Energy issues in desalination processes

Raphael Semiat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

468 Scopus citations


Water, energy, and environmental issues are closely related. New water techniques consume energy, and innovative renewable energy techniques using biofuels and biodiesel consume an incredible amount of water. Different desalination techniques that consume different energy levels from different sources are in use today. Some people, environmentalists, decision makers, and even scientists, mainly in nonscientific publications, consider energy consumption in desalination to be too high and are seeking new ways of reducing it, which often involves increasing capital investment. Efforts should be directed at reducing not only energy consumption but also total water cost. A competent grasp of thermodynamics and heat and mass transfer theory, as well as a proper understanding of current desalination processes, is essential for ensuring beneficial improvements in desalination processes. Thermodynamics sets the absolute minimum limit of the work energy required to separate water from a salt solution. Unavoidable irreversibilities augment the actual energy consumption, yet modern desalination techniques have succeeded in considerably narrowing the gap between actual and limiting energy levels. The implication of this smaller gap is that only marginal energy reductions are possible. The current energy consumption of different desalination processes is reviewed in this paper. A comparison with other common energy-consuming ventures leads to some interesting conclusions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8193-8201
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number22
StatePublished - 15 Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes

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