An increasing global population, drought, and demand have brought forth new technologies to produce more freshwater. One of these technologies, desalination, has resulted in over 12,500 plants in operation. To meet the projected demand, new plants are being constructed throughout the world from the Middle East to Australia.

“Global demand for water already exceeds supply—about 1.1 billion people don’t have access to clean water—and the so-called water gap is increasing at an accelerating rate”

Source Marc Gunther

At a cost ranging from 50m for a brackish facility in Texas to over 1.5b for the new giant plants in the Middle East, desalination plants are considered very high dollar assets. Equipment such as electronic instrumentation, centrifuges, boilers, piping, valves, filters, Ph monitoring devices, pumps, and scrubbers require use of the latest technologies for preventive, predictive and condition based maintenance in order to maintain optimal efficiency.

Schematic of a multi-stage flash desalinator
A – Steam in
B – Seawater in
C – Potable water out
D – Waste out
E – Steam out
F – Heat exchange
G – Condensation collection
H – Brine heater

Source: Wikimedia

The complexities of the desalination plant requires all maintenance methods work together in harmony.It also demands the equipment investment in desalination plants which includes facilities, turbines, pumps, generators, and power infrastructure  maintained at the highest levels to maximize efficiency and minimize energy costs.

“Energy costs account for about 40 percent to 50 percent of the cost of desalination, which has given it a reputation for being expensive as well as bad for the environment in a world focused on carbon emissions from energy.”

Source: Reuters

Managing high value equipment maintenance and energy efficiency

Managing a desalination plant begins with the planning stage and ends when the facility is no longer in use. Preventive and predictive maintenance, inspections and simple asset management programs play a significant role but are not a complete solution. The best solution is the implementation of an Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system.An EAM system differs from asset management because it includes the entire process from initial planning, designed use, installation, training, operations, maintenance and eventual retirement/replacement. Integrating an EAM therefore allows you to manage all the different components of the plant The impact of an EAM in desalination plant operations is easily visible in three areas:

  1. The lifecycle of assets are lengthened considerably when assets are managed from initial planning through retirement. In addition, an EAM tracks maintenance history, contracts, documents and can project accurate capital replacement schedules for far better planning.
  2. Increased energy efficiency through the scheduling of preventive maintenance on generators, air handlers, filtration systems and other devices that require in order to avoid energy efficiency declines. This is critical in order to keep the cost per cubic meter at economically viable levels.
  3. Instituting inspections will reduce reactive maintenance and expenses. Inspections allows for the visual confirmation of equipment condition and will identify potential issues long before they become major repairs. It is particularly effective for identifying corrosion, leaks, and loose fittings, unusual vibratory noises and wear and tear not sensed by predictive technologies. Problems are either fixed on the spot or processed through a work order system to maximize efficiency.

The stakes in desalination are very high. Desalination process costs are coming down as a result in new technologies but this is often being offset by increases in energy costs. Implementing an EAM will help a plant be more efficient as well as cost effective.

Share with us how an EAM has impacted your operations.