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Project Review

ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING, PREDICTION AND MANAGEMENT OF BRINE DISCHARGES FROM DESALINATION PLANTS

PROJECT NUMBER:

07-AS-003

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

Dr.-Ing. Tobias Bleninger & Prof. G.H. Jirka Institut für Hydromechanik (IfH), Universität Karlsruhe, Germany.

PARTICIPANTS

Prof. Anton Purnama & Prof. Hamdi H. Al-Barwani Sultan Qaboos University, Sultanate of Oman. Prof. Robert L. Doneker MixZon Inc. and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Portland State University, Oregon, USA. Ms. Sabine Lattemann, Prof. Dr. Thomas Höpner, H.Brunken-Winkler ARSU - Regional Planning and Environmental Research Group, Oldenburg, Germany.

PROJECT VALUE:

US$ 202,260

Sea water desalination plants discharge a concentrated brine effluent into coastal waters. Modern, large capacity plants require submerged discharges that ensure a high dilution in order to minimize harmful impacts on the marine environment. Existing design practice is limited to poor modeling concepts and a very heterogeneous or weak regulatory base. Stakeholder opinions vary from "negligible very localized impacts" up to major objections leading to significant project modifications and unnecessary delays. This is an on-going project and the objective is to develop a modeling framework for the environmental-hydraulic design of the outfall system for desalination plants based on the following: 1. Identification of environmental impacts, regulatory frameworks and public concerns regarding brine effluent discharges with emphasis on MENA (Middle East, North African) and Mediterranean countries. 2. Elaboration of easily applicable design nomograms including the density dependence on salinity and temperature as basis for the first screening process within the assessment of brine effluents after discharge into the receiving coastal waters. 3. Development of hydrodynamic model interfaces for predicting brine effluent concentrations of key parameters in the marine environment by coupling a near-field mixing model for outfall design optimization with a far-field transport model for optimized outfall site. 4. Model application and validation for typical case studies for the compilation of design recommendations with

PROJECT NUMBER:

07-AS-003

parallel improvement of design oriented input/output features. 5. Management and realization of capacity building on environmental planning, prediction and management of brine discharges from desalination plants. To achieve the project objectives, a modeling framework for the environmental-hydraulic design of the outfall system for desalination plants is performed. It is based on five main items: first, the identification of environmental impacts, regulatory frameworks and public concerns regarding brine effluent discharges; second, the elaboration of easily applicable design nomograms and design recommendations as a basis for the first screening process within the assessment of brine discharges; third, the development of hydrodynamic model interfaces for predicting brine effluent concentrations of key parameters in the marine environment by coupling a near-field mixing model CORMIX for outfall design optimization with a far-field transport model for optimized outfall site; fourth, the model application and validation for typical case studies for the compilation of design recommendations with parallel improvement of design oriented input/output features; and fifth, the management and realization of capacity building activities.

Impact of the RO plant near Sur and effluent on a nearby coral reef: Transition to the impact zone (left) and closeup view of dead corals within the impact zone (right).

The developed model package allows analyzing, improving, and controlling the outfall site and design. Resulting designs reduce environmental impacts and also operational costs by reducing negative effects from effluent accumulation and recirculation to the intake. Furthermore, the resulting concentration distributions can be used to develop sustainable concentrate management plans for desalination technologies to protect the environment and improve related technological solutions. This issue may in addition reduce costs related to delays in plant commissioning due to badly prepared proposals for outfall permits. The advancements are communicated within a capacity building process to allow a practical product application directly after project end. Design engineers, regulators and authorities, as well as plant operators and consultants may have clear advantages using the developed tools and best-practice manual. The final products are integrated into a best practice manual on the design and assessment of outfall systems for brine discharges.

BENEFITS

· Capacity building: researchers participating in this project from Oman developed a transport model and integrated it with the modified CORMIX model. They developed capacity to improve the model and perform environmental impact assessment studies for large scale desalination plants using modified CORMIX. A workshop was organized in Oman to train the engineers to use modified CORMIX software and about 50 engineers participated in this workshop. · Technical benefits globally and to the MENA region: the developed software will be placed on MEDRC web site and available for use by the international desalination community. · International cooperation: this project helped in establishing cooperation between researchers from Sultan Qaboos University and Institut für Hydromechanik (IfH), Universität Karlsruhe, Germany.

WWW.MEDRC.ORG

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