Innovative pretreatment improves RO performance and lowers costs

Providing new sources of potable water for Saudi Arabia’s growing population and expanding industry has been a key preoccupation of the desert country for many years. The Kingdom has relied on desalinated water since the 1950s and is now the largest producer of desalinated water in the world with 60 percent of its water coming from desalination in 2019. 

Turning seawater into drinking water was once seen as an expensive last resort for rich countries. After years of significant investment in technological development to make the process more efficient, costs have fallen and the price of desalinated water is lower than ever, making it a potential option for more arid countries to address water shortages.

Located in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the coast of the Red Sea, the Rabigh 3 independent water plant (IWP) has been recognized as the “World’s largest reverse osmosis desalination facility” by the Guinness World Records although it has since been surpassed. With a production capacity of 600,000 cubic meters per day, the plant supplies potable water to around two million inhabitants of the Jeddah and Mecca areas, procuring water availability and reliability even during high demand periods such as the Holy Month of Ramadan and Hajj seasons.

Veolia Water Technologies subsidiary SIDEM was in charge of engineering and procurement for the pre- and post-treatment facilities, supplying advanced technologies for these two key steps of the desalination process. No less than 44 giant filters were designed, delivered and installed, playing a crucial role in optimizing the treatment steps necessary to produce drinking water from seawater and improving the durability and the performance of the reverse osmosis membranes.

The innovative design supplied by SIDEM contributes to Rabigh 3 benefiting from the highest level of plant availability and one of the lowest power consumption during day-to-day operations of any reverse osmosis desalination plant.

A compact pretreatment solution for SWRO plants

Efficient pretreatment ahead of membrane filtration is key to minimize fouling, scaling and overall degradation of the membranes, increasing their efficiency and life expectancy.

The M&C filter consists of an innovative combination of dual media pressure filter (DMPF) and cartridge filters (CF) which reduces the footprint required for pretreatment.

This unique two-in-one pretreatment solution allows removal of high turbidity and suspended solid particles from the feedwater. Reverse osmosis membranes are therefore protected and the risk of biofouling is highly reduced.

  • CAPEX savings thanks to reduced piping, civil and installation costs.
  • OPEX savings generated by high water recovery and low chemical requirements,
    CF replacement rate and energy consumption.
  • Robustness to deal with any water quality and low sensitivity to variations in parameters.
  • High removal efficiency of suspended solids, turbidity and SDI 15.
  • Reduced footprint with CF installed directly in the DMPF vessel for treatment plants of medium sizes.
  • Full planning control through concerted design and procurement on metallic manufacturing.
  • Easy access for maintenance and replacement of CF.

SIDEM has also capitalized on its long-established expertise in the manufacturing of large evaporators to develop giant DMPF. These filters are essential to ensure that the membranes installed within huge desalination plants such as Rabigh 3 can function properly over time.