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Comparison of Energy Consumption of Osmotically Assisted Reverse Osmosis and Low-Salt-Rejection Reverse Osmosis for Brine Management

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journal contribution
posted on 16.07.2021, 14:08 by Zhangxin Wang, Dejun Feng, Yuanmiaoliang Chen, Di He, Menachem Elimelech
Minimum and zero liquid discharge (MLD/ZLD) are emerging brine management strategies that attract heightened attention. Although conventional reverse osmosis (RO) can improve the energy efficiency of MLD/ZLD processes, its application is limited by the maximum hydraulic pressure (ΔPmax) that can be applied in current membrane modules. To overcome such limitation, novel RO-based technologies, including osmotically assisted RO (OARO) and low-salt-rejection RO (LSRRO), have been proposed. Herein, we utilize process modeling to systematically compare the energy consumption of OARO and LSRRO for MLD/ZLD applications. Our modeling results show that the specific energy consumption (SEC) of LSRRO is lower (by up to ∼30%) than that of OARO for concentrating moderately saline feed waters (<∼35,000 mg/L TDS) to meet MLD/ZLD goals, whereas the SEC of OARO is lower (by up to ∼40%) than that of LSSRO for concentrating higher salinity feed waters (>∼70,000 mg/L TDS). However, by implementing more stages and/or an elevated ΔPmax, LSRRO has the potential to outperform OARO energetically for treating high-salinity feed waters. Notably, the SEC of both OARO and LSRRO could be 50% lower than that of mechanical vapor compressor, the commonly used brine concentrator in MLD/ZLD applications. We conclude with a discussion on the practicability of OARO and LSRRO based on membrane module availability and capital cost, suggesting that LSRRO could potentially be more feasible than OARO.