IWA Publishing

Forward osmosis desalination from laboratory to market


A two-step forward osmosis (FO) desalination process combining both FO and reverse osmosis (RO) systems has been developed by the Centre for Osmosis Research and Applications at the University of Surrey and commercialised by Modern Water plc. In the FO + RO process seawater was used as feed water (FW) and a concentrated aqueous solution was used as a draw solution (DS). By taking advantage of natural osmosis, pure water is transferred from the FW to the DS and then recovered from the DS by the RO process utilising low resistance membranes, and hence lower specific energy consumption (SEC). This paper presents results of FO experiments conducted on flat sheet membrane using a bench-scale rig. The osmotic agent investigated in this study was magnesium sulphate, which is non-toxic, and highly soluble in water. Furthermore experiments were carried out on the RO pilot in order to regenerate the DS for reuse in the FO process and produce clean water. This paper also presents some pilot plant results and data from commercial plants in Oman and Gibraltar. The data demonstrates the efficiency of the FO + RO compared with the conventional RO process in terms of SEC and membrane fouling performance.

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