Economical desalination processes in Qatar
Al-Thani, Faleh N
The limited underground water resources and the dramatic increase of fresh water consumption in Qatar forced the government to seek alternative ways to compensate for the lack of fresh water resources. Unfortunately, most of the currently available alternatives are costly in terms of excessive fuel consumption; also they require large capital investment and high maintenance cost. Such plants currently produce over 98% of the total fresh water in Qatar. This ratio may increase to 100% in the next few years. The main aim of this work is to investigate the most viable water desalination processes, which can produce sufficient, and a continuous supply of fresh water with low operation and construction costs. Climatic conditions and solar radiation in Qatar have been studied and analysed to determine the performance of any potential solar system applicable to this country. A technical and economical investigation into the current and common desalination methods with particular emphasis on the three main desalination systems including multistage flash, multiple effect distillation and reverse osmosis were conducted and included. A comprehensive literature survey on various water desalination methods was undertaken. The current experimental program was confined mainly to one novel type of tilted tray solar still system, namely pyramid tilted tray solar still, which was developed to increase productivity by increasing the receiving surface area of the still (the absorber) in order to collect the optimum amount of solar radiation. Two types of cover have also been selected and tested in this work, namely pyramid and dome shapes. These tilted tray solar stills were designed and constructed on a small scale and have been tested under controlled laboratory conditions at the University of Hertfordshire. Various parameters, which are likely to effect the still performance have been investigated. These include water flow rate, spacing between cover and tray surface, glass thickness, insulation layer, and inlet water temperature. Finally, a comparison of the stills performance characteristics of the two shapes has been carried out. The laboratory experimental results of hourly production revealed that pyramid type solar still yield higher distilled water output results than the dome type. However, the use of the pyramid shape with tilted tray solar can lead to further increase in the still productivity by optimising the orientation and surface area of the still absorber. The field experimental results of pyramid solar still, which were conducted under local climate conditions of Qatar, indicated clearly that solar desalination can be a suitable economical option, particularly for remote areas, where the fresh water demand is low and water transport is expensive. Moreover, a theoretical model was employed to predict the effects on solar still performance under three various parameters under typical climatic conditions of Qatar; These include the thermal insulation layer, the water depth and wind speed. Due to the economical reasons the dual-purpose multistage flash process will remain for the foreseeable future the preferred process, when fresh water and electricity demands are growing concurrently and rapidly.