ABB technology will help bring drinking water to millions in Algeria

An ABB solution for the world’s largest seawater desalination plant using reverse osmosis technology – currently under construction in Algeria - will boost energy efficiency and cut maintenance downtime from weeks to days compared to current industry benchmarks.

By ABB Communications

The solution is a complete and highly optimized electrical package that will power the Magtaa desalination plant in Algeria at an unprecedented level of energy efficiency and significantly reduce the length of scheduled plant shutdowns for maintenance.

Located at Oran, Algeria’s second largest city, the reverse osmosis seawater desalination plant will produce up to 500,000 cubic meters of drinking water a day, enough to meet the daily requirements of about five million people.

When completed in 2011, Magtaa will be the largest seawater desalination plant in the world using reverse osmosis technology - built, owned and operated for a period of 25 years by Asia’s leading technology-driven environmental company, Hyflux.

Electrical power consumption is one of the biggest single running costs of desalination, so making the process more energy efficient directly translates into affordable potable water.

Tapping the sea for potable water

Algeria is 95 percent arid land and 80 percent desert. Rainfall is almost zero, but a reliable, cost-efficient desalination process and the Mediterranean Sea offer an abundant source of potable water. When it starts production in 2011, the Magtaa plant in Algeria will be the world's largest seawater desalination plant using reverse osmosis technology, delivering up to 500,000 cubic meters of drinking water per day to the city of Oran (pictured above) and surrounding region, enough to meet the daily needs of about five million people. ABB will electrify the plant and provide a 220-kV outdoor substation connecting it to the Algerian power grid.

ABB is supplying a complete electrical solution for the entire desalination plant and a 220 kV outdoor substation that will connect the facility to the Algerian power grid and ensure that the plant receives a reliable supply of electricity without impacting grid stability.

ABB drives cut the energy consumption of pumps at desalination plants significantly compared to traditional suction valve control. They reduce the mechanical stress on pumps and electrical stress on motors and improve membrane life.

The solution includes 33 medium voltage drives that will reduce plant electrical losses from the benchmark target of 5 percent to only 3 percent – a huge improvement in energy efficiency compared to accepted industry standards.

In addition the drives will speed up the long plant startup process after maintenance or power-failure related shutdowns, reducing the length of plant downtime compared with the more traditional method of mechanical control.

Over the course of Hyflux’s 25-year operation of the plant these improvements in energy efficiency, plant productivity and reduced wear and tear made possible by the ABB solution will provide a huge and sustained boost to plant profitability.

ABB is a leading supplier of power and automation solutions to the water sector, with a complete capability in integrated and optimized ICE (instrumentation, control and electrical) systems as well as a range of automation products that improve the energy efficiency, productivity and reliability of plant assets.

Did you know?
Reverse osmosis is a process used to turn seawater into potable water. Seawater is forced, (ie, using a pump) through a fine-pored membrane. Water molecules pass through the membrane while salt and impurities are retained. Exerting pressure to reverse the flow is necessary because in regular osmosis, water molecules naturally flow in the direction of higher concentrations of salt and impurities, rather than away from them.

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    With vast deserts and little rain, countries like Algeria rely on cost-efficient and reliable desalination processes. Pictured above is a satellite image of the Issaouane Erg (sand sea) in eastern Algeria, a vast area (38,000 sq km) of moving sand with little or no vegetation cover. (Photo courtesy NASA)

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