UTEP Researcher Makes Desalination Breakthrough
April 22, 2009
An engineering professor at The University of Texas at El Paso has made an important breakthrough that proves to reduce waste in the desalination process.
Civil Engineering Professor Dr. Anthony Tarquin has been performing research to reduce the amount of salt concentrate produced during the desalination process. Much of his research is performed on site at the EL Paso Water Utility's Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant in conjunction with UTEP's Center for Inland Desalination Systems.
Desalination plants throughout the world have been unable to recover all of the water out of the salty water. At least 20% of the water is so heavily concentrated with salt that it cannot be extracted.
“When operating at full capacity the El Paso desalting plant will be throwing away 3 million gallons of water,” said Tarquin. “Since you put in desalting plants to recover water, it doesn’t sound attractive. My research focuses on ways to get all that water back at the same cost as to throw it away.”
According to Tarquin, disposing of the remaining salt concentrate is a big problem for inland communities. While most desalination plants return the salt concentrate to the ocean, inland areas must find ways to dispose of the waste.
Desalination plants currently extract up to 80% of the water, disposing of the remaining 20%. Tarquin has discovered a way to regain up to 85% of the water that would normally be thrown away.
“I think we’ve made a real breakthrough here,” said Tarquin. “Getting back 85% of the water means we can cut the volume tremendously. I can get the water back at the same cost that it is costing them to throw it away.”
Desalination plants in other desert areas in the world have also shown great interest in this research breakthrough.
“We’re concentrating the concentrate,” said Tarquin. “I think it’s something very good for the industry.”