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Water Desalination Plants


Distillation is a phase separation method whereby saline water is heated to produce water vapor, which is then condensed to produce freshwater. The various distillation processes used to produce potable water generally operate on the principle of reducing the vapor pressure of water within the unit to permit boiling to occur at lower temperatures, without the use of additional heat.

Multistage Flash (MSF)

The incoming seawater passes through the heating stage(s) and is heated further in the heat recovery sections of each subsequent stage. After passing through the last heat recovery section, and before entering the first stage where flash-boiling (or flashing) occurs, the feedwater is further heated in the brine heater using externally supplied steam. This raises the feedwater to its highest temperature, after which it is passed through the various stages where flashing takes place. The vapor pressure in each of these stages is controlled so that the heated brine enters each chamber at the proper temperature and pressure (each lower than the preceding stage) to cause instantaneous and violent boiling/evaporation.

The freshwater is formed by condensation of the water vapor, which is collected at each stage and passed on from stage to stage in parallel with the brine. At each stage, the product water is also flash-boiled so that it can be cooled and the surplus heat recovered for preheating the feedwater.

Because of the large amount of flashing brine required in an MSF plant, a portion (50% to 75%) of the brine from the last stage is often mixed with the incoming feedwater, recirculated through the heat recovery sections of the brine heater, and flashed again through all of the subsequent stages. A facility of this type is often referred to as a "brine recycle" plant. This mode of operation reduces the amount of water-conditioning chemicals that must be added, and can significantly affect operating costs. On the other hand, it increases the salinity of the brine at the product end of the plant, raises the boiling point, and increases the danger of corrosion and scaling in the plant. In order to maintain a proper brine density in the system, a portion of the concentrated brine from the last stage is discharged to the ocean. The discharge flow rate is controlled by the brine concentration at the last stage.


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