The Integrated Reverse Osmosis module (iRO) is a compact, energy efficient module being further developed and proven in concept to facilitate small scale seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) applications of typically less than 100 m3/day. The patented module design includes an internal energy recovery system (ERS) which can significantly reduce the energy consumption for the desalination. The integration within a single module eliminates the capital cost of a separate ERS, as well as the need for skilled personnel for installation and maintenance of the high pressure piping connections. Additionally, the unique module design enables internal feed flow reversal on the membrane surface which significantly reduces membrane scaling, and extends the operation time and life span of the module. In total, iRO is designed to be compact, easy to operate, with lower energy consumption, and is most suitable for situations with space limitations.
iRO combines the membrane filtration and energy recovery processes in a single module. The input to the module is low pressure seawater, and the output is pure water as well as low pressure brine which can be discharged directly to the sea. The patented module design also enables internal feed flow reversal on the membrane surface to reduce the scalant concentration at one end of the module, which can in turn reduce membrane scaling and improve the membrane filtration performance.
The technology is capable of providing affordable clean water to many communities and businesses around the world. They include the following:
In just 45 years, the desalination industry has grown from virtually zero, to over 80 million m3 of treated water per day. The global desalination market is now worth more than US$18 billion. Worldwide, almost 17,000 desalination facilities have been built, and the installed capacity is still growing rapidly with a projected 57% increase over five years according to the International Desalination Association (IDA) and Global Water Intelligence (GWI). Small scale applications constitute a sizable portion of new desalination projects contracted. For example, they constituted more than 15% of the over 600 desalination projects contracted in 2011-2012. We expect this trend to continue.
iRO is conceptualised and designed to address the demand for compact, convenient and less energy intensive methods to perform seawater desalination in small scale applications. The technology is scalable and can also act as terminal units in medium industry segments with decentralised water supply schemes. Given the fast growing desalination market, iRO can therefore be useful to companies targeting the small to medium scale segments, which we estimate that the industry size has already exceeded US$1 billion currently.
Compared to common RO modules used in small scale SWRO applications currently, iRO consumes much less energy due to the integrated ERS internally. The “all-in-one” design concept also makes it compact and easy to install, and it is most suited in situations with space constraints and a lack of skilled personnel for installation and maintenance. The built-in internal feed flow reversal significantly reduces membrane scaling and allows the operation time and membrane lifespan to be further extended.