Desalination technology is progressively being used to provide drinking water around the world, after years of moderate progress. This is due to many factors, including population growth in water-stressed areas and worsening drought. With an increase of desalination facilities around the world and technological breakthroughs, we spoke with Miki Tramer, Vice President Sales & Marketing at IDE Technologies to learn about the company’s latest techniques in this field.
Question: Firstly, we would like to know briefly your career path and your current role in IDE Technologies.
Answer: I’ve had a long career at IDE Technologies, having started in 1992 as a Process Engineer. Since then, my role at the company has expanded over time. I was promoted to Projects Manager in 1996, where I worked on-site in Las Palmas in the Canary Islands and in 2002 I relocated to the US to manage IDE’s operations in the western hemisphere. Just last year I took on a new role as the company’s VP Sales & Marketing, where I bring over 27 years of international experience in project management, sales, marketing and business development in the water treatment, infrastructure and desalination industry.
Q: Where in the world does IDE Technologies work?
A: IDE provides its services worldwide and operates in more than 40 countries. Currently, significant projects are being executed in Chile, Taiwan, Singapore, India and the Caribbean islands.
IDE not only talks about sustainability, but practices it on a daily basis
Q: Last year, a U.N. backed study found desalination plants worldwide produce bigger-than-expected flows of highly salty wastewater and toxic chemicals that are damaging the environment. What do you think of the study?
A: Our team at IDE is well aware of public concerns around global warming and water scarcity. We take our environmental responsibility very seriously and are fully committed to continue developing and promoting eco-friendly, energy-efficient technologies.
The mentioned study is primarily focused on the Gulf countries, where thermal desalination is widely used, and the produced brine is blended with the cooling water. This study’s measurements were taken from the blended discharge, where water has a higher temperature and salinity level than seawater, and the amount of the discharge is significantly larger than the produced brine.
It’s important to understand that the measured water is not brine and is certainly not toxic. Rather, it is simply sea salt that has been returned to the sea with less water. Salty water is not harmful and can even encourage some marine life to flourish.
It’s important to understand that the measured water is not brine and is certainly not toxic
Q: What is IDE Technology currently doing to promote its sustainability?
A: IDE not only talks about sustainability, but practices it on a daily basis and ensures it is a key component of every project we lead. From environmentally friendly technologies that include a chemical-free pre-treatment stage, to high-recovery, energy-efficient water reuse solutions, our wide portfolio of services lives and breathes sustainability. We even offer smart monitoring and management technologies that enable membrane longevity and reduce the rate of membrane replacement, which dramatically reduces solid waste by many tons.
Q: IDE Technologies uses ‘Pigging’ for pipe cleaning in large seawater desalination plants. Could you tell us a bit about the benefits of this process?
A: In most large seawater desalination facilities, seawater intake pipe cleaning is maintained by continuously dosing chlorine into the seawater. This process prevents most marine life from growing inside the pipes, unless organic material has already begun accumulating, in which case chlorination alone will not suffice. Chlorination also requires dosing of a neutralizing chemical called SMBS to prevent chlorine from reaching the membranes and damaging them irreparably.
Pigging is a mechanical, straightforward and highly effective process that is 100 percent chemical-free
Alternatively, Pigging is a mechanical, straightforward and highly effective process that is 100 percent chemical-free. It involves a specialized de-clogging device called a Pig, that scrapes all of the organic material from the inside of the intake pipes using a stream of high-pressure seawater, pumped from the facility towards the suction head of the intake pipes. The Pig is designed to be adjusted for all pipe sizes, and the process is usually performed once, up to four times a year, depending on the local growth rate of marine life. At the end of the process, sand and organic material that came from the sea is returned to the sea.
Q: What other procedures is IDE Technologies implementing to promote its sustainability agenda?
A: One example would be our Direct Osmosis Cleaning (DOC) - which is a patented, automated process that utilizes natural direct osmosis principles to keep reverse osmosis (RO) membranes constantly clean. By equalizing the pressures on both sides of the membrane for a short period, DOC allows the osmosis process to backwash the membranes with permeate water, removing any fouling from the membrane surface. Results include improved membrane performance and extended membrane lifetime, long-term energy consumption reduction, uninterrupted operation and stable performance. Chemical-free membrane cleaning also reduces the need for periodic CIPs.