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Breaking new ground in desalination

  • Breaking new ground in desalination
    Desalination image by UN University

Saudi Arabia is the largest producer of desalinated water in the world; now researchers from the Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) are studying how to harness resources from the wastewater generated by the desalination industry, reports Reuters.

The SWCC is a Saudi Government Corporation responsible for supplying various regions in the Kingdom with desalinated water. It operates 28 plants in 17 sites located on the eastern and western coasts of the Kingdom, producing a total of 4.6 million cubic meters per day.  The SWCC produces more than 69% of the desalinated water in the Kingdom, with the rest produced by the private sector. Saudi Arabia produces 22% of the total of desalinated water in the world.

Ahmed al-Amoudi, from the SWCC, told Reuters in the future they expect to extract minerals such as sodium chloride, magnesium and calcium from the seawater, and no wastewater high in salt – brine – would be discharged into the sea. “We can benefit from the sea and its treasures by the extraction of minerals”, he said. 

SWCC researchers have already filed patents on technology to extract minerals and other products. According to Amoudi, the SWCC hopes to extract magnesium at one of their plants by May of 2021, and to extract sodium chloride at another one, for industrial use.

Reducing the amount of concentrated brine discharged into the sea, which can affect the marine environment, is also an objective. Last year a UN-backed paper (The state of desalination and brine production: A global outlook) raised the issue of toxic brine discharges by desalination plants worldwide, with ample impact on media. The desalination industry quickly noted one of their highest priorities is to address any environmental impacts.

Last week the SWCC announced the completion of seven new desalination plants. On the country’s eastern coast, it operates Al-Juabil, the world’s largest desalination plant, as well as the world’s largest plant to use hybrid desalination technology at Ras al-Khair. The plants supply water to cities on the eastern coast and to the capital Riyadh about 400 km inland.

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