Reducing the sound (and energy) waves of SWRO desalination

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California headquartered Energy Recovery Inc (ERI) claims to have built its market share back up to 90% in a difficult desalination climate. Part of this can be attributed to actually decreasing the noise of its pressure exchangers.

In an exclusive interview with WWi magazine, CEO Tom Rooney said the firm has invested in bringing down the noise of its pressure exchanger devices.

Energy Recovery Inc; desalination; membranes; tom rooney

CEO Rooney says the global desalination market is 30% down compared to highs it witnessed in 2007

 

Pressure exchangers work in membrane-based desalination processes by recovering energy from the membrane reject stream and feeding it back to the Seawater Reverse Osmosis (SWRO) process.

Prior to 2011, when Rooney joined ERI, the company had feedback from clients about the sound levels of the devices.

“For the first decade of selling those devices, one of the only things clients were annoyed about was that they were loud – they made a noise because there was water pulsation going on inside, like a water engine,” he said.

Following investment, the CEO said they were able to reduce the noise by 15 decibels, describing them as “quiet enough so you can talk near them”.

Rooney said the noise reduction actually led to further energy reductions for the pressure exchangers.

“Noise is a form of energy. If you find a way to not waste energy through noise you actually bring about more energy efficiency inside the device,” he said. “So by going after one thing that was considered a mild annoyance to a client – sound - we actually increased the energy efficiency of the devices and increased the longevity of the devices.”

The main noise associated with desalination plants is from high-pressure pumps and these are housed inside building structures.

To date the company has sold 14,000 of its pressure exchangers globally. At the end of July Spanish water firm Cadagua announced it will be retrofitting its 140,000 m3/day Valdelentisco desalination plant with ERI’s PX technology (see WWi story).

In the same month the firm said it would be supplying its PX devices to the Carlsbad facility in San Diego County.

In a wide ranging interview, including discussions on new contracts soon to be announced in India, Rooney explained how the company has recovered market share, despite the desalination market currently a lot slower than highs of 2007.

“There was a tremendous run in the desalination market from 2000 to 2008,” he said. “Then, triggered by the global economic equity market collapse, global desalination has really been down through and including this year. The global desalination market has been 30% lower ever since then.”

The CEO also revealed the company’s plans to increase its presence in markets outside of SWRO desalination.

- The full interview with ERI CEO Tom Rooney will appear in the August-September issue of WWi magazine. To sign up for your free copy, please click here.

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