Performance prediction for multi-effect distillation (MED) plants
Greyvenstein, Fritz Siegruhn
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Many countries worldwide experience water shortages on a daily basis and this water crisis is expected to increase even more in the near future due to limited fresh water resources. Alternative sources of fresh water such as desalinated seawater are becoming an attractive option for many developing countries. Although various desalination technologies exist today, interest in multi-effect distillation (MED) is growing rapidly worldwide. Today various energy power sources are utilized in MED plants, but the use of nuclear power as a clean and effective heat source for the MED process seems to be gaining interest. Implementation of HTGR technology, such as the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor being developed in South Africa is ideal for MED desalination purposes. In these types of reactors high temperature water is available as waste heat as opposed to high temperature steam from conventional steam power plants. Currently conventional MED plants utilize steam as the process heat source, to drive the MED process. In this study a system simulation model was developed in the computer language C++. It evaluates different MED process flow configurations in order to identify an optimum MED plant configuration for both water and steam as process heat source. Simulation results indicate that a steam-heat-source (SHS) MED plant produces approximately 25-30% more product water than a water-heat-source (WHS) MED plant while utilizing less plant stages. Plant layout and economics are impacted by the available process heat source. Results also indicate that a parallel feed configuration (PFC), which incorporates preheating of feed water, seems to be the optimum process flow configuration type for both the SHS and WHS type plants. Product water costs for optimized SHS and WHS MED plants were also compared. Various system parameters influence plant performance, but the serie effect temperature difference seems to be the most influential parameter in terms of water production. Preheating of feed water increases production levels up to 30%. Results from the C++ model have been compared to results calculated with MEE-TVC, a desalination system design program and were generally in good agreement.
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