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Miki Tramer, VP Sales & Marketing, IDE Technologies talks to Mayur Sharma about how environmentally-safe and sustainable management is of prime importance to the desalination industry.

Q. Tell me more about IDE’s dedication to sustainability.
Miki: In a time of increasing water scarcity concerns for populations around the world, we are proud to provide water treatment services, including desalination for potable reuse, wastewater treatment, and more for over 40 countries.

IDE practices sustainability on a daily basis and prioritizes it with every product and solution we provide – from our chemical-free pre-treatment to high-recovery and energy-efficient reuse technologies.

We also offer our customers smart monitoring and management technologies in order to increase membrane longevity and reduce solid waste, while increasing efficiency and lowering costs.

Q. There have been studies about sustainability concerns associated with desalination, particularly with the brine discharge. What does IDE think about these concerns?
Miki: We are well aware that there are concerns with sustainability when it comes to desalination and we take environmental responsibility very seriously.

IDE is fully committed to our mission of innovating eco-friendly, energy-efficient technologies and we keep sustainability at the forefront of everything we do.

Some of the concerns stem from a recent study backed by the U.N. that found highly salty wastewater and toxic chemicals used to clean facilities can be damaging to sea life.

However, this study is primarily focused on areas in the Gulf region where thermal desalination is used most often, rather than reverse osmosis. The thermal desalination process produces brine which is then blended with cooling water.

However, this study’s measurements were taken from the blended discharge which has hotter temperatures and higher levels of salinity than typical seawater. Additionally, the amount of water that is discharged is much greater in comparison to the level of brine produced.

It’s important to understand that the measured water is not brine and is certainly not toxic. Rather, it is simply sea salt that has been returned to the sea with less water.

Salty water is not harmful and can even encourage some marine life to flourish. In fact, a Sydney desalination plant’s salty discharge enabled new types of wildlife to form an artificial reef in a country where reefs are struggling to survive.

Q. What are the standard methods for de-clogging intake pipes?
Miki: Typically, large seawater desalination plants clean intake pipes by dosing chlorine into the seawater, which prevents marine life and other organic material from growing within the pipe.

However, if any ocean material does infiltrate the pipe, chlorine dosing on its own will not be sufficient in keeping pipes clear.

Additionally, membranes at the end of the intake pipes could be damaged beyond repair if they come in contact with chlorine, requiring plants to also dose a neutralizing chemical called SMBS.

Q. Tell me more about the pigging process – how does it work?
Miki: As an alternative to the chlorine dosing process, Pigging is a chemical-free, mechanical process that is highly effective at keeping intake pipes clean without the risk of damaging membranes, or releasing chlorine into the ocean.

In this process, a “Pig,” or specialized device for de-clogging pipes, scrapes all organic material from inside the intake pipes out into the ocean through the suction head using a stream of high-pressure seawater.

Pigs can work in all sizes of intake pipes, and the process is only performed one to four times each year (depending on the growth of marine life). The process ensures that all organic material from the sea is returned to where it came from.

Q. Are there any other ways IDE solutions promote sustainability?
Miki: One example would be our patented Direct Osmosis Cleaning (DOC): an automated process in which we keep RO membranes clean using natural direct osmosis principles.

DOC allows membranes to be backwashed with permeate water during osmosis by applying equal pressure to both sides of the membrane.

Benefits of the process include better membrane performance, lower membrane turnover, reduced energy consumption, uninterrupted operation, and stable performance.

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