Environmental Concerns Set New Price Challenge For Desalination

Technology will play an important role in the desalination industry’s future growth, suggests Global Water Intelligence (GWI) in their new report, published this month.
Sept. 10, 2010 - PRLog -- The cost of desalinated water has risen sharply, despite continued efficiency gains in the desalination process, the new report claims. Desalination Markets 2010: Global Forecast and Analysis suggests that savings related to the greater energy efficiency of new desalination plants have failed to compensate for the increased capital cost of new plants (see www.desalmarkets.com/?rnpress2).

Between 1965 when the reverse osmosis desalination process was invented, and 2005 when the Tuas desalination plant in Singapore was commissioned, the price of desalinated water fell to a low of $0.48/m3. However the average recorded cost of desalination plants contracted since then is in the region of $1.03/m3.  This reflects the fact that newer plants have been much more expensive to build – primarily because of environmental concerns.

In Australia, in particular, the need for complex fish-friendly intakes and low impact brine disposal systems have pushed up the price of desalinated water. The price of water from some of the new generation of Australian plants (including amortised capital costs) is in excess of $2/m3.

Despite the rising price of desalination demand is growing steeply. The report suggests that global contracted capacity will grow from 68 million m3/d this year to 130 million m3/d in 2016.

Christopher Gasson, editor of the report says: “Until recently no one worried too much about the environmental impact of desalination, but it has become a major consideration in places such as Australia, California and Spain. It has meant that some new desalination plants are very expensive to build. This won’t have a long term impact on demand for desalination because it remains the only drought proof alternative for many communities. In the longer term the price of desalination will continue to fall: there has been an acceleration in the rate of investment in new technologies.”

The report suggests that new nano-engineered and bio-mimetic membranes are the best hope for bringing down the price of desalinated water, although new technologies such as forward osmosis and membrane distillation are likely to play an important role. Further details of the report’s findings, graphics and other material can be found at http://www.desalmarkets.com/?rnpress2.

Note to editors:
1.   Press queries should be directed to Ruth Newcombe on rn@globalwaterintel.com, who can arrange interviews with the report’s editor, Christopher Gasson. You may also request a .pdf of the Executive Summary.
2.   Desalination Markets 2010 is published in September by Global Water Intelligence. See http://www.globalwaterintel.com/?rnpress2 for details of their subscription publications and other water markets reports.

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Global Water Intelligence is the unchallenged leader in high-value business information for the water industry. The company publishes a monthly magazine, electronic desalination resources and major market reports by water type, country and world region each year.
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