Thermodynamic optimisation of a boiler feed water desalination plant
Van der Walt, Philippus Johannes
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In the process of electricity generation, water is used as the working fluid to transport energy from the fuel to the turbine. This water has to be ultrapure in order to reduce maintenance cost on the boilers. For the production of ultrapure water, a desalination process is used. This process consists of an ultrafiltration pretreatment section, two reverse osmosis stages and a continuous electrodeionisation stage. Reverse osmosis desalination plants are, however, inherently inefficient with a high specific energy consumption. In an attempt to improve the efficiency of low recovery seawater applications, energy recovery devices are installed on the brine outlet of the reverse osmosis stages. The energy recovery device recovers the energy that is released through the high pressure brine stream and reintroduces it to the system. The investigated desalination process has a fresh water feed with a salinity of 71 ppm and is operated at recoveries above 85%. The plant produces demineralised water at a salinity lower than 0.001ppm for the purpose of high pressure boiler feed. A thermodynamic analysis determined the Second Law efficiencies for the first and second reverse osmosis sections as 3.85% and 3.68% respectively. The specific energy consumption for the reverse osmosis plants is 353 Wh/m3 and 1.31 Wh/m3. This was used as the baseline for the investigation. An exergy analysis determined that energy is lost through the brine throttling process and that a pressure exchanging system can be installed on all reverse osmosis brine streams. Energy recovery devices are untested in high recovery fresh water applications due to the low brine pressure and low brine flow. It was determined that pressure exchanging systems can reduce the specific energy consumption of the first reverse osmosis stage with 12.2% whereas the second RO stage energy consumption can be improved with 7.7%. The Second Law efficiency can be improved by 25.6% for the first reverse osmosis stage while the efficiency is improved with 18.1% for the second stage. The optimal operating recovery for the PES is between 80% and 90%.
- Engineering