry, reverse osmosis removes minerals from boiler water at power plants. The water is boiled and condensed repeatedly. It must be as pure as possible so that it does not leave deposits on the machinery or cause corrosion.
The deposits inside or outside the boiler tubes may result in under-performance of the boiler, bringing down its efficiency and resulting in poor steam production, hence poor power production at turbine.
It is also used to clean effluent and brackish groundwater. The effluent in larger volumes (more than 500 cu. meter per day) should be treated in an effluent treatment plant first, and then the clear effluent is subjected to reverse osmosis system.
Treatment cost is reduced significantly and membrane life of the RO system is increased.
The process of reverse osmosis can be used for the production of deionised water.
RO process for water purification does not require thermal energy. Flow through RO system can be regulated by high pressure pump.
The recovery of purified water depends upon various factors including membrane sizes, membrane pore size, temperature, operating pressure and membrane surface area.
In 2002, Singapore announced that a process named NEWater would be a significant part of its future water plans. It involves using reverse osmosis to treat domestic waste-water before discharging the NEWater back into the reservoirs.
In addition to desalination, reverse osmosis is a more economical operation for concentrating food liquids (such as fruit juices) than conventional heat-treatment processes.
Research has been carried out on concentration of orange juice and tomato juice. Its advantages include a lower operating cost and the ability to avoid heat-treatment processes, which makes it suitable for heat-sensitive substances like the protein and enzymes found in most food products.
Reverse osmosis is extensively used in the dairy industry for the production of whey protein powders and for the concentration of milk to reduce shipping costs. In whey applications, the whey (liquid remaining after cheese manufacture) is concentrated with RO from 6% total solids to 10–20% total solids before UF (ultrafiltration) processing.
The UF retentate can then be used to make various whey powders, including whey protein isolate used in bodybuilding formulations. Additionally, the UF permeate, which contains lactose, is concentrated by RO from 5% total solids to 18–22% total solids to reduce crystallization and drying costs of the lactose powder.
Although use of the process was once avoided in the wine industry, it is now widely understood and used.
Because of its lower mineral content, reverse osmosis water is often used in car washes during the final vehicle rinse to prevent water spotting on the vehicle. Reverse osmosis is often used to conserve and recycle water within the wash/pre-rinse cycles, especially in drought stricken areas where water conservation is important.
Reverse osmosis water also enables the car wash operator to reduce the demands on the vehicle drying equipment, such as air blowers.
Many reef aquarium keepers use reverse osmosis systems for their artificial mixture of seawater. Ordinary tap water can often contain excessive chlorine, chloramines, copper, nitrogen, phosphates, silicates, or many other chemicals detrimental to the sensitive organisms in a reef environment.
Contaminants such as nitrogen compounds and phosphates can lead to excessive, and unwanted, algae growth. An effective combination of both reverse osmosis and deionization (RO/DI) is the most popular among reef aquarium keepers, and is preferred above other water purification processes due to the low cost of ownership and minimal operating costs.
Desalination of Reverse Osmosis
Areas that have either no or limited surface water or groundwater may choose to desalinate seawater or brackish water to obtain drinking water. Reverse osmosis is a common method of desalination, although 85 percent of desalinated water is produced in multistage flash plants.
Large reverse osmosis and multistage flash desalination plants are used in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia. The energy requirements of the plants are large, but electricity can be produced relatively cheaply with the abundant oil reserves in the region.
The desalination plants are often located adjacent to the power plants, which reduces energy losses in transmission and allows waste heat to be used in the desalination process of multistage flash plants, reducing the amount of energy needed to desalinate the water and providing cooling for the power plant.
Sea Water Reverse Osmosis(SWRO) is a reverse osmosis desalination membrane process that has been commercially used since the early 1970s. Its first practical use was demonstrated by Sidney Loeb and Srinivasa Sourirajan from UCLA in Coalinga, California.
Because no heating or phase changes are needed, energy requirements are low in comparison to other processes of desalination, but are still much higher than those required for other forms of water supply (including reverse osmosis treatment of waste-water).
The Ashkelon Seawater Reverse Osmosis (SWRO) desalination plant in Israel is the largest in the world. The project was developed as a BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) by a consortium of three international companies: Veolia water, IDE Technologies and Elran (Sauvetgoichon, 2007). The typical single-pass SWRO system consists of the following components:
- High pressure pump
- Membrane assembly
- Remineralisation and pH adjustment
- Alarm/control panel.
Pretreatment is important when working with RO and Nano filtration (NF) membranes due to the nature of their spiral wound design. The material is engineered in such a fashion as to allow only one-way flow through the system. As such, the spiral wound design does not allow for back pulsing with water or air agitation to scour its surface and remove solids.
Since accumulated material cannot be removed from the membrane surface systems, they are highly susceptible to fouling (loss of production capacity). Therefore, pretreatment is a necessity for any RO or NF system. Pretreatment in SWRO systems has four major components:
Screening of solids: Solids within the water must be removed and the water treated to prevent fouling of the membranes by fine particle or biological growth, and reduce the risk of damage to high-pressure pump components.
Cartrid gefiltration: Generally, string-wound polypropylene filters are used to remove particles of 1–5 µm diameter.
Dosing: Oxidizing biocides, such as chlorine, are added to kill bacteria, followed by bisulfite dosing to deactivate the chlorine, which can destroy a thin-film composite membrane. There are also bio-fouling inhibitors, which do not kill bacteria, but simply prevent them from growing slime on the membrane surface and plant walls.
Pre-filtration pH adjustment: If the pH, hardness and the alkalinity in the feed-water result in a scaling tendency when they are concentrated in the reject stream, acid is dosed to maintain carbonates in their soluble carbonic acid form.
Note the following:
Carbonic acid cannot combine with calcium to form calcium carbonate scale. Calcium carbonate scaling tendency is estimated using the Langelier saturation index. Adding too much sulfuric acid to control carbonate scales may result in calcium sulfate, barium sulfate or strontium sulfate scale formation on the RO membrane.
Pre-filtration anti-scalants: Scale inhibitors (also known as anti- scalants) prevent formation of all scales compared to acid, which can only prevent formation of calcium carbonateand calcium phosphate scales.
Some small scale desalination units use Beachwells. They are usually drilled on the seashore in close vicinity to the ocean. These intake facilities are relatively simple to build and the seawater they collect is pretreated via slow filtration through the subsurface sand/seabed formations in the area of source water extraction.
Raw seawater collected using beach wells is often of better quality in terms of solids, silt, oil and grease, natural organic contamination and aquatic microorganisms, compared to open seawater intakes. Sometimes, beach intakes may also yield source water of lower salinity.
High pressure pump
The pump supplies the pressure needed to push water through the membrane, even as the membrane rejects the passage of salt through it. Typical pressures for brackish water range from 225 to 375 psi (15.5 to 26 bars or 1.6 to 2.6 MPa).
In the case of seawater, they range from 800 to 1,180 psi (55 to 81.5 bars or 6 to 8 MPa). This requires a large amount of energy.
Fig.: The Layers of a Membrane
The membrane assembly consists of a pressure vessel with a membrane that allows feed water to be pressed against it. The membrane must be strong enough to withstand whatever pressure is applied against it. RO membranes are made in a variety of configurations, with the two most common configurations being spiral-wound and hollow-fiber.
Reminera lisation and pH adjustment
The desalinated water is very corrosive and is “stabilized” to protect downstream pipelines and storages, usually by adding lime or caustic to prevent corrosion of concrete lined surfaces.
Liming material is used to adjust pH between 6.8 and 8.1 to meet the potable water specifications, primarily for effective disinfection and for corrosion control.
Post-treatment consists of preparing the water for distribution after filtration. Reverse osmosis is an effective barrier to pathogens; however, post-treatment provides secondary protection against compromised membranes and downstream problems.
Disinfection by means of UV lamps (sometimes called germicidal or bactericidal) may be employed to sterilize pathogens which bypassed the reverse osmosis process.
Chlorination or chloramination (chlorine and ammonia) protects against pathogens which may have lodged in the distribution system downstream, such as from new construction, backwash, compromised pipes, etc.