General Electric and Saudi Aramco have launched a $200,000 challenge to improve the energy efficiency of seawater desalination.
Energy consumption can account for up to 70 per cent of desalination costs, according to a joint statement from the two companies. The goal of the challenge is to identify new ways to lower these costs, through either advances in technology, process improvements or both. The global production of desalinated water uses some 75.2 TWh of electricity a year.
GE’s ecomagination and Aramco Entrepreneurship are running the competition.
The prize will be shared equally among four winners and extra funds will be made available for developing the best ideas.
Aramco Entrepreneurship’s director of special projects, Nabil Al Khowaiter, said he hoped the competition would attract new technologies and industries to Saudi Arabia. GE’s global executive director at ecomagination, Deb Frodl, said: “We hope to inspire scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and innovators around the world to bring their talents to this effort and help drive greater outcomes for customers.”
Solutions must be innovative, impactful, feasible, and scalable across the globe, the companies said.
Al Khowaiter said the challenge aimed to identify new solutions to lower total desalination costs and emissions through cleaner energy sources, incorporating advanced materials and integrating processes better. Countries around the world are poised to rely more and more heavily on desalination as a means to provide fresh water,” “With current techniques, this increased reliance could contribute dramatically to increased energy use,” he said.
According to the United Nations 2014 World Water Development Report, 25% of Saudi Arabia’s domestic oil and gas production is used to produce water via cogeneration power desalting plants, a figure that may rise to as high as 50% by 2030 if current trends continue.
Projections in the report showed that the energy demand of In Kuwait’s desalination plants in 2035 will be equal to the country’s entire oil production of 2011-12 were current trends to continue.